Plotto - A new method of plot suggestion for writers of creative fiction
by William Wallace Cook, 1867-1933
This project's goal is to take the raw Plotto text and convert it into a format that can be easily parsed and hyperlinked.
Electronic copies of this book (in a variety of formats) can be found in the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/plottonewmethodo00cook
What is Plotto?
Plotto is an "algebra" for stories that an author (or storyteller) can use to help create works of fiction.
It is a collection of 1,462 generic plot conflicts that can be chained together into a "masterplot" that forms the core plot structure for the story.
The quickest way to get a feel of what Plotto offers is to simply jump to a random plot conflict and then begin exploring.
A detailed description of how to use Plotto can be found in the (aptly named) How to Use Plotto document.
It is important to note that the conflicts described in Plotto are not intended to be taken literally and applied verbatim. Rather, they are suggestions that you should adapt to fit the story that you want to tell.
Plotto and Modern Times
Plotto was published in the late 20's and was written over the course of the preceding decades. During this period of history the Titanic sunk, we learned how to fly, there was a world war, and women gained the right to vote in the US. Notably missing from this period are things that we often take for granted in the modern world: many conveniences afforded by advances in technology and, significantly, the notions of civil and equal rights.
While Plotto's disconnect from the modern world can be entertaining at times, as in the examples of "dare-devil" activity that include (from 1356):
- a “trick” bicycle rider with a “loop the loop” specialty
- an aviator whose specialty is airplane stunts
- a “human fly” who climbs the walls of tall buildings
the outdated ideas on race can sometimes lead to jarring experiences:
- 650 "a white man cast away among bloodthirsty savages",
- 332 "B, of alien blood and inferior race, seeks to marry A, the Caucasian with whom she is in love"
- 718 "A, believed by all to be a white man, knows there is negro blood in his veins"
(Note: The examples given above are the relatively safe - there are (unfortunately) far worse examples to be found in the text).
The implicit sexism in Plotto is more subtle, but the rigid structure of the books permits an interesting experiment. Since the "A" protagonist is male and the "B" protagonist is female, we can swap the two roles and see if any of the resulting text sounds a bit "odd".
To experiment with this, you can use the gender-swapped version of Plotto. The content is exactly the same as the original, except that "A" and "B" are swapped, along with any gendered terms ("him/her", "husband/wife", ...) in the text.
You can also choose the gender-swapped version from the
AB dropdown menu at the top of the page.
Plotto in Print
Physical copies of the original books are rare:
Plotto, A New Method of Plot Suggestion for Writers of Creative Fiction
by William Wallace Cook
Ellis Publishing Company, Battle Creek, Michigan
But it has been reprinted a few times recently:
Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots
by William Wallace Cook, foreword by Paul Collins
Tin House Books; Portland, Oregon
978-1935639183 (hardback, 2011) 978-1941040553 (paperback, 2016)
Plotto: The Classic Plot Suggestion Tool for Writers of Creative Fiction
by William Wallace Cook, foreword by Robert Plamondon
Norton Creek Press; Blodgett, Oregon
978-0981928470 (paperback, 2011)
In addition, there is also:
by Tom Sawyer, Arthur David Weingarten
Ashleywilde, Inc; Malibu, California
978-0962747601 (paperback, 1995)
which is a blatantly bowdlerized version of the Cook's work, that makes only a passing reference to Plotto ("The authors wish to acknowledge William Wallace Cook's Plotto" in small type on the copyright page).
Articles about Plotto:
If you find this project useful, consider donating to the Internet Archive at archive.org. The Internet Archive hosts digital copies of millions of books (including Plotto) that you can access and download for free. The digital version of Plotto used to start this project was downloaded from the Internet Archive.