Our brand name was coined in 1928 when the dime novelist William Wallace Cook published Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots.
It is a manual that allows you to methodologically build up a full narrative piece by piece. His book was designed as “an invention which reduces literature to an exact science” by offering a solution to generate plots for all stories imaginable.
His theory is pretty simple - Purpose, opposed by Obstacle, yields Conflict - The ingredients for this are reduced to Character Combinations each with particular traits, Conflicts (of which there are 20 groups ranging from Love’s Beginning to Transgression) and Masterplots each of which encompasses a beginning, middle and end.
The sheer number of permutations generated means there are an amazing 1,462 potential plots. Cook’s professional output was evidence of the efficiency of such an approach - he was nicknamed “the man who deforested Canada” for the number of short stories he wrote and he once wrote fifty-four novels in a year!
His disruption of the creative approach to storytelling is an inspiration for our modern-day Plotto: a tool that acts as a catalyst for discovery.
Cook built the idea of Plotto from his own needs. Like many pulp novelists of the day he clipped ideas straight from the headlines and filed them in a specially designed card catalogue. Imagine if those cards were videos instead of headlines. Imagine you could search, tag and rate those ideas, then weave together a single story to share with others. That is the foundation for both Plotto’s.
Despite this mechanised approach, Cook realised that the power of a story is greater than the sum of its parts; their power is not just in the words used but what the storyteller brings to their version, how they are said, what is communicated, the emphasis and the impact.
‘Each person that lives, has ever lived or shall live is, was or will be a collector of ideas combined into a certain thing called experience. My experience is not your experience; and that means that neither you nor I, when accomplishing original work, will accomplish identical work. If it were otherwise, there would be no originality in the world. Originality is our response to the stimulus of SUGGESTION in individual terms of our varying experience. Plotto is a new method of plot SUGGESTION for writers of CREATIVE fiction.’*
Here at Plotto we’re excited about what video and new technologies can bring to the art of storytelling and insight. The mechanics can appear deceptively simple but the art is in delivering something that can help bring unique stories and interpretations to the forefront. We are proud to be part of this new revolution.
If you want to find out more, check out these articles:
And Tin House have recently issued a version of the book:
It is still available on Amazon - often selling for over £100, but you should still be able to get a version for near a tenner.
There is a fascinating Twitter feed dedicated to Cook’s Plotto, check out @ThePlottoist
*Quoted from Cook’s instruction guide on how to use Plotto - available here http://www.plamondon.com/plotto_instruction_book.pdf