Plots Galore! . . . or I’ve got Ninety-Nine problems but a Plot ain’t one
So you say you want to write a story but you have no idea what to write about?
We all suffer this problem from time to time, and they don’t make little blue pills for it promising to increase the size of your brain by several inches with their special proprietary blend of exotic herbs.
Here’s a list of ninety-nine tried and tested and proven plots so vague yet detailed just enough that you can pick and choose then apply one (or any combination thereof) to your potential story without paying any child support and no one will be the wiser that you stole it like the cunning little thief you really are.
Most of the following examples provide perfect Inciting Incidents (Act 1) while others include their natural course of Complications (Act 2), and still others supply the logical Resolutions (Act 3):
1. The Protagonist, having obtained the MacGuffin early, must transport it across a long journey while being hunted.
2. Time-travel is discovered and implemented, causing historical calamity, so that the Protagonist is tasked with using time-travel to destroy time-travel.
3. The Protagonist awakes in another body each night they go to sleep, and vice versa every morning, living two separate lives they eventually learn to combine (spiritually and/or physically).
4. A utopian society proves anything but so that the sojourning Protagonist (once welcomed into the fold after performing some admirable task) exposes while changing it from the inside out after infiltrating then destroying the secret sect controlling it all.
5. The captured Protagonist fails to resist the native culture then joins their convincing cause against those whom sent him to infiltrate them.
6. An evil tyrant or regime wipes out a people . . . but unfortunately for them the vengeful and cunning and particularly skilled Protagonist survives by thinnest margin.
7. Locked in a dire survival situation, the Protagonist struggles to maintain the group’s diminishing integrity while they slowly turn on each other in savage abandon.
8. A determined cop (or inspector or whatever depending on the time period) who steps over the line is ordered to turn in their badge and gun (or sword or other armaments; again, time period) but refuses to surrender their obsessive investigation they continue in secret.
9. The braggadocios Protagonist tells a story about themselves that depicts them as a ludicrously overpowered badass . . . then they must prove it when an evil arises that’s the perfect match for their proposed set of skills they possess nothing of yet learn to acquire through toil and struggle, becoming the actual badass they claimed to be though all the humbler for it.
10. A group of friends fall prey to greed and turn on each other while hunting for fabulous treasure.
11. Sworn enemies of two opposing groups (each possessing a particular skill or trait or what have you which complements the other’s) are forced to work together to achieve the survival of their warring peoples in a struggle through which they become true friends.
12. A humble lowborn character attempts to keep their arrogant highborn charge out of constant trouble when their royal superior refuses to avoid increasing dangers (and perhaps even seeks them out) while attempting to accomplish a task (usually to comedic effect as well they become best friends or lovers while enduring their shared adversity together).
13. The Antagonist and/or their forces takes over the Protagonist’s home (village; town; city; what have you) so that the extradited Protagonist gathers a ragtag group of overlooked underdogs, each possessing a particular set of seemingly inconsequential skills, who prove themselves the only ones gutsy enough to take it back.
14. The wrongly accused Protagonist must escape an inescapable prison.
15. The Protagonist searches for a lost loved one everybody else accepts as dead while refusing them any help and believing them delusional.
16. The ill-prepared Protagonist discovers an item of power they should not possess, as well they must return it to its proper owner (or destroy it) through a harrowing journey while the Antagonist and their forces attempt to take it and implement it into their grand scheme.
17. An infamous criminal believed reformed after serving their sentence is now using perfectly legal means to commit immoral acts, and it’s up to the Protagonist to expose them.
18. Two rivals compete for a special prize then must work together to destroy it once the evil purpose of it is revealed (sometimes one saving the other from the prize’s increasing influence of corruption upon their humanity).
19. The apathetic Protagonist pretends themselves another person and must continue the charade or lose everything they’ve gained in trade while drawn into the unwanted conflict of a mission important to the infiltrated group . . . until the Protagonist, now dedicated to the cause, reveals their true self to those they’ve bonded with and discovers their relationships are stronger than the lie that initially tied them together.
