Arch Plot, Mini-plot, and Anti-plot

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to edit

According to The Story Grid, the next step after establishing your stories genre is to establish which type of plot structure  you will be using to drive the story forward.

There are three.

The Arch Plot, which is what most stories will fall into. This is your classic plot, the heroes journey, the quest story. Even if your protagonist isn’t setting off to destroy the ring, they have a goal they are striving to accomplish by the end of the story, and the same basic beats exist story to story.

The Mini-Plot focuses on much more internal conflicts. Bottle episodes fall under the category of mini-plot.

The Anti-Plot  throws away all the rules of story telling. The narrative can be fractured, reality and time up in the air, the protagonist doesn’t change. It’s post-modernism at its finest.

For most writers, the arch-plot is your go-to story. There’s an occasional mini-plot thrown in there on the literary end. Anti-plots I can’t help you with. I was exposed to many throughout my years in college, and I always found them to be pretentious. Maybe that assumption was a defense mechanism because nine times out of ten, I just straight up didn’t get the story. But I really don’t see myself coming around on the anti-plot structure.

Can you think of any examples of stories that fall into these three plot structures?

14 thoughts on “Arch Plot, Mini-plot, and Anti-plot

  1. This was helpful, thank you! I actually found this entry because I was watching a Storygrid youtube video. As far as examples go, off the top of my head, it seems to me that an antiplot might be something along the lines of Waiting for Godot, though I could be mistaken. And any miniplot would Sartre’s Nausea, or Camus’ The Stranger. I’m a little curious as to whether any of Alice Hoffman’s books might count as miniplots. She wrote Practical Magic, which is vastly different from the movie. Her other books are kind of more character driven rather than plot.

  2. The best example of an anti-plot that people have heard of, and many like, is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, book and radio play, not the recent movie which has a plot.

  3. I would say that “Less Than Zero” the 80s cult classic by Bret Easton Ellis (and I’m referring to the novel and not the movie which is very different) falls into the “anti-plot” category. Ellis said in an interview that most of the story has no plot. It’s more of a study of the influence of culture and environment on the individual.

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  10. The anime Cowboy Bebop has all three. There are some episodes that seem like mini-plots that feel purposeless maybe being anti-plots. Think of the music scenes of mini-plots, a blob of refrigerator leftovers floating into space.

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