Articles Files Videos Sites Bookstores Classes Categories Critique Services
Ads Blogs Donate
18.06.2011 14:28    Comments: 0    Categories: Fiction Elements  Fiction Writing  Plotting  Writing Plot  Writing Craft  Writing Tips      Tags: plot  plotting  cheat sheet  michele albert  michelle jerott  



Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations


1. Supplication: Persecutor, Suppliant, Authority Figure
2. Deliverance: Unfortunate, Threatener, Rescuer
3. Crime Pursued by Vengence: Criminal, Avenger
4. Vengence taken for Kindred upon Kindred: Avenger, Guilty Remembrance, a Relative of Both
5. Pursuit: Punishment and Fugitive
6. Disaster: Vanquished Power, Victorious Enemy, Messenger.
7. Falling Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune: Unfortunate, Master
8. Revolt: Tyrant, Conspirator
9. Daring Enterprise: Bold Leader, Object, Adversary
10. Abduction: Abductor, the Abducted, Guardian
11. Enigma: Interrogator, Seeker, Problem
12. Obtaining: Solicitor, Adversaryor Arbitrator& Opposing
13. Enmity of Kinsmen: Malevolent Kinsmen, Reciprocally Hated Kin
14. Rivalry of Kinsmen: Preferred Kinsman, Rejected Kin, Object
15. Murderous Adultry: Two Adulterers, Murdered Spouse
16. Madness: Madman, Victim
17. Fatal Imprudence: Imprudent, Victim, Object Lost
18. Involuntary Crimes of Love: Lover, Beloved, Revealer
19. Slaying of Kinsman Unrecognized: Salyer, Unrecognized Victim
20. Self-sacrificing for an Ideal: Hero, Ideal, Creditor, Sacrifice
21. Self-sacrificing for Kindred: Hero, Kinsman, Creditor, Sacrifice
22. All Sacrificed for Passion: Lover, Object of Pasion, Sacrifice
23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones: Hero, Beloved, Necessity
24. Rivalry of Superior & Inferior: Superior, Inferior, Object
25. Adultery: Two Adulterers, Betrayed Spouse
26. Crimes of Love: Lover, Beloved, SocialNorm
27. Discovery of Dishonor of Beloved: Discovered, Guilty
28. Obstacles to Love: Two Lovers, Obstacles
29. An Enemy Loved: Beloved Enemy, Lover, Hater
30. Ambition: Ambitious Person, Thing Coveted, Adversary
31. Conflict with (a) God: A Mortal, anImmortal or Holy Principle
32. Mistaken Jealousy: Jealous, Object,A ccomplice, Perpetrator
33. Erroneous Judgement: Mistaken One, Victim, Cause, Guilty
34. Remorse: Culprit, Victim or Sin, Interrogator
35. Recovery of Lost One: Seeker, One Found
36. Murder of Loved One: Slain Kinsman, Spectator, Executioner.


Five Basic Conflicts (from Polti's 36)


1. Man against Nature
2. Man against Man
3. Man against Society
4. Man against Himself
5. Main against Fate


Ronald Tobais' 20 Master Plots


  • Quest
  • Adventure
  • Pursuit
  • Rescue
  • Escape
  • Revenge
  • The Riddle
  • Rivalry
  • Underdog
  • Temptation
  • Metamorphosis
  • Transformation
  • Maturation
  • Love
  • Forbidden Love
  • Sacrifice
  • Discovery
  • Wretched Existence
  • Ascension
  • Descension



Essence of Conflict


Protagonist + Goal + Opposition (Antagonist) = Drama

Devices to heighten suspense (notes from David Freeman workshop)


  • An obstacle or enemy interferes with a hard goal
  • A enemy or obstacle interferes with a soft goal
  • Hero forced to face his emotional fear, limitation, block, or wound
  • Unclear motives
  • Question of whether a character can pull off a bluff
  • The uneasy mix, or "odd couple" situation
  • The fish out of water situation
  • Presence of ambivalence
  • A character forced to make a difficult moral choice
  • Mystery or a puzzle to solve
  • A reminder of the stakes or increase stakes
  • Increase stakes of the character so that this is the only way they can succeed
  • Situation is out of control
  • A surprise or unexpected disaster
  • Foreshadowing (many ways to do this)
  • Any scene in which a danger is present
  • Any scene that has conflict in it
  • Any scene where a seduction occurs, or might occur
  • Technique of cutting back and forth between a dangerous scene and one that isn't dangerous
  • Draw out a tense moment, i.e., "waiting for the other shoe to drop"
  • Resolution of a tense moment



Desmond Morris' 12 Steps to Intimacy


1. Eye to body
2. Eye to eye
3. Voice to voice
4. Hand to hand
5. Arm to shoulder
6. Arm to waist
7. Mouth to mouth
8. Hand to head
9. Hand to body
10. Mouth to breast
11. Hand to genitals
12. Genitals to genitals




