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by Brian McKay13/11/2017

7 examples of basic plot devices follows on from a recent article, ‘Tips On The Art Of Storytelling’.


The earlier article has prompted some readers to ask me to expand on the plot devices mentioned. I should note that the following are only my interpretations and thoughts and as with almost anything, other people may (will) disagree or have their own views. 

So, are you sitting comfortably? Let’s begin..


This is probably, arguably, the one plot device most people would name if you stopped them in the street and asked them a plot device. They may not explicitly say ‘hero defeats a monster’ but they might say something like ‘good guy, bad guy’ or ‘hero saves the day’. Now, the monster doesn’t have to be an actual ‘monster’ in the traditional sense – so stop thinking of a 10ft killer donkey. Stop it!

An example of this plot device would be the entire James Bond franchise. The monster in each is the villain, whether that’s Auric Goldfinger, Ernst Stravro Blofeld or Francisco Scaramanga. In each Bond film, he overcomes the villains plans (I hope that’s not a spoiler?!) thus, defeating a ‘monster’.


Nothing pleases people more than seeing a rags-to-riches story, it essentially gives us all hope that whatever our situation it could become better. In its base form the plot is that a central character, who previously had nothing, gains ‘something’ (money, wisdom, love). It can evolve on to them losing it before then regaining it all – it just depends on the story in question. 

Cinderella is probably the classic rags-to-riches story and although it is a well known story, it is clearly well loved with Hollywood only releasing their latest take on the story in 2015


Not that dissimilar to the game you play with your children in the garden, the central character(s) set out to acquire an important object or to get somewhere. Of course, this being a story, nothing will be straight forward and there will be perilous challenges on the way…it was always negotiating the sofa in the front room on my childhood treasure hunts.

So many examples to choose from, including Lord of Rings, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but, for me, Indiana Jones is my personal favorite example. .


On paper, it sounds a little dull doesn’t it? ‘Personal discovery’ sounds a little like you’re going to rehab as a ‘tired and emotional’ A-lister. However, these can be quite epic tales of a character traveling far and wide, encountering new people and experiences and ultimately, returning home a ‘richer individual’. 

Alice In Wonderland is a fantastic example of this plot device, wonderfully written by Lewis Carroll and brought to life by Disney.


Well, a somewhat broader heading than we have had before but comedy can obviously have many elements. From slapstick comedy to black comedy, no one comedy is the same. In this instance for a basic plot device, the character is funny and the story usually ends with positive outcome.

Mr Bean, the comedic character embodied by Rowan Atkinson, is always involved in comedy situations that he invariably survives and, often thrives in – as seen below..


As with comedy, tragedy can be displayed in a variety of ways. It could be a tragic romance (Romeo and Juliet), a film with a sad ending (Thelma and Louise) or the demise of a central character (Julius Caesar).

One of the most recent and successful tragedies was Breaking Bad. If you haven’t watched the series or are part way through, please don’t watch the below video as it contains spoilers!!


This is really about character development where, over the course of the story, the character has experiences which fundamentally changes their personality or outlook on life. 

A Christmas Carol is a wonderful example of the central character, Scrooge, undergoing experiences which changes his views on Christmas and indeed, life. I’ve included a clip from the Muppets Christmas Carol because, well, it’s the Muppets!



So, these are just some examples, that I’ve chosen, that I feel represent the basic plot devices I discussed in the article on tips of storytelling.

How do these plot devices, which are shown so well by the Hollywood examples I’ve included, relate to your business video? Is there even room for a plot in a 60-second explainer video? These, and more, topics will be covered off in my next article….

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