Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Plottorific – A tool from the Pulp Age made modern!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 8, 2017

When I first discovered Wallace Cook’s 1928 book, Plotto, my first thought was to turn this web of connected plot elements into a computer program.  Unfortunately, it was kind of a mess even to get my head around. I used it a few times on some short stories, however… if for no other reason than to generate ideas when I felt stuck. The more I fiddled with it, the less I used it “as designed,” but … really, any way it helps you come up with stories, isn’t that the true purpose?

But I gave up on trying to turn it into a computer program.

Someone else, however, is not the quitter that I am. They’ve done it. The result is Plottoriffic!

The source code is available and everything. Now, this may not provide you with the perfect plot… in fact, it probably won’t. It might also not be quite as productive as browsing through the possibilities in the book and selecting the ideas that sounds most interesting to you. But while many random plot generators out there just spout off nonsense associations that might or might not jiggle something in your mind, this one will at least suggest plots that have related points and come across pretty dramatically. It also looks like the pronouns have been changed to the non-gender-binary versions. since the pieces are pulled together randomly, you may need to do some translations based on all the available data.

You can also change around who the protagonist really is in your story. While the original Plotto suggested one main character, oftentimes they are the subjects are targets of interesting conspiracies or troubles, and the other characters in the list might be more interesting. Author Erle Stanley Gardner wrote a ton of novels about lawyer Perry Mason, the protagonist of stories with plots generated through Plotto. You can also swap genders around, play with the relationships, set the stories in the science fiction future or on fantasy worlds, turn them entirely into romance stories with the struggles suggested by Plotto running as the secondary plot, whatever.

The point is to generate something that your brain wants to play with. In the end, your story might have nothing to do with what came out of the generator, but at least you were able to start somewhere.


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