(from Patricia Ryan's "Pat's Premises: Popular Plots, Conflicts and Elements in Romance Novels," Romance Writers' Report, 17(4), April 1997)


Enforced Intimacy


  • Marriage of convenience
  • Hero as protector
  • Arranged or forced marriage
  • Pretend marriage or relationship
  • Stranded together on an island
  • Snowbound
  • Matchmaker contrives to throw lovers together
  • Must share office or home


Love Conquers All


  • The healing power of love
  • Redemption through love


One Lover Rehabilitates or Cures the Other


  • Amnesia
  • Physical disabilities
  • Emotional problems
  • Disfigurement
  • Mental illness
  • Alcoholism


Emotional Baggage or Internal Forces Keep Lovers Apart


  • Inability to trust, especially opposite sex
  • Fear of commitment
  • "I am a rock;" emotional detachment
  • Some past incident, e.g., abuse, has left emotional scars
  • Lover blames other for some hurt to self or loved one
  • Lover harbors a secret that threatens love
  • Lover must find self or solve problem before committing
  • One lover has lied to other about something important
  • Lover can't forgive other for some flaw
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Sense of unworthiness
  • Feeling that one doesn't belong or fit


The Lovers' Differences Keep Them Apart


  • Lovers from different social, religious or ethnic worlds
  • A difference of opinion on critical matter
  • Bad boy, good girl; or vice versa
  • Lovers have opposing loyalties
  • Lovers are business competitors
  • Lovers personalities are too different
  • A large age difference
  • Unrequited love


The Lovers' Similarities Keep Them Apart


  • Lovers engage in a battle of wills
  • Lovers share goal, but only once can achieve it


Babies and Children


  • Secret baby
  • Arranged pregnancy
  • Accidental pregnancy
  • Reunited with child given up for adoption
  • Child play matchmaker or otherwise brings lovers together
  • Child lost or threatened
  • Heroine plays nanny


Comedy of Errors


  • Heroine pretends to be male
  • Mistaken identity
  • Misunderstandings
  • Masquerade
  • Twins


Evolving Relationships


  • Platonic friends fall in love
  • Ex-sweethearts are reunited
  • Divorced spouses rediscover their love


Mythic or Fairy Tale Elements


  • Kidnapping (Persephone)
  • Taming of the savage male (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Transformation (Pygmalion)
  • Rags to Riches (Cinderella)
  • Awakening, emotional rebirth (Sleeping Beauty)



(From "Heroes and Heroines:


16 Master Archetypes," by Caro LeFever, Tami Cowden, & Sue Viders.)

Beyond Alpha: The Eight Male Archetypes


  • The Chief - The quintessential "alpha" male: tough, decisive, and goal-oriented
  • The Bad Boy - Dangerous, but fascinating: charismatic and street smart, hates rules and regulations
  • The Best Friend - The "beta" hero: kind, decent, and responsible
  • The Charmer - The quintessential smooth operator: Fun, irresistible, and often unreliable
  • The Lost Soul - The "theta" hero: Tortured and secretive, he's got a vulnerable heart and discerning eyes
  • The Professor - Logical, introverted and inflexible, but also genuine in feelings, extremely faithful and honest
  • The Swashbuckler - The Man on the Go: Action and adventure is his motto; he's physical, daring, mercurial
  • The Warrior - The "delta" hero: The reluctant rescuer; dark and dangerous, driven and remote


Beyond Cinderella: The Eight Female Archetypes


  • The Boss - The "Take Charge" woman: outspoken and persuasive, confident and competitive
  • The Seductress - "I Will Survive" woman: mysterious and manipulative, distrusting and cynical
  • The Spunky Kid - Spirited and loyal, reliable and supportive, more of a "tomboy"
  • The Free Spirit - Genuine and fun-loving, impulsive, an "original"
  • The Waif - Classic "damsel in distress": Child-like innocence, naive and docile, she endures
  • The Librarian - Conscientious, orderly, bright; she leads with her brain, not her looks
  • The Crusader - A woman on a mission: tenacious, headstrong, courageous
  • The Nurturer - Altruistic to a fault; calm, optimisic, a listener, pleasant, takes care of everyone



After the final draft, edit using the "find" function for the words on the following list. Next, read the sentence containing the offender, and either correct it or leave it be, depending. They are all valid words, if used in moderation, but are prone to misuse, overuse and abuse.


"Fine Tooth Comb and Red Flags and Snags"

and - but (can indicate run-on sentences)
that (unnecessary in most sentences)
that (when you mean "who")
nearly - almost
seem - appear
felt - feel
begin - began
would - should - could
"ly" adverbs
down - up (as in sit down, stand up - can be redundant)
got - get

Look for passive use

it - is
to be
there is
there are
there was
there were

(My thanks to Lynda Hales for compiling this list and graciously allowing me to share it!)




