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.
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.
- 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.