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Writer's "Cheat Sheets"

Plotting  ||  Conflict ||  Sensuality/Sexuality ||  Editing 


Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations

1. Supplication: Persecutor, Suppliant, Authority Figure
2. Deliverance: Unfortunate, Threatener, Rescuer
3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance: Criminal, Avenger
4. Vengeance taken for Kindred upon Kindred: Avenger, Guilty Remembrance, a Relative of Both
5. Pursuit: Punishment and Fugitive
6. Disaster: Vanquished Power, Victorious Enemy, Messenger.
7. Falling Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune: Unfortunate, Master
8. Revolt: Tyrant, Conspirator
9. Daring Enterprise: Bold Leader, Object, Adversary
10. Abduction: Abductor, the Abducted, Guardian
11. Enigma: Interrogator, Seeker, Problem
12. Obtaining: Solicitor, Adversary or Arbitrator& Opposing
13. Enmity of Kinsmen: Malevolent Kinsmen, Reciprocally Hated Kin
14. Rivalry of Kinsmen: Preferred Kinsman, Rejected Kin, Object
15. Murderous Adultery: Two Adulterers, Murdered Spouse
16. Madness: Madman, Victim
17. Fatal Imprudence: Imprudent, Victim, Object Lost
18. Involuntary Crimes of Love: Lover, Beloved, Revealer
19. Slaying of Kinsman Unrecognized: Slayer, Unrecognized Victim
20. Self-sacrificing for an Ideal: Hero, Ideal, Creditor, Sacrifice
21. Self-sacrificing for Kindred: Hero, Kinsman, Creditor, Sacrifice
22. All Sacrificed for Passion: Lover, Object of Passion, Sacrifice
23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones: Hero, Beloved, Necessity
24. Rivalry of Superior & Inferior: Superior, Inferior, Object
25. Adultery: Two Adulterers, Betrayed Spouse
26. Crimes of Love: Lover, Beloved, Social Norm
27. Discovery of Dishonor of Beloved: Discovered, Guilty
28. Obstacles to Love: Two Lovers, Obstacles
29. An Enemy Loved: Beloved Enemy, Lover, Hater
30. Ambition: Ambitious Person, Thing Coveted, Adversary
31. Conflict with (a) God: A Mortal, an Immortal or Holy Principle
32. Mistaken Jealousy: Jealous, Object, Accomplice, Perpetrator
33. Erroneous Judgment: Mistaken One, Victim, Cause, Guilty
34. Remorse: Culprit, Victim or Sin, Interrogator
35. Recovery of Lost One: Seeker, One Found
36. Murder of Loved One: Slain Kinsman, Spectator, Executioner.

Ronald Tobais' 20 Master Plots



Five Basic Conflicts (from Polti's 36)

1. Man against Nature
2. Man against Man
3. Man against Society
4. Man against Himself
5. Main against Fate

Essence of Conflict


Devices that heighten suspense

(adapted from David Freeman workshop): 



Desmond Morris' 12 Steps to Intimacy

1. Eye to body
2. Eye to eye
3. Voice to voice
4. Hand to hand
5. Arm to shoulder
6. Arm to waist
7. Mouth to mouth
8. Hand to head
9. Hand to body
10. Mouth to breast
11. Hand to genitals
12. Genitals to genitals



Editing and writing are two very different activities. We strongly encourage you to avoid editing until you've completed your creative writing. Then go back and edit for content.

After the final draft, edit using the "find" function for the words on the following list. Next, read the sentence containing the offender, and either correct it or leave it be, depending. They are all valid words, if used in moderation, but are prone to misuse, overuse and abuse.

"Fine Tooth Comb and Red Flags and Snags"

got - get quite
would - should - could few
only rather
just thing
very stuff
nearly - almost anyway
really because
seem - appear "ly" adverbs
felt - feel so
begin - began then
and - but (can indicate run-on sentences)
that (unnecessary in most sentences)
that (when you mean "who")
down - up (as in sit down, stand up - can be redundant)

Avoid Passive Use

it is have
am been
are to be
was there is
were there are
has there was
had there were

(My thanks to Lynda Hales for compiling this list and graciously allowing me to share it!)

NOTE: Permission is granted to reprint this list, providing the author credit is included. Michele Albert writes as Michelle Jerott for Avon.  Her first book, Absolute Trouble, was out in September 1998. It was followed by All Night Long in October 1999 and A Great Catch in September, 2000.

© Joan-Marie Moss and 1999-2015