Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Plot Archetypes: Rags to Riches

The stuff of dreams

Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Welcome to our third post in our plot archetype series! Today we’re going to be talking about a story that’s familiar to everyone across the board, but most especially young women because of media conglomerates producing this en masse: rags to riches. So what exactly is involved in this plot archetype?  

What is it?

So what is the rags to riches plot archetype? It says what it is right in the name—the protagonist in the story starts out down on their luck or in some position that requires them to turn their eyes toward something better and achieve their goal by the end of it. They’ll be so close to their goal, either through good fortune or other coincidence, by the midpoint only to lose it because they hadn’t earned it (bear in mind this has variations). They then spend the rest of the plot truly earning the fortune that they strive for. 

“Why do they need to lose what they want before the end?” They don’t necessarily have to lose what they achieved through the aforementioned means—they can lose something they already have that sets them back, like what minor income that they have or their house, for example. Plus, how boring would a story be if the protagonist got whatever they wanted without issue? 

This plot also isn’t just sweet princesses finding their prince charming and living happily ever after. This type of plot is also synonymous with the American Dream, where you can rise from nothing and achieve great things through hard work and determination. 

How to write a rags to riches plot

So what all goes into writing a plot of rags to riches? There are five stages that you must hit in order to make it successful.

Initial wretchedness and the call to action: We can’t have a rags to riches story without seeing the rags first. To start your book, you must first show your protagonist in whatever their undesirable state of being is, whether it’s being poor, down on their luck after losing a job, or whatever situation you’re putting your protagonist in. Once the writer establishes this, we then have to see the protagonist want to lift themselves out of their situation.

Getting out with initial success: The protagonist now goes out into the world in the direction of their goal and they have some sort of success, but the success will only last for so long. 

The central crisis: Here comes the part that keeps your story from having a Mary Sue or Marty Stu protagonist who gets whatever they want without struggle. Now it’s time for things to go wrong—the protagonist stalls on any progress that they’ve made and starts to slip backward.

Independence and ordeal: Now our protagonist must truly do things on their own; in their downward slide they’ve lost their resources, and potentially any allies they’ve made in the process, especially if their previous successes were based in trickery. Whatever goal they’ve made in the beginning of the story is just within reach now and only they can grab it.

Completion and fulfillment: As the title for this stage suggests, the protagonist achieves their goal. They could even exceed what they thought they could while searching for their happily ever after. And now, no one can ever take away their success. (Cue the singing rats and birds that will make your clothing with on-point draping as the end credits roll.)


So, where can you find plots that involve rags to riches? Well, there are several different examples that we can give, so we’ll break them down into their own sections. Unlike the other examples, we’re going to skip TV shows and focus on the book and movie examples. 


Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites—even the newest iteration with Kiera Knightly. (Can we talk about that hand flex by Matthew Macfayden? It’s sublime.) In this, the Bennet family isn’t the absolute bottom of the totem pole, but they need someone in the family to marry rich enough to support them once the estate goes to Mr. Bennet’s cousin, Mr. Collins. Elizabeth Bennet is sort of on board for this—given the times, she’s not really in the position to not be on board, though her father is much more lenient with his daughter’s autonomy than the vast majority of the men of the era—but she wants to find someone she can also love as her parent’s marriage has been...not the most loving. Better the chances if she can also find someone with money. Enter Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, two incredibly rich gentlemen, and the Bennet family set their sights on marrying one of their daughters to one of them (this is their call to action). The initial reactions are different between each man, but as this story is mainly about Elizabeth, we’ll focus on her. 

Mr. Darcy thinks she’s quite plain, while she thinks he’s handsome, and she finds out that he isn’t all that impressed by her. But, each time they see each other after that, Mr. Darcy finds other values in her and realizes his first assessment of her is incorrect. Elizabeth is also finding that she enjoys the company of Mr. Darcy and eventually it comes to the point where Mr. Darcy proposed to her. This is her seeming victory, and then she causes the start of her central crises by refusing his hand. A series of other things go wrong, and eventually, it comes to light that, despite being rejected by Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy lessens the burden on the Bennet family because he still loves her. Now we come to her independence and ordeal in which she must overcome her pride and prejudice and convince her father that she does indeed want to marry Mr. Darcy. After she accomplishes this, she gets her happily ever after. She gets her marriage based on love and respect, a ton of money, and as much autonomy as she can within the bounds of her era. 


