When Jane and i started writing Becoming Your own Critique Partner we named the chapter on plots - Can This Plot Be Saved? Then we brainstormed on what made a plot. This chapter went back and forth as we decided what to include.
First, a plot is a plan of a story. Not all stories have plots. If you say John and Mary meet, get married and live happily ever after, this is a story. If you say John and Mary meet, get married and she learns he's having an affair, now you have a plot. A plot is a pattern of interconnected series of motivated events.
In general, there are three kinds of plots. Man against man. Man against himself. Man against nature. Every story can have elements of one, two or even three of these confrontations, but in general, one has the main line and the others are subplots.
Man against man is one we see in most stories. Two people want the same thing. Someone wants something that goes against society.
Man against himself. A man or woman has a desire that he knows is wrong or this character must do something that may destroy his world. This is against his will.
Man against nature. Here we have flood, fire, earthquakes, all kind of disasters. The hero or heroine is faced with conquering this element that is threatening his life.
Next week will be a look at what elements are needed to design the plot.