The Key to a Great Story – The Mash-Up


potato masher

While cooking might be the first thought people think of when I say ‘mash-up’, I’ve actually adapted the term from the music industry, when they ‘mash’ together to existing musical pieces to make a new one. It’s something DJs usually do to keep it fresh.

How I’m using the term though, 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.


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