20. In an otherwise ordinary world, the Protagonist develops a supernatural ability while accidentally exposing themselves publicly, causing some to believe them Christ returned while others to condemn them for the Anti-Christ.
21. A mysterious cult travels from town to town, converting its citizens and sacrificing those who refuse to join, all the while spreading their influential rule.
22. Two serial killers are brought together over the same victim then agree to compete for the highest body count . . . until one of them takes their contest too far while making it personal so that the other must kill the better killer.
23. The Protagonist is captured and brainwashed then sent to execute someone of high station, but something snaps them back to reality before or during the assassination attempt so that they turn the tables on the ignorant Antagonist.
24. A disgruntled team of retired heroes rally together for one last escapade against their former Antagonist’s revenging offspring . . . but do they have what it takes anymore?
25. A group in distress sends one of their own on a harrowing journey to request help from refusing others needing convinced because of their peoples’ clashing history of contention. The tested Protagonist proves their worth while convincing the others and eventually returns to help their people as well unites the warring communities.
26. The Protagonist, who idolizes someone they view as a virtuous hero and finally gains the opportunity to work alongside them, discovers them not the flawless paragon of virtue they presumed and, after refusing to join their evil and secret schemes, they dedicate to stopping them.
27. The Protagonist endures great difficulty honoring the last requests of a deceased person while learning a new and wiser point of view on life.
28. The Protagonist, famous for their past deeds though unrecognized albeit age or scarring or disguise, is taken hostage by Antagonist forces and must save the day without blowing their cover and earning immediate death.
29. A group of characters must run a business they are initially inept at doing after its owner is discovered missing or imprisoned or murdered, as well they must compete with the Antagonist business the owner of which is behind the kidnapping/imprisonment/murder.
30. A group of thieves make an agreement that the valuables they’ve stolen will go to the last surviving member of the group while they engage in a desperate game of elimination through murder.
31. The group of people caught during some necessary illegal step to eventually performing their grand caper argue a convincing reason for it so that the investigating Protagonist joins them.
32. A troubled Protagonist’s only way to overcome a spiraling life crisis is to defeat his worst enemy: himself.
33. The Protagonist makes deals with a whole bunch of people in order to get what they want, all of them conflicting, so that the groups’ leaders discover the ruse and untie against the lying Protagonist.
34. An abused Protagonist unleashes the same kind of abuse on their oppressor(s) after escaping their survival, accruing new skills, then exacting sweet revenge.
35. The Protagonist (usually on the lam after escaping imprisonment while awaiting trail) must prove their innocence of the crime they’re accused of committing while ousting the true Antagonist perpetrator who set them up.
36. The Protagonist takes it upon themselves to prove the innocence of someone wrongly accused of a crime despite all evidence indicating otherwise (and sometimes, in double twist, the ‘wrongly accused’ reveals to the Protagonist only that they actually did it but only after their ‘innocence’ is proven and they are freed).
37. A single-minded Protagonist must find the truth to an intriguing mystery before she is swallowed by the darkness she desperately seeks to expose.
38. The assassin Protagonist is marked for death by those he worked for, discovering their definition of retirement is far different than his.
39. The assassin Protagonist is marked for death by the criminal families of those he victimized now that he’s retired from service and no longer under his former employer’s protection.
40. Because the Protagonist didn’t dispose of a previous plot device correctly, another upstart Antagonist steals then utilizes it to foul purposes even worse than before.
41. An extramarital affair leads to blackmail then murder.
42. An arrogant, superpowered Protagonist loses their powers and, while dealing with Antagonist forces in a new way, learns to live with the specialness of their new normalcy while gaining appreciation for those they once deemed beneath them.
43. The Protagonist gains then struggles with then overcomes addiction (gambling, drinking, drugs, et cetera).
44. The Protagonist tells a little white lie that spirals out of control to utmost detriment until they eventually admit the truth.
45. A secretly dispatched character of public prominence (who died, has taken ill, or was murdered) looks just like the Protagonist so that they must impersonate them until the unknown Antagonist is revealed and dealt with.
