Basic Plots: Vonnegut’s Boy Meets Girl

Ciao, SEers. Last time I was here, I talked about the first of Vonnegut’s five basic plots, Man in Hole, which you can find by clicking the link. Today, I’m going to talk about the second, Boy Meets Girl.

As I mentioned last time, Vonnegut plotted all stories on a grid. The vertical axis was the GI-Axis, and it ran from good fortune to ill fortune. The horizontal axis was the BE-Axis, and it ran from the beginning to the end of the story.

Boy Meets Girl

Also like last time, the Boy Meets Girl story is one we’re all familiar with. It’s probably the second most common story type, and I say “probably” only because it could be tied with “Man in Hole” in popularity. Like its predecessor, it starts above the midpoint of the GI-Axis, because readers like happy heroes. But unlike last time, the graph trends up initially. Why? Because boy meets girl. (Or someone meets someone. Choose whichever gender combination you like. That’s immaterial.) In the beginning, love is wonderful. Magical. Picture the cartoon cat with hearts in his eyes.

Of course, it doesn’t last. That’s why the graph plummets. And it nosedives past the midpoint of the GI-Axis and into the dark part. Something caused the happy couple to split. It might have been something easily rectified, like a miscommunication. It might have been something serious, like a family feud. But in the middle of this story, they’re torn apart. Only toward the end do they reconcile, and the resolution sees the graph much higher than the beginning, because together they are far happier than the hero was when he started alone.

A classic example of this plot type is Grease. In the beginning of the story, Danny is already happy. He’s about to be a senior, he’s got a group of close friends of which he’s the leader, and he’s popular at school. Things could always be better (he could be richer, he could be smarter, he could be liked by even more people), but he’s perfectly happy with how things are. But then he meets Sandy. And he has an amazing summer romance. He thinks he has to give her up because she’s going back to Australia. Then he forces himself to give her up because of his friends. Even when he tries to make it work, it seems too hard to overcome all the obstacles. They’re both miserable. But then he decides to become an athlete and leave the T-Bird life behind for her. (Luckily, she doesn’t make him and makes opposite changes for him.) They get their happily ever after ending, much higher on the GI-Axis than where they started.

In Summation:

Boy Meets Girl
  • Starts happy
  • Meets Sandy and is happier
  • Loses her and is sad
  • Has to choose between her and his friends
  • Makes the tough choice and starts to get happy
  • Gets her and his friends; immeasurable happiness

What about it, SEers? Do you have a favorite “Boy Meets Girl” story—one you’ve read or written? Let’s talk about it.

Staci Troilo Bio

58 thoughts on “Basic Plots: Vonnegut’s Boy Meets Girl

  1. Pingback: Basic Plots: Vonnegut’s Good News Bad News | Story Empire

  2. Pingback: Basic Plots: Vonnegut’s From Bad to Worse | Story Empire

  3. This makes total sense, Staci. I can see why this is popular, but to me, it’s also the most predictable of the plot lines. There has to be a lot of originality to keep me interested, though they make great subplots. These are great posts. I enjoy them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s more of a subplot for me, too, if I use it—because it requires a lot of originality to keep it fresh. Some people can do it brilliantly, and I tip my hat to them. But I’m not one of them.

      Glad you’re enjoying the series, Diana.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Basic Plots: Vonnegut’s Cinderella | Story Empire

  5. I loved that you used Grease, Staci. It’s a favorite 🙂 I’ve always loved this type of story. I guess that why I kept watching Hallmark Christmas movies. I haven’t written one yet, though I tried. Another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to love those Hallmark movies. And the happily ever after endings of romance novels, too. I don’t write the genre anymore, and I seldom watch or read it. But Grease is still among my favorite movies. (I am a huge Travolta fan, though, and I admit to being fond of musicals, so it’s a natural fit for me.)

