You know what’s crazy? When I first started writing, the idea of plotting seemed foreign to me. I didn’t see any need to come with a defined problem-conflict-solution. I just thought that seemed archaic in a sense.
And then when I heard about some of the more complicated plotting methods, such as the hero’s journey, I was like, “No way. Not for me. Stephen King says don’t worry about that stuff, so gosh darn it, I’m not worried about that kind of stuff.”
I tried writing “without plot” for a year or two and had a lot of trouble both finishing anything and getting published. Then someone opened my eyes. I wish I could remember which site to credit, but someone somewhere brought up the plot example of…
- Put a man in a tree
- Throw rocks at him
- Get him down
This made so much more sense to me than anything else I had read about writing at that point. It made perfect sense. Plot was simply problem-conflict-solution. Or like the wiki page says, setup, confrontation, resolution.
I had never thought about it like that before.
Surprising, really, since I actually grew up with that structure of plot in everything I based my life around in elementary school and junior high.
It’s just now that I realized that a simple plot structure was found in every popular video on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
This was somewhat revolutionary for the time, because apart from a few glaring exceptions (such as the Dungeons & Dragons games on Intellevision) most games weren’t designed to be won. They were built around points instead of story.
But then along came the Nintendo Entertainment System.
And this guy…
Suddenly video games were no longer about score, but about a problem and a resolution.
And it was so simple. A dragon-thing captures a princess and it’s up to a plumber to rescue her.
Super Mario Bros.
- Set-up: Princess Toadstool is captured by Bowser.
- Confrontation: Turtles, Mushroom People, Fire, Water, and other platform-based obstacles.
- Resolution: After defeating Bowser in several other castles, only to find an apprentice, Mario defeats Bowser in the final castle and rescues the princess.
Of course, Mario wasn’t the only dude in NES land fighting monsters and rescuing princesses.
Everyone over the age of thirty is familiar with Link and Princess Zelda. (And just for the record, The Legend of Zelda is probably the greatest video game ever made.)
The Legend of Zelda
- Set-up: Gannon has take princess Zelda.
- Confrontation: The young adventurer, Link, must find the pieces of the Triforce and solve the riddles to defeat Gannon and rescue the princess.
- Resolution: Link defeats Gannon to rescue the princess.
But not everything was about rescuing princesses. Samus of Metroid was doing no such thing. The premise of Metroid? Why, fighting space pirates and giant brains, of course.
- Set-up: Samus travels through the caverns of the planet Zebes to stop the Space Pirates from exploiting the parasitic organisms known as Metroids for galactic domination (from wikipedia.)
- Confrontation: Samus travels through mazes, finds awesome new weapons, and kill lots of aliens.
- Resolution: She finally defeats the dangerous Metroids and blows up the giant, evil, brain, saving the universe.
And, man, I get goosebumps when I thing about that original Metroid music.
And speaking of awesome video game music, who could forget my personal favorite…
- Set-up: “Baron Von Blubba” has kidnapped the brothers Bubby and Bobby’s girlfriends and turned the brothers into Bubble Dragons, Bub and Bob. Bub and Bob have to finish 100 levels in the Cave of Monsters in order to rescue them.
- Confrontation: The brontosaurus brothers battle all sorts of monsters with bubble until they reach the mysterious 100th level.
- Resolution: They rescue their girlfriends.
I know a lot of these games had a similar premise. Boy rescues girl. But that’s not the point. The point is that you can find examples of the simple structure of writing in places you would have never thought. And for me, it was in the games I played as a kid.
So I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and I’ll have to do the same thing with pro-wrestling sometime.
What games were your favorites as a kid? And what were the basic elements of their stories? Leave a comment and let us know!