These two are examples everyone is probably familiar with in one form or another. They’ve certainly been put into plenty of mediums (books, movies, plays, ice shows, sing-alongs, and broadways just to name a few). Aladdin is about a street urchin who is tricked into obtaining a magic lamp and becomes the genie’s master. He sees and falls in love with Princess Jasmine and uses the genie to trick everyone into thinking that he is Prince Ali so that he can marry her. Everything is going great, right? It is until Jafar exposes him for being Aladdin and not Ali. All of his success is taken away from him and after he loses everything, including Genie, he must find a way to save himself and the rest of the kingdom from Jafar on his own. And he does, getting to live happily ever after. 

Cinderella is another familiar fairy tale that Disney has beaten us over the head with since our parent’s childhood (and even for some of you, your parent’s parent’s childhood). Cinderella is one of the OG rags to riches that Disney has put in front of our eyes, though it’s had many, many different versions over centuries of storytelling. In our familiar story, Cinderella has become a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters after her father passes and when the opportunity comes to go to a ball for the prince to find a bride, she wants to go. Her stepmother denies Cinderella the chance to attend,  but her fairy godmother gets her there by impossible means. She enjoys herself at the ball, but wait—she’s stayed too long and now she’s losing the things that she’s gained and must escape before she’s found out as just a peasant. The prince is already in love with her, so once she leaves behind her shoe he already knows how he can find her. Here is where it comes in that only the protagonist can achieve the goal. The only person who can fit in the shoe is Cinderella herself. She overcomes her stepmother’s deception and puts on the shoe, and she and her prince live happily ever after. 

Join us next week for another Misused Advice post where we talk about writing what you know.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Plot Archetypes: Quests and Voyage and Return

The only difference is the ending
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Welcome to the second post in our plot archetypes series. For this post, we’ll talk about two of the archetypes you’ll find out there. Why two? Well, the only real difference between Quest and Voyage and Return is that in the latter, the hero returns, and they don’t necessarily have to succeed in their goal. So what all goes into these?

What are they?
The Quest plot archetype is a fairly familiar one—our hero is on a mission and must complete this either for the good of themselves or the good of those around them; this can be finding a person or a place. The biggest point of the Quest plot archetype is that the hero must leave home to go on the quest. We’ll often see this plot with a group of people that aid the ultimate hero, with the rest being heroes in their own way—for example, the hero could not succeed without the help or sacrifice of a group member. In these plots, your hero must succeed by the end of the story—with some difficulty, of course, because no one likes a Mary Sue and Marty Stu—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll get a happy ending. (Lord of the Rings, anyone?)
In the Voyage and Return plot, the goals might be a little bit different, but the general premise is the same as the Quest. There is a goal the hero wants to achieve, and they must leave home to do it. These can be plots that involve simply wanting an adventure, finding a cure for a disease plaguing the hero’s village, city, family, or something else that can pull the hero from their home in seeking something new. Unlike the Quest, the hero doesn’t always have to succeed with their goal (though they usually do), but they must always return home and with more knowledge than they left with. 