(by Michelle Jerott, from Wisconsin RWA's The Write Touch Newsletter, April/May 2000)


If the thought of an editor/agent appointment at the conference has you chowing down Tums, relax!  It doesn't have to be an ordeal.  When pitching an idea, keep it simple and keep it focused on the romance--don't bog yourself down with unnecessary back story, secondary characters, or subplots.  All the editor wants to know is if you have a good grasp of your main characters, a balance of internal/external conflict, and the story's marketing angle ("hook.")  Five to ten minutes is plenty of time, so speak slowly and carefully, maintain eye contact, and allow time for questions.


If I were going to pitch my latest book, A GREAT CATCH, I'd say something like this:


"After years of working her way upward in the male-dominated maritime world of Great Lakes shipping, Tessa Jardine lands her dream job as First Mate on the passenger ship SS TALIESEN--a dream job until she meets her captain, Lucas Hall.  Ten years ago, Lucas broke her young heart when he walked away from her without a word of farewell, and she can't forgive him for that--or for his more recent part in a failed rescue attempt that cost her younger brother his life.  Now Lucas, the ex-Coast Guard hero, is back to complicate her life.  Working together day after day, Lucas and Tessa discover the attraction between them is still hot and heavy--but can Tessa forgive Lucas, or ever learn to trust him again?  And what will Lucas have to do to win back her love?"


This brief paragraph introduces the main characters, given enough back story to provide motivation, shows the basic balance of external and internal conflict, focuses on the romance, and tells the editor it's a "reunion story."

Hope this helps, and good luck pitching your book!




The easiest way to create a summary paragraph like the above is to take a formula adapted from Dwight Swain:  Situation, Character, Conflict, Opponent, and Disaster.  To show you what I mean, here's the paragraph I wrote broken down according to Swain's equation:




After years of working her way upward in the male-dominated maritime world of Great Lakes shipping




Tessa Jardine




lands her dream job as First Mate on the passenger ship SS TALIESEN--a dream job until she meets her captain, Lucas Hall.  Ten years ago, Lucas broke her young heart when he walked away from her without a word of farewell, and she can't forgive him for that--or for his more recent part in a failed rescue attempt that cost her younger brother his life.




Now Lucas, the ex-Coast Guard hero,




is back to complicate her life.  Working together day after day, Lucas and Tessa discover the attraction between them is still hot and heav y--but can Tessa forgive Lucas, or ever learn to trust him again?  And what will Lucas have to do to win back her love?


That's it!  Not too painful, really...


Download the PDF to this article.


About the Author


Michele Albert/Michelle Jerott writes for Avon: Off Limits (10/03), Getting Her Man (10/02), Her Bodyguard (10/01), A Great Catch (9/00), All Night Long (10/99), Absolute Trouble (9/98).  She is currently working on next book.

Order by: 
Per page: 
  • There are no comments yet

Visit our online bookstores:

  1. Kindle's Free eBook Store
  2. Fiction Writer's Bookstore
  3. Romance Writer's Bookstore


Socialpolitan.org is in Association with Amazon.com

0 votes
  • Daily Deals! Save BIG on Hotels, Flights, Car Reantal, Cruises, and Vacation Packages at Expedia!
  • Writer's Digest: Critique Servicesanimated red star bullet
  • Liquid Story Binder XE
  • Writer Subliminal
  • Writing Fundamentals
  • ScreenWriters University
  • Screenwriting Fundamentals
  • Writers Store
  • Writers Store Screenwriting Classes
  • Novel Writing Made Easy System
  • Write Quickly
  • Easy Way to Write
  • WriteSparks!
  • Firstwriter
  • How to Write Romance
  • Writer's Digest
  • Get Started in Writing with 25% Off at Writer's Digest Shop. Valid with Offer Code START25.
  • Free e-Books
  • Free Kindle e-Books animated red star bullet
  • AutoCrit Editing Wizard
  • American Writers & Artists
  • Industry Insider Screenwriting Contests
  • ExpertRating Writing & Publishing Courses
  • UniversalClass Writing Help Courses
  • Writer's Digest Writing TUTORIALS
  • StoryCraft Fiction Development Software
  • Kindle Free Books
  • Novel In A Month
  • Movie In A Month
  • Essential English for Authors
  • StoryFix
  • Writing Help Courses
  • Amazon Free Storywriter for Screenwriters
  • Amazon Studios: Looking for the Next Great Movie Idea
  • iUniverse: Author Services

  • Online Writing Workshops for Writers at All Levels


    Jobs from Indeed

    Socialpolitan: Fiction Writing Gpix Advertising. Become A Pixel Owner. Learn how your ad could be here.

    If this page has been of any value to you, we would appreciate if you help us by spreading the word. Join Fiction Writing Craft on Facebook Join Fiction Writing Craft on Twitter Follow Us

    Please take a moment and vote for us at Writer's Digest 101 Best Writing Sites. Thanks!