46. An unwitting Protagonist must survive at all costs when he is dragged into a life or death situation he never saw coming and cannot escape.
47. A weapon of mass destruction has gone missing or stolen so that the Protagonist must retrieve or destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands or is put to foul use (and sometimes the weapon goes haywire, either on its own or through Antagonist meddling, so that the Protagonist must destroy or disable it while racing against the ticking clock).
48. The Protagonist and Antagonist reluctantly join forces to defeat a mutual enemy before returning to fighting against each other . . . or do they?
49. A driven Protagonist must lead a group of Allies to retrieve a prized possession through a perilous journey that wasn’t what the Protagonist expected.
50. The adventurous Protagonist attempts to prove an ancient and famous voyage really happened by performing it themselves . . . but of course everything goes wrong.
51. The Protagonist makes a ‘deal with the devil’ to save a beloved friend or relative, suffers the consequences then turns the tables and gains their freedom.
52. The Protagonist must retrieve a rare or precious item through difficult expedition to save another’s life.
53. By accident, the Protagonist discovers their perfect community closed off from the rest of the world an oppressive lie so that they must convince their people of the shocking truth and revolt against their alien controllers harvesting disappearing children for their delicious organs.
54. The Protagonist thinks their fake test has ended . . . again and again and again, while gaining continuous insight and clues then attempting to confront the manipulative Antagonist behind it all.
55. An inadequate Protagonist must rise above an extremely difficult situation to be with a uniquely unlikely partner who is the only one capable of bringing her peace.
56. The Protagonist, sold into slavery, escapes then returns and frees her fellow slaves.
57. The poor Protagonist discovers an apocalyptic event is about to occur to devastating consequence and only the rich elite among them who are hiding its known cause can afford its escape so that the Protagonist seeks to replace them with those more deserving of survival.
58. A suspect can only be proven innocent by finding the true culprit and making them confess.
59. The Protagonist attempts to warn everyone about something from which they barely escaped, but the dismissive others just dither about until it shows up anyway, leaving the Protagonist and those that survived to deal with it — again!
60. The Protagonist discovers through accidental means the Antagonist’s guarded secret and is hunted for it (often with spread rumors of false Protagonist crimes to turn society against them as well some if not all of their friends and family killed in the chasing process).
61. Two former friends, on the worst of terms after a past falling out, are forced to work together and eventually rekindle their friendship proving all the stronger.
62. An outsider’s only way to save his individuality is by going against the many who wish to integrate him into their fold.
63. In a world of digital reliance, an E.M.P. discharges from the sun and renders all Earth technology useless. Global chaos ensues through barbarous survival and primitive methods of war to restore humanity civilized.
64. The Protagonist learns of their Protagonistic destiny kept secret from then until a particular age, event, or discovered by accident.
65. An older and begrudging Protagonist with their better days behind them is punished by their superior for some major or minor infraction into teaching a group of rambunctious, defiant youths a particular trade/skill, who in turn teach the Protagonist a new outlook on life while they learn from each other for the betterment of both parties as proven by some climactic test.
66. An intoxicated Protagonist spills their darkest secret and must deal with the consequences that change their life forever after.
67. The Protagonist is invited into a popular, exclusive crowd, but they must leave their friends behind. And so they become ‘one of them’ while rejecting their friends and their former self, then, after realizing how little they like their new self through some harm inflicted upon their former best friend, they reject the group while exposing it and rejoin their friends.
68. The former Antagonist now Protagonist rejects his previous life and seeks to make amends with those they harmed who reject them . . . until another Antagonist arises and the Protagonist proves their sympathetic regrets by confronting them for the good of others.
69. Several of the Protagonist’s enemies team up and scheme revenge against the ignorant Protagonist and all they hold dear.
70. The Protagonist is exiled from their community into a harsh new world, but they possess a particular set of skills or traits or knowledge that allows them to adapt while surviving and entering the new society of outcasts.
71. The natural world rebels against humanity as the Earth itself seeks human genocide through a sudden change in predatory animal and carnivorous plant evolution.
