Only nine plots exist

Stacks of books in a store

Photo via Visualhunt.

As of this writing, Google tells me there are 129,864,880 books in the world. Mentalfloss tells me there are 134,021,533. The actual count is probably higher since neither figure was calculated this year and it’s impossible to accurately count self-published books, since not all of them have an ISBN.

So, how can I be so brazen as to say there are only nine plots—only nine basic stories—in this world?

Here’s an example:

An orphaned child is abused by relatives. The child dreams of different life but cannot fight against their fate. A person wielding magic steps in and gives the child a chance to be whisked off to a castle, where the child is able to see their self-worth. They are eventually forced back home and the relatives fight hard to keep the child from returning to the castle, but thanks in part to good friends and a bit of magic, they are able to make it back and leave behind their abusive childhood home.

Am I talking about Cinderella? Or Harry Potter?

Obviously that is a simplified example, but you get my meaning. A better example would be all the novels based on the same fairy tale, such as Cinderella. They are all so unique and different (and there are plenty more than I’ve just linked to), and yet they follow the same plot.

And that’s just ONE plot!

But there are nine, and it is the writer’s job to choose one and make it unique with their own characters, details, and voice.

The only nine plots in existence

Character vs Character
Character vs Him/Herself
Character vs Culture/Society
Character vs Setting
Character vs Situation
Character vs God(s)
Character vs Fate
Character vs the Unknown
Character vs Machine

All stories have their plot based in one of these conflicts. So, if you’re wrestling with your story because it sounds tired and overdone, consider how you might make it fresh and exciting. Every plot has been done multiple times, and when stripped to its bones, yes, your story may sound familiar.

But you are the only you that there is. Only you can make your story different than all of the others, because no other writer has your voice. What changes can you make to reenergize your plot and to give it a beat of its own to march to?

Finish that story and up the total count of books released into the world. I know you have it in you!

Do you tend to gravitate toward a certain plot for most of your stories? Or are each of your stories different from the others? I really like character driven stories with lots of interpersonal conflict, so I tend to write Character vs Character or Character vs Culture/Society stories. What’s your favorite to read? Is it different than what you like to write?

Why I write

Hiker walking a path in the mountains

Photo via Visualhunt.

A person with a clear purpose will make progress on even the toughest road. A person with no purpose will make no progress on even the smoothest road. –Thomas Carlyle

Why do you write? If you don’t know the answer to this, you will have a hard time completing your stories.

I write to quiet the stories in my head. They won’t leave me alone—they haunt both my dreams and my daydreams—until I spill them out onto paper. I also write because as a teenager I desperately needed the escape books offered me. I’d like to offer a safe place to escape to for someone else who needs it.

So, why do you write? Share your purpose in the comments!

10 years

April and her husband on their wedding day, and then again ten years later

1 set of vows sworn in front of God and our witnesses.
2 individual people became one.
3 and a half years of dating before tying the knot.
4 in our family. My husband, me, and two sons.
5 different homes we have lived in since marrying.
6 years of our marriage we lived in Japan, where both sons were born.
7 and seventy times we have forgiven each other or have had to come to a compromise, and we will continue to do so seventy times seven more. :)
8 quotes we say to each other all of the time. (“Let’s see what’s in the box! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Stupid! You’re so stupid!”, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? Don’t nobody understand the words that are coming out of your mouth”, “Look, sleeping people! It must be nap time”, “Snake? Snake? Snaaaaaake!”, “I can’t put my arms down!”, “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up”, “It’s over 9,000!”, “Jinx! Buy me a coke.”)
9 times I’ve beaten my husband at video games. Countless times he’s beaten me.
10 years of wedded bliss!

Today is our tenth anniversary so I’m keeping this post short. Tell me in the comments how many of our quotes you recognize—and then share your favorites, too. See you next time!

Typing Test: What’s your WPM?

Graph showing Words Per Minute in a typing test

Photo via TypingTest.com.

I just took a 3-minute typing test to find out what my words per minute (WPM) score is. The results say 74 WPM with a 97% accuracy. I’ll take it! I normally don’t type that quickly when I’m writing since I have to stop occasionally and think about what I’m really trying to say, but when I just have to copy the words already in front of me it’s easier to go a bit faster.

If you try the test yourself, let me know your score! You can find it at http://www.typingtest.com/.

Five reasons why I love reading

Teen girl reading a book in a meadow

Photo via Visualhunt.

I love being a writer and creating stories. They tend to mill about in my head for a while before I can spill them out onto paper, and I thoroughly enjoy both processes. But I also LOVE being a reader! Learning new things, feeling different emotions, riding the high of a great story completed… there are many reasons I enjoy it. Here are just five things I love about reading.

1.

Immersing myself in a book so deeply that when I’m interrupted, I have to get my bearings again before I can function properly in the real world. It feels like someone put a pair of funny goggles on me because the real world looks strange and feels foreign. Or when I have book “hangover” after finishing a novel and can’t move on until I’ve fully processed the emotional experience I just went through.

2.

Being able to explore other countries, cultures, and time periods without consequence. Well, the consequences are that they expand my worldview, which is a good thing, rather than a financial and scientific impossibility (pricey airfare tickets, inventing time travel, etc.).

3.

Stories aren’t static because I’M not static. I can enjoy a book multiple times because with each read I catch things I missed before—either because I didn’t know the upcoming plot twists, which I now know, or because I’ve had more life experience than the last time I read it, and so can understand or relate better to the material than I could before.

4.

I don’t mind having to wait. In fact, waiting in a long line or at a place of business that’s behind schedule (doctor’s office, hair salon, restaurant, etc.) means more time to read! As a student growing up in Japan, I would use my daily commute on the train to read 2 or 3 books a week. I’ve got young kids now, so I don’t have the time to read at that pace anymore. But any time I get to pull out my book while waiting feels like a vacation!

5.

No matter how much I read there will always be more great books to read. I’ll never run out. I’ll never be bored.

There are so many more reasons I love to read, but I’ll end the list here. How about you? Do you agree with my list? Are there other reasons you love to read? While you’re at it, tell me what your favorite book is so I can add it to my “to read next” list. As for my favorite, I love so many I can’t just pick one! But here are some that I particularly like and have reread may times.