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Plots Unlimited! NaNoWriMo

Daniel Tures, Adult Librarian, Frances Howard Goldwyn - Hollywood Regional Library,
cover art for Plots Unlimited

It’s National Novel Writing Month. Austen did it, Melville did it, Faulkner did it, and you can do it too! Fortunately, writing a novel is a piece of cake. Sure you could do it the hard way as the heavy hitters do. You could go to all the trouble of inventing a whole roster of complex characters from scratch, and then laboriously weave a tangled web of twists and turns for them to deal with. (Whew, I get tired just thinking about it!) Or you could take it easy on yourself and reach for the comfort of a book like Plots Unlimited (1994).

Plots Unlimited is pretty much what it sounds like, an E-Z workbook for generating thrilling, exciting plots that Jack, the protagonist of your novel, or prime-time action-adventure show, could undergo. And not just Jack: his antagonist, Gary; his love interest, Carol; his friend, Pete, or Larry; a stranger, Dave; Carol’s father, Frank; and many more. The book lets you mathematically mix and match capsule plots categorized by story type (Romance, Misfortune, Obligation, Crime/Immorality, Mystery, Revelation, etc.) and combine themes, conflicts and outcomes. Let’s flip through Plots Unlimited and see what kind of plot elements you could be mixing and matching in your novel-in-progress about the life and times of Jack. In fact, why not make a mega plot by stringing all these together for the most fascinating novel of all time! (Not sure what all the numbers and letters mean, but left them in for anyone who does.)

  • Jack, poor, loves wealthy Carol (187)
  • Street-gang member Jack rescues Carol from an attack by a rival gang. Carol befriends Jack, takes him off the streets and reforms him (314b)
  • Sprinter Jack is about to lose a race because he thinks he hears the voice of a dead friend, Pete, calling for help. But he wins the event when his coach brings him back to his senses (981b)
  • Fugitive Jack assumes an alias and wins a fortune on a TV game show (1148b)
  • Jack is obsessively fearful of burglars (1230)
  • Jack bets heavily on a sporting event (1231)
  • Jack, in an effort to help his romance with Carol, obtains a mail-order love potion (249)
  • Carol, in love with Jack, learns that Jack is a narcissist and loves only himself (57)
  • Carol, an alien, is deserted by Jack, whom she loves (347a)
  • Carol, an alien, rescues Jack and falls in love with him, but Jack is engaged to marry a woman of his own people, Laura (261)
  • Jack, an alien, loves Carol, supposedly an earth girl. About to give Carol up, Jack finds that Carol is also an alien. Jack marries Carol (551)
  • Wealthy Jack returns to the farm where he was raised, and forgetting the location of an old well, falls into it (1443c)
  • Carol invents a fictitious man, Walt, who “comes to life” and falls for Carol (298a)
  • Jack thinks he sees the ghost of his dead wife, Carol. Attempting to catch Carol’s apparition, he falls from a cliff and is killed (413)
  • Carol gets lost in a sailboat off a dangerous coast in a dense fog. Carol, alone and in great danger, attempts to summon distant Jack via ESP (179a)
  • Nobel prize-winning scientist Jack secretly experiments with reanimating the dead (1333a)
  • Out-of-work actor Jack, hired to portray a giant peanut for a promotional stunt, is witness to a robbery. Unable to remove the peanut costume, he is forced to flee, the bad guys giving chase (1419b)
  • Carol lacks every qualification, yet still believes she is a highly gifted musician (364b)
  • Jack, struggling with writer’s block, believes that real-world experiences will spark his creativity (598)

See? It practically writes itself! So get out there and write that novel while it’s still November. And if Plots Unlimited isn’t your style, you might try one of these excellent books on the art of writing and the writer’s practice, available here at the library. Also check our events calendar for NaNoWriMo programs throughout the system.


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