How to write a Quest plot
Much like with Overcoming the Monster, there are five stages an author must hit in order to write a successful Quest plot and Voyage and Return plot. You can break them down into whatever structure style you’d like, but these cannot be left out.
The Call: This will be your inciting incident for either the Quest or the Voyage and Return. Your hero will have a goal to achieve presented to them either by circumstances that they fall into or by someone else needing help (likely a companion that will be going along on the journey). 
The Journey: This is the more arduous part of your hero’s story. The journey to achieving the hero’s goals is an intricate dance of success and failure. The hero can’t have an easy journey—otherwise, what’s the point? Your hero will often feel like they’ve made some headway toward their goal, only to be sent back near the beginning in terms of progress. 
Arrival and Frustration: Now the hero is where they want to be, their goal just within their grasp. But, before they can achieve that goal, they still have a few more things to overcome.
The Final Ordeal: Ah, finally. The last obstacle before they achieve their goal. This is something only the hero can do, even if they have a group of people with them, like Frodo throwing the One Ring into the lava even though Sam is also there to support him.
The Goal: Now all the fighting’s done, the hero gets what they want out of the whole deal. They’ve found the place, they’ve found the person, or they’ve found the item or items they want. Now, just because they have achieved their goal doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be happy with their ending. 
For a Voyage and Return plot, your final two stages instead will be:
Nightmare: Unlike the Quest, the hero has the possibility of not succeeding. In this stage, our hero will lose hope that they can get what they want and might even lose their life if they can’t push through and succeed. 
Escape and Return: Your hero has escaped certain death, and can now return home with the new knowledge that they’ve attained and spread it for the good of the people. 
So, where can you find plots that involve the Quest and Voyage and Return? Well, there are several different examples that we can give, so we’ll break them down into their own sections. 
The best and the most familiar example I can think of in literature is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In this, Frodo falls into getting rid of the One Ring to save all of Middle Earth because his uncle, Bilbo, decides it’s time for him to leave and puts the ring in Frodo’s care. Frodo must complete a series of tasks with his companions until he ultimately has to destroy the ring on his own. Most notably, he doesn’t truly return home. He returns for a bit and it turns out that his home is not really a place he fits in anymore, and makes the journey with the elves into the West.
To keep with our Middle Earth theme in books, The Hobbit, is a great example of the Voyage and Return. Bilbo is thrust accidentally—or rather by Gandalf’s design—into the company of the remaining dwarves of Erebor as a burglar because of his hobbit-ness. They are on a quest, while Bilbo is on the journey because he wants to go on an adventure and just happens to have the skill set that they need (sort of). On this journey, he faces many challenges, but ultimately he comes away with far more knowledge of the world than what he set out with.    
Sadly, the only example of a true quest show I can think of, Terra Nova, was canceled almost a decade ago. In this, the future people of earth are faced with overpopulation and dangerous pollution threatening the future of the human race. In order to try to save the human race, scientists find a way, by sciencey means, to send people back into earth’s past to repopulate the world and avoid the mistakes that were made before. There will be no going back, and if they succeed, they will save all of humanity. 
One of my favorites is a constant story of the Voyage and Return plot. Not every episode of the Stargate series (SG-1, Atlantis, or Universe) is a true Voyage and Return, but easily 70% of them are. In these series, teams comprising of soldiers and intellectuals, whether scientists or archeologists, travel through the Stargate to other worlds in order to learn more about how the other people on these planets live and how to get technology to save them from outside threats. In the episodes, something new is either learned about the people or the enemy, and the main characters generally return home safe and sound by the end of each episode. 
One of my childhood favorites, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, teeters on the edge of Voyage and Return and the Quest plot, but ultimately it falls under the Qest because Milo doesn’t return home. In this, Milo is in search of the lost city of Atlantis to prove to the world and gain knowledge of the people and their stories if he can find it. His search for knowledge is what starts to push it into Voyage and Return, but with his decision to stay there is what truly makes it a quest. 
Our last example is a cult classic. Back to the Future signifies even by its name that it will be a Voyage and Return in that they’re going to the past, and then back to the future. Marty McFly goes to the past with his weird adult friend that no one questions throughout the whole movie, and he must ensure his existence by making sure that his parents end up together in the past before he can return. You might be asking where the knowledge aspect of this comes in, and it’s him learning about both his parents and the mechanics of time travel before he goes back to the future. 

Join us next week when we talk about the Rags to Riches plot!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Author Interview: B. C. Marine

B. C. thanks for sitting down with us today! Let’s jump right in, shall we? Now that we’re in book two, are things going to get easier for Kennard and Odelia?

Ha ha ha…no. I mean, certain aspects of their relationship are easier now that things are official, and their new power has its perks. The Allurist’s Son starts exactly where A Seer’s Daughter left off—to the second—with everything having changed for Kennard and Odelia: newly married, newly pregnant, newly crowned. Any of those can be an overwhelming life change on their own, but they’re dealing with all of them at once, so this is the two of them under an insane amount of stress. And they’re now paying the consequences for getting what they wanted in book one. As much as they anticipated trouble when they made their choices, the reality is so much worse.

Sounds like they’re going to be in for quite the ride in book two. We find out in book one that it’s likely that Odelia will die if she gives birth, because healers can’t heal themselves; how does this knowledge affect our two lovebirds? 

It certainly complicates things. By all other accounts, they should be overjoyed to have a child. As rulers, they need an heir, and they both want to see their love grow into a family, but that fear taints everything.

It’d be hard not to let fear taint everything. What are you most looking forward to the readers getting to in this book (without giving too many spoilers, of course)? 

I based the geography and ecology of Carum Sound on Western Washington, and there’s a local delicacy called geoduck that is probably the most phallic-looking food in existence. One of my favorite scenes is a dinner where geoduck is served, because the comedy practically wrote itself.

It was definitely a fun scene to read. Reading this book, it seems that Kennard and Odelia have a lot of frenemies. How are they dealing with feeling like they don’t know where the right step is?

I think we all wish the world were as simple as people we like being good guys and people we don’t being villains, but that isn’t how things work. In a world of court politics and international diplomacy, that truth is amplified. Kennard especially has a hard time with that because he tends to be ruled by his heart first, and his initial gut response isn’t always right.

