Plot Patterns—Part III The Chase & One Against/One Apart

plot-structureThe last couple weeks we’ve been looking at plot patterns as outlined in James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure. This week, we look at plot patterns of The Chase, and One Against/One Apart. Next week, we’ll wrap it up with Power and Allegory. #plotting #plotpatterns Click to Tweet

Screen capture from Mission: Impossible TV series

Screen capture from Mission: Impossible TV series

The Chase

You’ve probably had dreams of being chased. The longer you run, the slower you go, the more whoever/whatever is chasing you catches up. Then, you wake up, and it was just a dream! The Chase plot pattern is like that.


  • There must be a strong reason for someone to be on the run
  • The chaser must have a duty or obsession (or both) with catching the person he’s chasing. The chaser can be the Lead or someone else chasing the Lead.
  • Often, the chase is based on a huge misunderstanding.


Act I—establishes sympathy for the Lead, delineates the reason for the chase, whether the Lead is the chaser or the one being chased. If the Lead is the one forced to run, it must be because he’s made a terrible mistake, done something wrong, even for the right reason.

Act II—details the Chase and what the Lead is trying to do about it.

Act III—resolution. Ultimately, the chase must come to an end. We find out who wins.

Examples: The Fugitive, Les Miserables, Jaws

crossed swords 2One Against

Sometimes, we’re forced to stand up for what we believe, even if most people are against us. This takes a lot of inner strength, more than for other plot patterns.


  • The Lead embodies the moral code of the community
  • The opposition, much stronger than the Lead, poses a threat to the community
  • The Lead wins by inspiring the community
  • The Lead’s inspiration may come through self-sacrifice


Act I—The Lead is presented in the hero mold. He is respected and looked up to in the community. “The doorway to Act II comes when the Lead’s world is threatened by the opposition or when the opposition and the Lead declare they are going to fight it out.” Pg. 189

Act II—is the struggle, the battles, skirmishes, between the Lead and the opposition.

Act III—“the resolution, where the hero’s example to the community inspires a rising up against the opposition, and its ultimate defeat.” Pg. 189

Examples: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, High Noon, Twelve Angry Men

bogieOne Apart

The Lead is forced into confrontation with the opposition. He doesn’t seek it or want it. “But events keep going against him and force his hand.” Pg. 190


  • The Lead is an anti-hero, he lives according to his own personal moral code and doesn’t wish to be associated with the larger community
  • The Lead is drawn into the larger conflict by events
  • The Lead must decide whether he will take a stand or not
  • The Lead either retreats to his own, self-enclosed world again; or he decides to join the community.


Act I—establishes the anti-hero in his world, then brings the larger community to bear in on it.

Act II—events come against the Lead, forcing a confrontation he doesn’t desire or want.

Act III—the Lead decides whether or not to rejoin the world, or go back to living the way he was, as an anti-hero

Examples: Casablanca, Sometimes a Great Notion

Next week: we’ll look at Power and Allegory. What about you? What plotting system appeals to you—One Against/Apart (from) the world, or The Chase? Click to Tweet Leave a comment and let me know. #plotpatterns #plotting

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