the mutt

Mankind’s oldest Plot Generator

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on October 16, 2008

It doesn’t get older and more reliable than this!
Following is a list of Basic Human Drivers, (in no particular order), from the Science of Influence by
Dr Kevin Hogan.

Basic human drivers

Acquisition/saving
Bonding/connecting
Learn/curiosity
Sex/romance
Defence/fight or flight
Nest
Vengence
Status
Eat
Power
Loyalty
Order and organisation
Independence
Acceptance
Altruism
Physical activity

As a source of writing prompts, it’s quite useful.

For instance, The Hero could be seeking one of these and has to overcome hurdles (which could also be drawn from this list), before he finally gets what he wants. Er … or does not, depending on how kind-hearted you are.

Let’s give it a shot: 12 year old seeks Acceptance by his friends. But his friends have a sense of superiority coming from their financial position – Status. They give the boy a test to prove he’s worthy of joining their Order/Organisation. It involves a Fight. The boy loses, badly and becomes a laughing stock. Swears Vengeance … etc. etc.

Primitive – but you get the idea.

Another idea is to jumble the list and go in sequence and use each Driver to take the story forward.
If you come with something interesting, let me know … not the plot … just that it worked!

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2 Responses

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  1. Maggie said, on November 4, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Great idea.

    I have another important human driver not included in Dr. Hogan’s list, but which could also be quite interesting as a plot generator: Meaning. Of course some of drivers in Hogan’s list could be due to the need for meaning.

    A little background: Dr. Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who lived through the Nazi death camps during Holocaust, and subsequently developed an approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy. The underlying tenant of his theory is the belief that man’s primary motivational force is his search for meaning. The primary catalyst of this new theory was his observations while in the death camp that at times prisoners would act in ways contrary to other generally accepted human drivers, such as the need for survival or the avoidance of pain, if there was a sense of meaning. His book Man’s Search for Meaning is an excellent and fascinating read.

    So, thinking about this additional driver, another interesting way to do plot generation might be to place a character’s need for meaning in juxtaposition against one of the other drivers. So meaning vs. power, or meaning vs. acceptance, or meaning vs. survival. In a larger work, such as a novel, the struggle between conflicting drivers could also be a way of structuring each of one’s characters.

    Thanks for this post. It’s already gotten me thinking in very fresh ways about one of my current fiction writing projects.

  2. the mutt said, on November 10, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Hi Maggie,

    True, Meaning does serve as a common denominator for most motives, and is a good plot driver. Social Acceptance, for instance which figures in Dr. Hogan’s list, is at its basic form a need for meaning.

    I was trying some plots with Dr. Hogan’s list – and I’m now trying to do the same, with Meaning at the core and seeing how it develops. I like what you mentioned – juxtaposing two drivers against each other. It actually helps to simplify your novel/idea. It’s an effective blueprint; you can keep coming back to it and check if you’re on track.

    Meanwhile, I’ll try to get a copy of the book you mentioned.

    Thanks! And good luck.


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