Plot…The most important 4 letter word that doesn’t start with “S”or “F”…

Catchy title, right?  ***Ahem***…Some struggle with characterization, some with plot.  Those that struggle with plot might find this useful as they won’t be creating new vernacular words when they hit the rut! PARENTS:  IF you use my blog, there will be times that I talk to students as I would in a non-teaching capacity.  They are less bored that way.  I want to make them laugh a bit and enjoy it!

Whether you are in an English Literature class,  Theater Arts class, Creative Writing class, etc…One cannot possibly deal with plot without an understanding of the different types of conflict. In American schools you are usually introduced to these in the 9th grade, but now, schools are so busy trying to control chaos and teach social skills that many students are not understanding this concept.  As a result, they are left to their own devices on assignments  much of the time because the teacher has to keep one eye on the  ED student (emotionally disturbed) while keeping the other eye on the class bully. I am going to break this down so EVERBODY who does not understand it can get a grip on it.  IF you do understand it, great! You are exceptional! Pat yourself on the back!  Anyway, it is NOT that hard.

The different types of conflict are:

Man vs. Man–This is THE physical struggle

Man vs. Nature /Environment/Circumstances–This is the “classical” struggle.

Man vs. Self–This is the psychological struggle

Man vs. Society–And this is the social struggle.

Man vs. Destiny/Fate

Now you will see this from time to time in writing:

External and Internal  (and all conflicts fall into one of these categories).

1. The external struggle deals with forces outside of a character.  These forces can be anything from a serial killer trying to get to him/her, a fight between relatives, wars, bullying, political hostilities resulting in mass bull, etc…

Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Society  are usually going to involve external conflict.  Some stories have mixtures of all of it but there is one thing you need to remember whether you are writing a story or some type of essay for an English teacher:  There is NO such thing as a good one that has NO conflict.  The only place you will see no conflict is in a didactic piece of writing.   By “didactic” I am referring to literature specifically designed to teach a moral–or a lesson of some type–and if you are a student that easily translates into boring stuff that you do not want to touch with a ten foot pole.   Much of the time, instruction on morals, excessive factual or educational information in writing falls into this rut.  Alexander Pope‘s Essay on Criticism falls into this mess.  Steer clear if you can because to droll on excessively about these subjects bores you as much as your instructor does if their voices are monotone. Example:  The “Clear Eyes” commercials–that dude…Get it? Got it? Good!  IF you’re not familiar with him, here is a prime example of the monotone, boring voice:

And that’s from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off!

2.  The internal struggle deals with a struggle within the character’s own personality.  Man vs. Self is the perfect example of this.  When one battles his/her inner demons, habits, etc…That is what this refers to.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, I’m going to give you all plot examples without running  the characters into the cataract (hopefully).

Man vs. Man:  Best example here is from the movie “Batman: The Dark Knight”–Batman vs. The Joker

Man vs. Nature:  The movies  “10.5” or “The Perfect Storm”

Man vs. Society:  “Falling Down” or “John Q”

Man vs. Self:   “American History X” and “An Officer and a Gentleman

Man vs. Destiny/Fate:   I am going to use the movie “Ikiru” here.  This man knows he is dying, but is fighting to make a difference in the days he has left–as in trying to define his legacy.  One could say it is this type of conflict because of what actually gets done or not done. Watch this and think about it.

Now for a few more differences:

Man vs. Nature   “The Johnstown Flood” (True Story) by David McCullough

Man vs. Society  “The Giver”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Man vs. Man         “The Ascent” (Get the old 1980’s movie with Vincent Spano and Ben Cross in it)

Man vs.  Self          “Journey to the River Sea”  Eva Ibbotson  *Ironic one to pick, right?*

Man vs. Fate          “Jaws”…YES there was man vs. nature here but there is also an element of man vs. fate and both worked in this book.

Alright…Now that you have that quick rundown, you should be able to glean whatever else you may need for testing from your literature textbooks, or simply by listening to that boring stuff being added to it in English classes!   Now see! I think I’ve given you a good idea of what to look for in a short reading on a blog!

I think the only way you could make this more exciting for yourself is to read it aloud, imitating the character of Spiccoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High !

The End


4 comments on “Plot…The most important 4 letter word that doesn’t start with “S”or “F”…

  1. I tried to submit a comment earlier, however it hasn’t shown up. I believe your spam filter may well be broken?

  2. Pingback: Two. Four. Seven. More. How many stories are there? « Damien G. Walter

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