      Thanks, Denise.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Basic Plots: Vonnegut’s Boy Meets Girl | Story Empire | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  7. My early releases were all boy meets girl, but with a few changes: boy meets girl with multiple clashes, lots of problems and hurdles, boy and girl overcome obstacles, HEA.
    For the record, I positively love the movie Grease. I have it on DVD and both hubby and I will watch it over and over. A great story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I bet the only thing better than watching Grease is watching Grease with your significant other. 🙂

      Multiple clashes, lots of problems and hurdles, and plenty of obstacles are what makes the HEA worth it. Thanks, Mae.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is another great presentation, Staci. In writing romance, there has to be some sort of attraction between the characters, but I like to build on it slowly up to the black moment when it appears as if all is lost. The deeper and darker we can take our characters, the more wonderful the happy ending becomes. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree on all counts, Jan. There has to be an attraction, or it’s pointless. And if the separation is small and the problems are petty, it’s not nearly as satisfying at the end as when the problems they surmounted were dire.

      Thanks for weighing in. Great points.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    There’s nothing like Story Empire for great posts on the craft of writing, and today’s post from Staci is a perfect example. She’s sharing a series of posts on Vonnegut’s “plot graphs” that make the process of laying out a basic plot easy to understand. Hope you’ll do yourself a favor and check out today’s “Boy Meets Girl” lesson. It’s well worth your time, believe me! And of course, don’t forget to pass it along so others can take a look, too. Thanks! And thanks to Staci for another excellent post in the series. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is such an interesting series, Staci. I have heard of some basic plots (boy meets girl, loses girl, gets girl again, etc) but never looked into them in great detail. And I’ve never seen Vonnegut’s graphs before. Your explanation makes perfect sense, and I’m thinking if I live long enough (like another 30-40 years), I might actually learn enough of this stuff to start getting good. 😀 Seriously, I try to learn something new every day, especially about writing, and this series is a perfect example of the kinds of things I want to know. Thanks for such an excellent presentation! Sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think this graph applies to most successful books. We’ve invested in the protagonist at the beginning of the tale, things go seriously wrong for him/her, choices are made and we’re rooting for a happy ending that often comes out of the darkest moments. I’m fascinated by the similarity between the two graphs so far!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I loved your example using Danny and Sandy, Staci. Another movie favorite of mine is Scarlett and Rhett. These days, I doubt people would have the strength to overcome the obstacles they endured. Even though they didn’t get their happily ever after and end up together, I believe the heroine was in a better place at the end of her journey. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Your post is fascinating, Staci. I think Hallmark movies follow this formula. Thank you for adding the graphs. As a visual learner, they help me see the story development. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I laughed when I read your comment. The Hallmark Channel wouldn’t exist without this formula. You’re so right.

      I’m glad the graphs help. I can’t take credit for them, though. Vonnegut drew them. I just recreated them for you. Thanks, Gwen.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Well, by definition, it is about relationships. But it doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. It can be buddies, like the Odd Couple. Or pets, like in Lassie Come Home. Or even the bond between a person and a treasured object (my kids had a book about a child losing a toy and a comedy of errors ensued before the child ultimately got it back, but I can’t think of what it was called right now). The point is, it’s about the bond between two people or two things or a person and a thing being formed, falling apart, then coming together again stronger than before. It doesn’t have to be romantic, though that is an easy way to remember it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It should start with the status quo so you can see what life is like pre-relationship. It doesn’t have to be long, though. Look at the Odd Couple. It starts with Oscar in his messy glory, alone in his apartment. Then prissy Felix rings the bell, suitcase in hand, because his wife threw him out and he has nowhere to go. It’s a quick opening. It didn’t take a lot to establish who Oscar was. A pan of him upside down in bed and walking through the messy living room is enough. A paragraph, a page. On screen, it was seconds. But it told us he was a slob who lived alone BEFORE the fussy friend invaded his life. That’s all we need.Just something to set the stage. It wouldn’t work as well if Felix was already living there for three months.


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