Everyone knows the age-old saying, “There’s a reason behind everything.” Storytelling has been around since the dawn of man. And every story is based on a plot with a purpose for being told. It’s something that appeals to our innate need as humans to learn and share stories with each other. We’ve all heard of the classic types of tales like boy-meets-girl or underdog wins in the end, but what about plots that are less obvious? For example, did you know there are 7 universal story plots out there?

Universal story plots can be used in books, movies – really any type of storytelling medium you desire. It doesn’t matter what type of characters or settings you use either because they will work. No matter what, these 7 universal story plots will always be satisfying and engaging to the audience.

So, imagine this: You’ve just completed four months of grueling work on your animation project and finally get to share it with a test audience or film crew. Finally, someone other than your friends and family who know about your “hobby” is going to get to see it! As they’re watching, you can barely contain yourself while you wait for their verdict on whether the plot is good enough to captivate an entire nation – or at least whoever watches animated films in your country.

But instead of gasps of awe followed by applause at the stunning visuals and gripping dialogue that make up your masterpiece…they fall asleep halfway through your screening.


They might not have fallen asleep if you had put some of the following universal story plots into play before getting started. So, without further ado, here are 7 universal story plots that will make your animation stand out among the rest:

  1. THE COMEDY – Man vs. Society or Man vs. Himself   

               The obvious choice for many writers is to go with the most popular type of plot… comedy. It probably comes as no surprise at all that animated shorts and features centered around this particular plot are usually the “happiest” in terms of events that happen between beginning to end. Why? Because there’s no drama or violence or suspense – just pure fun! And everyone knows that fun is the best ingredient for any story.

         Now, of course, there are many subtypes of comedy plots you can use for your animation project as well. One such example would be what’s called “farce.” A farce is a type of comedy where everything turns out okay in the end because it’s so over the top and ridiculous that no one could possibly resent anyone involved by the time things wrap up – no matter how bad they were at first. It’s pretty much impossible to mess up writing a farce! And yet another example would be self-deprecating humor – basically poking fun at yourself and then using it as an opportunity to teach your audience something about not doing or saying those same things.

  1. THE TRAGEDY – Man vs. Society

         While comedy is typically what most people will gravitate toward when writing an animated short or feature, tragedy is the second most popular choice of story for writers because it has all of the great qualities of a compelling tale without having to worry about death and destruction. A good tragedy doesn’t just throw bad events at characters nonstop until they’re crumbling ruins in the ground – instead, challenges are posed that require strength and perseverance to overcome. That’s not to say that there isn’t any loss or sadness along the way, though! There definitely can be…but it’s how you handle your losses (and make your audience feel them) that makes your animation stand out.

  1. THE FANTASY – Man vs. Nature

         Many animation writers want to create something that has never been seen before, and the fantasy plot is another type of story that does just this for your audience. When you’re writing a fantasy script, everything from the characters to the setting as well as the props and visuals are completely unique and unlike anything, anyone else has ever done before. It can be extremely exciting for those who love fresh new ideas! Now, with any kind of story, there’s always going to be some pitfalls writers fall into when tackling a fantasy – such as making it too complex or throwing in elements that make absolutely no sense. But if you handle things correctly, a fantastic adventure awaits you! Just remember: sometimes all it takes to make your story unique is changing the setting/time period.

  1. THE ADVENTURE – Man vs. Self

         The third most popular type of plot for animated shorts and features is the adventure, which will often either have a hero being whisked away on an epic quest or simply thrust into one because of some rogue element that’s usually always more powerful than he/she is. Whatever the case, it’s up to our intrepid protagonist to eventually come out victorious against evil forces trying to destroy him/her from all sides! And while this story type can be told in a number of ways, there are just as many pitfalls writers encounter when writing their own adventure tales – such as making it all about the journey instead of the destination…or having the protagonist make mistakes that make NO sense. But don’t worry – if you stay away from these common things your animation will definitely be worth watching!

  1. THE CHANGE OF SEASONS – Man vs. Environment

         We all know that autumn leads into winter (and then spring, summer, and then back to fall), but what about using this premise for an animated short or feature? It’s actually a great one because it not only gives you the opportunity to set up your story in multiple locations within one scene without having to rush through everything or risk boring your audience but also has the added benefit of showing how much change can happen over time…especially when good is pitted against evil! An example would be something like The Lion King, where the protagonist Simba is shown growing up and changing over time to eventually defeat Scar. These kinds of things are always great for making your animation stand out from all the rest!

  1. THE FRIENDSHIP – Man vs. External Forces

         Whenever you see the main character who’s either an orphan or friendless, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll instantly make friends with someone right off the bat; and this actually gives writers a lot to play with when writing stories about friendship because it makes it easy to introduce conflict without having to make your characters attack each other like they would if their relationship was adversarial (which can be pretty boring at times). Furthermore, the friendship plots usually revolve around two characters trying to achieve an important goal, which means it’s up to you whether you want to make this something physical (like The Muppets) or something internal (like Inside Out). You can even go for both if you really want!

  1. THE JUSTICE – Man vs. Himself

         This type of story usually focuses on someone who has either done bad things in the past or is constantly doing them…but eventually sees the error of their ways and decides to correct everything by flipping the script and becoming a force for good instead. And while this may seem like a very familiar premise that all kinds of animation writers have used before, there are also pitfalls that come with writing these kinds of stories that need to be avoided at all costs! Examples are having our main character realize he/she doesn’t deserve the power they have, giving them a power that’s way too powerful for its own good, etc. But if you play your cards right and stay away from these kinds of things while writing your script, you’ll definitely come out with an exciting animation story!

So there you go, 7 Universal Story Plots to consider for your Animation Project! If you’re a writer for an animation storyboard, try using one of these plots and see if it makes a difference!

Are you looking for a company to create your animation storyboard? Prolific Animation Studio specializes in helping clients come up with something fresh and exciting! Let’s get in touch.

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