Well, that’s a mouthful and they had to use an ampersand to make it all fit. However, Neal Soloponte provides 195 plot stages to consider in shaping a novel so the title needs some heft. The Ultimate Hero’s Journey: 195 Essential Plot Stages Found in the Best Novels & Movies delivers so many plot stages that I fell into the rabbit hole Soloponte took in writing this book.
Like my favorite, Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, by K.M. Weiland, this book provides an outline of what must go into a novel to make the reader want to finish the story. Except this is a scientific look at the process. Soloponte takes Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey canon (I recommend The Power of Myth) and breaks it down further into what needs to happen as the hero journeys from the reactive (ordinary world) to proactive (adventure world) stages of the novel.
Soloponte says that a good novel contains 3 phases:
- Something happens
- Someone does something about it
- Either things change for the good or bad
He then goes on the show the 195 things that have to take place in each of these phases to grab the audience and hold them until the end.
At this point, it gets rather complicated because you can’t see where all of these stages have to land, other than a rough idea of the progression of the plot. So, you have to keep going back and finding out where you’ve been and what you’re missing. I suggest an overlay of the plot stages over Weiland’s model just to keep track of it all (I may work on something to be downloaded later from my Writing Tools page).
Overall, the book is great and revealing as to what goes into a story with many fine examples examined and torn apart by Soloponte. The author says at least 80 percent of the plot stages he has identified will be found in a great novel. Of course, the creative mind may alter the placement of the plot stages, but Soloponte says the plot stags can be found in the most successful novels.
I recommend this book as an excellent resource into what science finds makes a great story. Of course, we are writers and creative license is something we will always take with us.