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the plot thickens (a lot)

the 20 plots challenge

The 20 Plots Challenge
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Welcome to the 20 Plots Challenge!

The Table

09.The Underdog10.Temptation
15.Forbidden Love16.Sacrifice
17.Discovery18.Wretched Excess

The Plot Types (definitions, summarized by technosage, come from the book, Twenty Master Plots. For a fuller explanation of each plot, see technosage's complete notes):

1. Quest: A search for something specific, a grail object, and finding it changes the protagonist in some way. Often, the object itself is not what s/he believes it to be, or lacks the powers attributed to it, but the lessons learned along the way enable him/her to achieve the end for which the object was needed.

2. Adventure: A journey for its own sake, usually to exotic or unusual locations, in which the protagonist goes on to the brink of death and survives. S/he need not be changed by the story, as this is more or less entirely plot-driven.

3. Pursuit: A pursuit story is simple: someone runs, someone pursues. The chase is the key thing and must be kept unpredictable, taut and engaging. Keep the pursuer close; tight time and geographical space makes for tension.

4. Rescue: The protagonist must save someone. It combines the quest, in which the grail object is the victim, and the pursuit (catch the villain, or get to the victim in time).

5. Escape: Escape plots invert rescue plots. The victims must free themselves. There may be someone searching for the victim on the outside, but the victim should be the main protagonist.

6. Revenge: The revenge story is the protagonist retaliating against the antagonist for some real or imagined injury that almost always takes place outside the limits of the law. The protagonist is usually forced to take vengeance when the law won't give him/her justice.

7. Riddle: A riddle plot has a deliberately enigmatic or ambiguous question at its heart; a mystery. It is a test of cleverness; and writing one is like playing charades with the reader. It's a game, and you must play fairly. Usually the answer has been hidden in plain sight.

8. Rivals: Two people compete for the same goal. They should be of equal skills and strengths, but not matched. Cleverness versus strength is a common contest, for example. In some ways, a rivalry plot is really a clash of two quests.

9. The Underdog: An underdog plot features a rivalry/dual quest story where the protagonist and the antagonist are not an even match. Often the underdog will receive help (magical or otherwise) from a mentor figure or ally to defeat his/her opponent.

10. Temptation: The protagonist must be tempted to commit some act. The plot may be mostly about the struggle against the tempter or it may be about the consequences.

11. Metamorphosis: A curse or some other magical act causes someone to be transformed into something other than him or herself.

12. Transformation: Transformation plots are the change of life/identity through the occurrence of significant events.

13. Maturation: Similar to the transformation plot, the maturation plot deals with change of life. However, the maturation plot deals with children or child-like characters. A naïve young character is exposed to the harsh realities of the world and grows up thereby.

14. Love: A love story is about love denied and either recaptured or lost. It may be about falling out of love, rather than falling into love.

15. Forbidden Love: The power of the idea of love or of love itself crosses into forbidden territory. The story will either be about the "bad" of crossing the lines or about love overcoming societal disapproval.

16. Sacrifice: Sacrifice is a character plot, which manifests the decision that something is more important than X, which had been crucially important before.

17. Discovery: The discovery plot is about a person and his or her quest to find out who s/he is. Characters in search of understanding something fundamental about him/herself.

18. Wretched Excess: This plot takes someone to the margins of society and acceptable behavior and sometimes beyond. Normal people, abnormal circumstances; abnormal people, normal circumstances. The key to the plot is that the character is pushed to extremes, and we are to believe that under the right circumstances that could be me.

19. Descension: The story of a fall from a high place because of a flaw. Often the same trait precipitates rise at one point in cycle as leads to fall later. Three stages: before, progression, culmination. The culmination in a decline will be succumbing to the flaw.

20. Ascension: The story of the rise because of a virtue. Often the same trait led to fall and generates rise. Three stages: before, progression, culmination. In ascension, it will be achievement of elevation.


1) What is the challenge all about?
Participants need to write 20 stories that make use of the plots on the table above. Explanations of each plot are also provided above, but those are just basic guidelines – run with it! Interpret them as closely or as loosely as you want. The code for the table is available right here (you can insert links to the stories by putting link tags around the words):

2) Where do I post?
For challenge purposes, you must post your story to the community as it's completed. Please follow the header guidelines, set out below. When your 20 stories are complete, you can e-mail us a copy of your personal table, with all the links coded, and we will post your table in the Hall of Fame for everyone to see.

3) Can I post plot20 stories in my own journal?
Go right on ahead. If you post your stories in other locations, please link back to this community in that same post. Spread the good word!

4) Can I crosspost fics from other challenges here?
Yes, as long as they fit a prompt.

5) Do I have to write a distinct story for each prompt, or can some/all of them be connected?
Since the point of this challenge is to write different types of stories, using these different plot types, if you can interweave two (or more) plots successfully, more power to you.

6) How long does each story have to be?
Stories must be at least 1,000 words long.

7) What format do I use to post my story?
Stories posted in the community must be posted behind a cut tag. If you are linking to your own journal instead, please do not link to locked posts.
Pairing (if applicable):
Plot type:
Warnings (if any):
Author's Note (if any):

8) Do I have to sign up for a specific character or a fandom?
No. In fact, the 20 plots don't have to all be in the same fandom.

9) What happens when I finish my 20 plots?
You get inducted into our Hall of Fame. And you get a pretty banner to show off to the world. And bragging rights. Isn't that great?

10) What about original fiction?
Sure, you can post original fiction. But please note that we are not responsible for any infringement of your copyrights – ie, if someone ends up copying your original story, then that is a problem you will have to take up with the perpetrator.

11) Are there restrictions on content?
There are no restrictions on content, but you must include the appropriate warnings in your header.

12) When is this all due?
In the grand tradition of challenges like fanfic100 and wtf27, never. You can take the rest of your life to finish it.
When you are finished with all 20 stories, e-mail one of the mods here and you will be duly inducted into the Hall of Fame.

13) How do I sign up?
Just comment over here, on this sign-up post.

The Authors

Please check out our current list of participants here.

[This userinfo page has been modeled after wtf27.]