Dug into the archive for this one—some random notes on different basic story types (in my unauthorized opinion).
– Procedural = the plot is not personal to the protagonist, who is usually motivated by a job, morality, or a threat that is more generic than emotional; best for episodic series; often involves a plot generator (case of the week) but occasionally involves a series of semi-related but independent plots (Mercy Thompson, Supernatural)
– Epic = the plot is of a large enough scale to affect the protagonist without being personal; the protagonist must be in a position to be uniquely suited to ‘deal with’ the plot (as well as being motivated to do so; usually the scale of the threat is large enough to motivate anyone to stop it, and thus the protagonist is motivated but needs a specific ability to deal with it); there may be personal elements but they are overshadowed by the scale of the threat (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars)
– Personal = the plot is uniquely centered around the protagonist and has an emotional element or a character familiarity that makes it specific to this protagonist; an internal drama concerns an emotional journey, marked primarily by character interactions and emotional revelations rather than actions and achievements; an external drama uses plot mechanisms (actions and achievements) that are caused or deepened by emotion and personal connection
o Romances tend to fall under this category, with ones that focus on the characters overcoming internal conflict being internal dramas, while ones that focus on the characters’ relationship facing external conflict being external dramas (occasionally epic)
o Many personal stories involve both internal and external factors, so that an emotional journey may be catalyzed by a physical event; if it bridges into an entire plotline (sub or main), with multiple events and a conflict-arc, then you’re looking at a storyline
– Stories can have more than one storyline, so many will have a procedural storyline with a personal subplot (or vice versa—as in many romance novels); likewise, many epic plots may have personal elements that are what define the particular protagonist, which may be dealt with in a personal subplot
– The first question to ask (generally to determine a procedural) is: Could you change the protagonist and still tell mostly the same story? If yes, you’re probably looking at a procedural where the protagonist is solving a case; though a different protagonist would solve it differently, and have different specific events as a result, the overall story is not affected by who the protagonist is or their background
– The difference between procedural and epic can be in the eye of the beholder; is a threat to the entire town a procedural or an epic plot? Doctor Who has been plagued by so many ‘epic’ plots that they have become procedural—will he save the Earth or the Universe this week? The key to procedural is a sense of generality, of mechanism, of repetition; while epic is categorized by scale, hyperbole, often theme, and usually a sense of uniqueness (within the world)
– Procedurals are probably the easiest to plot—the motivation is usually locked in and obvious; procedurals can be the most plot-heavy and least personal type, but they can also have a strong emphasis on the personal with subplots or parallel storylines; also, they can revolve around static social circles which can examine stable relationships over time—partnerships, teams, families, etc.
– The easiest place to start for a story is—what does the character want?