Plot -Tobias-Noble-Sawyer Introduction


The Tobias (1993) Concept of 'Master Plots'  (Click to read more...)

The Noble and Noble (1985) Model of 'Plot Motivators' and 'Story Spicers'

The Sawyer and Weingarten (2004) Strategy for Story Plot Event Generation

    Introduction - Distinction Between Genre, Story and Plot.

    Many movie-goers think of screenplays in terms of ‘Genre’. The American Film Institute, Blockbuster and have whole lists of genres that range from Western, Romantic Comedy, Sport, Science Fiction, Courtroom Drama, Epic, Film Noir and Gangster. In this sense, ‘Genre’ really means ‘Setting’ - either the place where the action occurs or the mood of the film.

    From the standpoint of screenwriting, however, it is much better to view screenplays in terms of ‘Action’, ‘Motivation’ and ‘Emotion’. Put another way, an audience is far more interested in the impact of what your characters do and what they experience emotionally (as a way of vicarious experience), rather than where they are located. For instance, High Noon is a story set in the Wild West of the late 1800s with themes about justice, self-respect and love - that is what captures our emotional attention. But, High Noon would be just as compelling a story if it was set in a tough neighborhood in New York City today, or a new colony on Mars in the next millennium.

    Tobias argues that while ‘Story’ refers to a chronicle of events, ‘Plot’ addresses why things happen. Plot the chain of cause–and–effect relationships that constantly create a pattern of unified action and behavior. Plot requires the ability to remember what is already happened, to figure out the relationships between the events and people, and to try to project the outcome. In contrast, story only requires curiosity about what will happen next.

    'Action’, ‘Motivation’ and ‘Emotion’ translate into ‘STORY’ and ‘PLOT’.

    Three invaluable books address the meaning of, and differences between, ‘Story’ and ‘Plot’, and generate ideas of what actually happens to the characters:
    • June and William Noble: Steal This Plot: A Writers Guide to Story Structure and Plagiarism. Paul S. Erickson Publisher, Middlebury, Vermont (1985). (Click here to read more about Noble and Noble's Plot Motivators and Story Spicers models - In Preparation) .
    • Tom Sawyer and Arthur David Weingarten: Plots Unlimited: A Creative Source for Generating a Virtually Limitless Number and Variety of Story Plots and Outlines. Ashleywilds Inc., Malibu, California, (2004). (Click here to read more about Sawyer and Weingarten's Strategy to Generate Movie Plots - In Preparation).
    Tobias's book classifies movies into 20 fundamental 'Master Plots'. The Noble and Noble book also emphasizes 'Plot Motivators' (with overlaps into Tobias' Master Plots) and proposes the concept of 'Story Spicers'. If you combine their 13 Story Spicers with the 20 Master Plots or Plot Motivators, you have 169 and 260 options respectively. Sawyer and Weingarten's book provide strategies to develop options of what what actually happens in the story, including where the characters go, what they do and for what purpose. The Screenplay Summaries provide useful tools and real examples of how plots and stories are constructed:

    Tobias (1993) Master Plots: (Click to read more...)


    1. Quest

    6. Revenge

    11. Metamorphosis

    16. Sacrifice

    2. Adventure

    7. The Riddle

    12. Transformation

    17. Discovery

    3. Pursuit

    8. Rivalry

    13. Maturation

    18. Wretched Excess

    4. Rescue

    9. Underdog

    14. Love

    19. Ascension

    5. Escape

    10. Temptation

    15. Forbidden Love

    20. Descention


    Noble and Noble (1985) Plot Motivators

    1. Vengeance

    5. The Chase

    9. Persecution

    13. Discovery-Quest

    2. Catastrophe

    6. Grief and Loss

    10. Self-Sacrifice

    3. Love and Hate

    7. Rebellion

    11. Deliverance

    4. Ambition

    8. Betrayal

    12. Rivalry


    Noble and Noble (1985) Story Spicers

    1. Deception

    5. Conspiracy

    9. Criminal Action

    13. Honor and Dishonor

    2. Material Well-Being

    6. Rescue

    10. Suspicion

    3. Authority

    7. Mistaken Identity

    11. Suicide

    4. Making Amends

    8. Unnatural Affection

    12. Searching