72. The Protagonist seeks to kill everyone on their hit list (or learns they are on the hit list of another).
73. Two best friends/siblings/rivals fall in love with the same person unwilling to choose between them so that a contest ensues . . . until the Protagonist discovers the lover no sincere lover at all but someone from their past who planned it all and is manipulating them into murder out of spite.
74. A culpable Protagonist is forced to save a trapped group of people from being killed by a monster she inadvertently unleashed.
75. A uniquely special Protagonist must defeat an opponent with stronger capabilities by using the same powers that disconnect him from the people he hopes to save.
76. The Protagonist is kidnapped and forced to pretend loving the kidnapper . . . then actually falls in love with them, and protects them when others come to the Protagonist’s rescue seeking to punish the kidnapper.
77. A person unrecognizable to the Protagonist after being away for many years turns out to be the one who murdered then is impersonating them after the suspicious Protagonist investigates but nobody will believe them.
78. The Protagonist enters a tournament for its precious prize and discovers a sinister ulterior purpose instead.
79. The Protagonist fakes an illness to get out of some minor obligation then must continue the charade or be exposed.
80. The Antagonist manipulates the Protagonist into doing something bad by poisoning and refusing them the only antidote until the task is accomplished.
81. When a character can’t fight something bad, they build something worse to scare it away . . . and now the Protagonist must fight the new and worse menace.
82. The Protagonist is tricked into searching for a nonexistent thing while the Antagonist meddles behind their distracted back.
83. A character contracts a terrible illness but refuses treatment for it, and instead accepts one last, defining quest before they die to punctuate their limited life and hires the Protagonist to chronicle it.
84. The Rapture turns out to be an alien species’ mass harvest of humans (for eating, or slavery, or whatnot).
85. The unwilling Protagonist is forced to accompany another person (usually famous) on a harrowing journey who, after defeating the Antagonist together, reveals their choosing of the Protagonist to continue their legacy, the journey itself their test of the Protagonist’s worth.
86. A disabled Protagonist is forced into action and through it proves their disability not the flaw they believe but an unexpected virtue.
87. Members of a gang of criminals orchestrate a plan to free their incarcerated leader from prison before the public execution.
88. The Protagonist enters a secret competition of likeminded others possessing equal skills, all of them intent on proving themselves the best at their particular trade while eliminating the competition.
89. The blackmailed Protagonist must recover the stolen evidence of their guilt and destroy it before the Antagonist exposes them, all the while performing horrible tasks for the lording Antagonist.
90. A reclusive Protagonist develops a strong bond of friendship with an animal they once hunted or hunts them (either by saving the injured animal or the animal saving the injured Protagonist) then survive together against opposing forces until one of them dies through self-sacrifice for the other, leaving the griever changed thereafter.
91. The ruling elite create a global pandemic and force the population into accepting their vaccine which really injects alien DNA into the panicked subjects from the elite’s true alien masters.
92. The human ‘immortal’ gene is discovered and stern population control instituted thereafter by the government, as well these ‘immortal’ humans must now feed on human blood instead of plants and animals.
93. An innocent Protagonist’s only way to defeat the prejudices of a group is to change himself without losing what made him the group’s target of disdain in the first place: his uniqueness.
94. Two spies become lovers then are ordered to assassinate the other or else both of them will die.
95. The Protagonist discovers a secret location that only appears or is accessible for certain periods of time then enters its incredible new world proving the mirror opposite of all that they knew as true.
96. A covetous Protagonist must learn to undo a spell he wished for before it turns into a curse he can’t undo.
97. The desperate Protagonist borrows from the wrong people and must pay it back in trade of crimes or else lose everything they love.
98. Contesting theocracies replace all political governments, and holy wars ensue while each religious populous seeks sole dominance in the name of their ‘true’ god.
99. An object to obtain and limited time to obtain it.
100. The Antagonist attempts to eliminate all differences between a people through Communism, which never works as proven throughout all of recorded human history, until the unique Protagonist thwarts the tyranny (usually through inspirational public martyrdom) while proving to the waking masses that our individualism is what makes us a special and free society.