Kennard sounds like a lot of us. Switching gears a bit, how does the world expand in book two?

There’s a little more insight into what King Uldrio knew and why he chose to create the Treaty of Meriveria. But I’m even more excited about the introduction of Urstille. If you’re following my short stories as well, you get to see a few other nations, but Urstille is the first one outside of Carum Sound. The cultural clash between the Meriverians and their Urstillian visitors make for some fun scenes.

Sounds exciting! We have one last question for you: What can we expect next from you?

Next year’s book, The Healers’ Kingdom, will conclude the trilogy about Kennard and Odelia, but it won’t be then end for everyone. After that, I have Conora, the first book in a duology featuring her, which overlaps in its timeline with both The Allurist’s Son and The Healers’ Kingdom.

Thanks again for sitting down with us. Readers, join us for the launch party on September 19th and your chance to win a free paperback copy of B. C. Marine’s book two of her Meriverian Trilogy, The Allurist’s Son!

You can get her first book, A Seer’s Daughter, here for $0.99!

The Allurist’s Son

by B. C. Marine

Queen Odelia got everything she wanted—and it just might kill her. She and King Kennard have pulled off a successful coup, but to hold on to their turbulent kingdom, the newlyweds must accomplish the impossible. Subduing the opposition means sentencing Kennard’s family, possibly to death. And although the promised heir of Odelia’s pregnancy helped them in their coup, no Healer has ever survived childbirth before.

Of course, through it all, Meriveria is still at war, not helped by the incompetent military leadership Kennard’s father put in place. Victory may require costly and unpleasant alliances, counter to the kind of rulers they want to be.

Can Kennard and Odelia hold their composure and bring their people together as they face the prospect of losing everything and everyone they hold dear?

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Plot Archetypes: Overcoming the Monster

It doesn’t have to be a literal monster, but it helps

Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Welcome to the first post in our plot archetypes series! Today we’ll talk about the archetype Overcoming the Monster. This can be a physical monster, like your classic epics such as Beowulf, or it can be more metaphysical like taking on your own health, government, or a corrupt corporation.

What is it?

Overcoming the monster is the archetype of, well, overcoming the monster. Super helpful, right? There are many ways to define the monster for this plot. It can be a physical monster that needs to be killed or captured for the safety of the people, or it could be overthrowing a tyrannical government for the good of the people, or it could be the hero versus self to overcome struggles they have with themselves, such as a serious health problem or addiction. 

What’s different about this plot style is how black and white it is. This is purely a plot that is about good versus evil. Let’s take the self-journey, for example: the addiction that the hero needs to overcome is the evil, and the hero themselves is the good by trying to break this addiction. Even though it’s self-contained within one person, it’s still good and evil. 

How do you write an overcoming the monster plot?

So what all goes into writing a plot of overcoming the monster? There are five stages that you must hit in order to make it successful. 

Inciting incident: This is when the hero and the reader are introduced to the issue of the monster—there’s been some sort of attack on a village and the hero either decides on their own or is tasked by a ruler (either a village elder or royalty/president) to get rid of the monster.

Dream: This is where your hero is preparing to fight the monster, the dream of victory, and the riches and adulation they’ll receive spurring them on. Your hero might even have a victorious brush with the monster and think that this will be an easier task than they initially thought.

Frustration: The real battle begins in this stage. The hero and the monster go head to head and the hero will find this harder than anticipated, especially if they’ve already had a victorious brush in the dream stage. The hero will also start to doubt that they can defeat the monster.

Nightmare/Hope is lost: This is the bleakest stage for our hero. This is where they now believe that there’s no hope and they’ll fail in their mission to defeat the monster. 

Escape/Victory: Wait, the tides of war have turned! Your hero will escape certain death they thought they’d encountered in the previous stage when all hope was lost and they overcome the monster by killing it. As the resolution comes into play, our hero will get their promised riches or, as some of the older stories go, the girl.


So where can you find plots that involve overcoming the monster? Well, there are several different examples that we can give, so we’ll break them down into book and movie sections and give an example for each. 


Beowulf is one of the most classic examples of overcoming the monster—or, at the very least, one we were all made to read in our freshman English class. It also incorporates other plot archetypes like voyage and return (surprise, you can sometimes have more than one!), so you’ll likely see this example pop up again in another one of our posts for this series. In Beowulf, Beowulf sets out to defeat Grendel after hearing of Hrothgar’s plight and does so by ripping off his arm. After that, he’s rewarded richly by Hrothgar and then defeats Grendel’s mother, where he is also rewarded again before he returns home (this is where the voyage and return comes into play). 


The MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is littered with overcoming the monster and other hero’s journey affiliated plotlines. You could write an entire year’s worth of blog posts going over the ways that the MCU covers overcoming the monster, (Spoilers ahead, but come on, it’s been out for over a year, so if you haven’t seen it, that’s on you) but I’ll only talk about the most recent iteration of it: the Avengers defeating Thanos. This fight takes place over the course of two movies Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. In these, the Avengers must defeat Thanos and save the world from losing half of its population. We’ve heard of Thanos a couple of times before, but he doesn’t become a true issue to Earth until Infinity War. By the end of the first movie, we’ve seen our heroes succeed against parts of the monster (the dream stage) and then we get a touch of the nightmare stage at the end of the movie when Thanos snaps his fingers. In the next movie, we sit in the nightmare stage for the majority of the movie as the Avengers take one more last-ditch effort by collecting infinity stones from the past. Then, only with the fall of one of the heroes do the rest of them succeed. Unlike other overcoming the monster stories, the reward for defeating the monster isn’t riches untold, it’s the resumption of normal life and getting their loved ones back. 

Join us next week for an author interview with A4A author and founder B. C. Marine to talk about her upcoming book, The Allurist’s Son, book two in her Meriverian Trilogy, and in two weeks the latest installment of our Misused Advice series where we talk about writing what you know, and in three weeks we’ll resume this series to talk about quests and voyage and return archetypes. 

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Plot Archetypes: Overview

Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Welcome to our newest series! For this series, we’ll be talking about the seven most common plot archetypes, how to write them, and examples in which they’re employed. So what are the seven basic plot archetypes?

(This blog post will be updated as posts in the series go out to include links for each post.)

This is the most basic of the plots in that it’s only about good versus evil—it will always be good versus bad, not the nuanced plots that involve antiheroes and villains who still manage to do some good. What is entailed in the plot is exactly what it says in its name: you have to overcome the monster. This could be a literal monster, or this could be a self-journey of overcoming the “monster” of addiction or another ailment of sorts. You’ll find this plot spread throughout many forms of media: epics like Beowulf, Marvel comics and MCU. 

The quest and the voyage and return plot archetypes are pretty similar. In fact, they’re so similar that the only difference is that the hero returns in the voyage and return. So what goes into these two? Well, in a quest plot, your hero is called away from home in order to accomplish a goal, which can be anything from finding a person, place, or thing to even destroying something. (Lookin’ to you, Frodo.) In the quest, the hero must always be successful. If they fail, then it’s not a true quest plot.  In a voyage and return, they also do this, but they go home at the end of it, and they don’t always have to be successful in their goal. (Keeping it in the Baggins family, good ol’ Bilbo fits the bill for this one.)

This is a plot I think young women are most familiar with thanks to Disney with their princess movies and other purveyors of fairy tales.  It says what it is right in the name—the protagonist in the story starts out down on their luck or in some position that requires them to turn their eyes toward something better and achieve their goal by the end of it. They’ll be so close to their goal by the midpoint, only to lose it because they haven’t yet earned it. They then spend the rest of the plot truly earning the fortune that they strive for. This is such a popular plot in children’s stories that you’ll find them in stories like Cinderella, Aladdin, and Pride and Prejudice.  

Comedy is the simplest to explain and the hardest to get right. The comedy archetype is, in essence, a series of unfortunate events in which there’s miscommunication, secret-keeping, and confusion for your protagonist, which prevents the protagonist from reaching their goal with ease. These plot types are laced with humor, which is why it’s so difficult to get right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that these stories can’t have some sort of drama or depth to them. You can find these types of plots in plays like The Importance of Being Earnest and movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire

Unlike a comedy, a tragedy is a series of bad decisions that don’t end up having a funny, happy ending. It ends, well, in tragedy. There are no happy endings for this type of plot, especially for the protagonist. This might sound a little sad, and it is, but our protagonists in tragedies usually aren’t truly heroes like we would see in our other plot archetypes. They’re tragic heroes who do not have to be entirely good or evil, but they tend to fall further into the evil side than they do good. You can find these types of plots in stories like King Lear and Madame Bovary

Well, rebirth can literally be a resurrection, but in general, it’s a transformation of your main character from villain to hero. The whole cast of characters wins when you have a rebirth plot, because the protagonist changes themselves and their surroundings for the better. After sinking further into their vice or villainy, these characters will meet a character who reminds them of the goodness of the world and inspires them to change for the better. You can find these types of plots in stories like A Christmas Carol and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Join us next week for our first post in this series, Overcoming the Monster!

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