Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Key to a Great Story – The Mash-up


mash up

Borrowing the term from the music industry, a mash-up is a story written combining two or more of the basic plots. Out of all of the advanced techniques of plotting that I’m going to be posting about, doing a mash-up is quite a simple idea.

All you need is to plot a story that follows the conventions of more than one of the basic plots. It just adds a little bit of extra depth to a story with out much effort. It’s quite an easy technique to use and is ideal for shorter pieces.

Ideas of what you could do include:

  • ‘Overcoming a Threat’ and ‘Comedy’ – A story about two characters who are falling in love at the same time as having to over come a threat. There are many factors stopping them from being to together, and overcoming the threat could be part of helping them being together. In a similar vein, a ‘Quest’ and ‘Comedy’ combination works quite well.
  • ‘Rebirth’ and ‘Voyage and Return’ – A story where a unlikeable character redeems themselves while also going on a journey and returning home. This is quite an easy one to combine as both basic plots have elements of characters developing into better people. This combination means they can do that while on a journey. A combination of ‘Quest’ and ‘Rebirth’ works well for a similar character development.
  • ‘Overcoming a Threat’ and ‘Tragedy’ – This combination could be an interesting idea, where the protagonist overcomes an enemy, but does so by becoming the reader’s enemy as well. The world isn’t all fluffy clouds and rainbows. If you write stories about the darker aspects of human life then combining these two could make for a compelling read.

So these are just a few ideas of what you could combine together, in quite a simple way just to add that little bit extra to the depth of your plot. What you might find is that a lot of your ideas are a combination of different plots already.

What you need to make sure you don’t do is force this idea. If your story works best as a single plot then don’t force a mash-up onto it. While this is a technique to keep in mind, only use it if it works for your story.  

Another thing to have to keep in mind is to make sure your story plots don’t clash with each other. As the term suggests, a mash-up is a combination, but it is not an excuse to put two completely opposite ideas together and expect them to work. You have to make sure the ideas compliment each other rather than get in the way of each other. There is nothing that would put a reader off more than two different plots getting in the way of either of the plots being smoothly resolved.

The Key to a Great Story – Moving Beyond Basic Plots

Image from

In your case you’ll be plotting your great story. This post won’t help with taking over the world. Image from

I’ve posted in the last few weeks a lot about the seven basic plot lines. They include, ‘Overcoming a Threat’, ‘Rags to Riches’, ‘The Quest’‘Voyage and Return’, ‘Comedy’‘Tragedy’ and ‘Rebirth’. In these posts I outlined the basic concepts behind each of the different types of stories. But in my opinion if you ever want to write a truly great story, you need to move beyond the basics. When you write short stories, you might not be able to make the plot overly complex, but when you write longer stories, and in particular if you’re like me and you write novels in series, you need to familiarise yourself with more advanced plot concepts. I’m not of course saying that short stories are overly simplistic, not at all, many of the advanced plotting techniques I’m going to be posting about in the coming weeks are applicable to short stories as well. All I’m warning you about is that when you do add more depth and complexity to a story you might run the risk of writing a much longer story than you had intended. From personal experience in trying to write short stories, and I emphasise the word trying, I end up writing something far to complex to simply remain a short story. I normally end up with another novel. Now this might not seem like a bad thing, but personally I find it very frustrating at times, so I advice using one or two of the techniques to enhance your story, rather than all of them. So what are these advanced techniques I’m going to post about:

  • The Mash Up – Writing a story using more than one of the basic plots.
  • Sub-Plotting – Writing a story with a main plot and a subplot, drawing on the conventions of the Mash-up, but also on my ideas about different character types, in particular more minor characters.
  • Character vs. Plot Driven Development – This will involve exploring the different ways in which a plot can be driven forward, drawing upon my previous posts about different character types.

These different concepts are all quite complex ideas in comparison to the basics, and their development via this blog will lead quite nicely to the next series of posts I’m planning, that which revolves around world building. I hope you enjoy.