Saturday, May 22, 2010

Labyrinth plotting method

As I promised myself, I've been doing some work on that labyrinth outline form. This is only going to make sense if you have some familiarity with labyrinths. Later, after I'm done tweaking and expanding, it will make sense even if you don't have any familiarity with labyrinths. Unlike "The Hero's Quest" it's not based on myths, but is instead based on fairy tales.(Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Tam Lin, and Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz)

Also unlike the Hero's Quest, it didn't take 20 years to create (more like 20 minutes :)

An important thing to remember is that labyrinths distort time and space, so this isn't necessarily the order things need to occur in, just the elements that need to exist for the labyrinth style story.


The Outer World:
This is the character's ordinary world. What is she risking? What is she working to save? What is it about the ordinary world that's most lovable? (family? pets? home? what?) Show it here.

First Turn: The Sign
Something is wrong. What is it? How dangerous is it, and who needs to do something about it? (All is not revealed, this is just the character's first introduction to the problem. It may even be a minor problem, and not the main problem, but it will lead her to the main problem.)

Path 3 Someone's mistake:
Like any good labyrinth, you don't start on the first path. The labyrinth and the story both drop you in the middle. In this case, you're dropped into the middle of story, and it has all started with someone else's mistake, usually long ago. It's not her responsibility. She could walk away. Everyone else has let it go on this long, why shouldn't she? This is the moment where she proves her worth as the heroine. Because she decides to do something about it.

Second Turn: The Wolf
This is the first appearance of the villain. It can be a literal appearance, or it can just be an example of what the villain does. It's just a hint, to start the tension. It's also her first challenge. She must face it and solve it. However, the solution only brings her closer to the main problem. Whether the solution works or not, it makes the main problem worse/clearer/closer. She may be led astray by the ill or well meaning advice of someone else.

Path 2 The Secret
Now the character learns the secret which has been hidden from her all this time. It changes her view of the world as she knows it. Can be delightful (you've got a fairy godmother) or horrible (your mother wants to kill you).

Third Turn: The Warning
What can I say about the warning? It's traditional. Everyone gets a warning ("don't stray off the path", "don't look back", "don't take any apples from strangers") but no one ever listens to the warning. Think of it as a way to heighten conflict or foreshadow disaster.

Path 1 The Gift
This goes hand in hand with the warning. Sometimes the warning is about the gift. ("The spell will only last till midnight") In any case, the gift is an important part of the story and may be given "just because". or because the character has proven her worth by taking up the challenge of someone else's mistake. Sometimes she gets the gift as a result of the first challenge (The Wolf).

Fourth Turn: Hope
After everything she's been through, your character may find herself having hope that everything will turn out all right, and the worst is behind her. Silly character. The worst is yet to come. But this moment of hope is nice. (And makes the worst seem worse by comparison.)

Path 4 Midnight
The hour has struck and disaster has arrived. This is a huge test, which she must pass. How will she handle the strike of midnight?

Fifth Turn: Discovery/Threshold
A discovery is made, a threshold is crossed. Nothing will ever be the same for the character and she can't go back. Everything is turned on its head and what she thought was the goal, isn't. Even if it means starting over, she must keep working.

Path 7 Betrayal
Someone she thought was on her side has betrayed her. Or she may have accidentally betrayed someone she cares for deeply. In any case, the betrayal is another set back on the journey. She may not be able to repair the damage, if she is to continue to the end of her journey. She may have to repair the damage, to continue to the end of her journey.

Sixth Turn: The Mirror
Revelation. She learns something about herself, or maybe the villain learns something about her. Maybe she even learns that someone she loves is in great danger. The mirror shows all, but even the most perfect mirror shows everything in reverse. (Maybe what she's seeing isn't the complete situation.)

Path 6 Self Reliance
This is where she discovers that to create or discover the solution, she can't rely on anyone except herself. If she fails, she will need a rescuer. If she remains strong, she can find it on her own.

Seventh Turn: Trick
Our heroine has been playing this whole thing on the straight and narrow, but part of growing up is learning that not everyone else does. This is the moment when she learns that. Either the villain tricks her, or she decides to use a trick to reach the solution. Either way, it's a transformative moment, and one more aspect of innocence is lost.

Path 5 Test
The final test, where she takes everything she has learned, holds tight to the memory of why she has endured all this, and prevails. The trick may help her pass the test, or it may have only allowed her to gain access to the test. But she must pass this final test.

Eighth Turn: Transformation

The Fairy Gate
After discovering her transformation, she now returns to her former life. She has solved the situation caused by someone else's mistake, but more than that, she has wrought a solution for herself. She has tools and abilities available to her now, to bring a positive change into the world. Her world.


  1. Well, now I know why my story is trite and derivative, it's part of the collective unconscious. Cool.

  2. Ouch! Someone told you your story is trite and derivative? That sucks.


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