We often describe films or books as “formulaic”, but has anyone truly deduced the formula? Via Brain Pickings, William Wallace Cook wrote a novel per week and in 1928 created Plotto, a coded system of mechanized storytelling. Is the endless bounty of Law & Order Plotto’s modern incarnation?
You are about write a story. How shall it begin? Perhaps there is a single conflict that needs to be resolved. Will my story have a happy ending or a sad ending? Perhaps the conflict has one of several distinct oppositions: man vs nature, man vs. technology, man vs. god or man vs. self.
In 1894, French critic Georges Polti recognized thirty-six possible plots, which included conflicts such as Supplication, Pursuit, Self-sacrifice, Adultery, Revolt, the Enigma, Abduction, and Disaster. In 1928, dime novelist William Wallace Cook, author of Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots, did him one better, cataloging every narrative he could think of through a method that bordered on madness.