The Plot Embryo
The Plot Embryo consists of eight points along a circle divided into quadrants. Each point represents a plot point in the story, and the lines going vertically and horizontally through the circle are the divisions between the external and internal story worlds.
The Eight Points
- A character is in a zone of comfort,
- But they want something.
- They enter an unfamiliar situation,
- Adapt to it,
- Get what they wanted,
- Pay a heavy price for it,
- Then return to their familiar situation,
- Having changed.
The Eight Plot Points in Romance
- Character introduction(s)
- Meet cute/meet ugly
- Point of no return
- Darkest moment
- Optional epilogue
The External Story Arc
The halves of the circle created by the horizontal dividing line represent two opposing parts of the external story arc. Dan Harmon gives them a variety of names4: order and chaos, life and death, conscious and unconscious.
- The Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice: the underworld
- Alice in Wonderland: down the rabbit hole
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Narnia
- The Wizard of Oz: Oz
- Harry Potter: the wizarding world
- A Star is Born (2018): musical success/fame
- Venom (2018): the symbiote having bonded with Eddie Brock
The External Story Arc in Romance
At point three of a romance story, the main character gets that first inkling of the Romance and crosses out of their regular life into the romantic relationship portion of the story. At plot point seven, they cross out of the turbulent phase of their romantic relationship and back into their regular life but with their lover. They have gone into the unconscious world and brought back a wonderful gift.
The Internal Story Arc
The main character is resistant to change in the first half of the story and is reacting to their circumstances rather than proactively creating them. But in the second half of the story, after plot point five, they are making decisions, taking actions, and changing inside.
The Internal Story Arc in Romance
The internal change the main character goes through in a romance is from resistance to love to acceptance to love.
The main character might want love in the beginning of the story but is resistant to changing something internally in order to have that love, which in a romance is true commitment. The shifts in the internal arc might be murkier than the shifts in the external arc in that they might not happen at exact points in the story, but around plot point five, the main character will start making proactive decisions about their romantic relationship.