The Quintessential Action Adventure Plot Outline

THE QUINTESSENTIAL BASIC PLOT OUTLINE

The basic plot formula for an epic "Hero versus Villain" action adventure story is as follows:
  1. Hero's circumstance is revealed.
  2. Hero receives a mission or encounters a problem that needs to be solved.
  3. Hero begins toward the goal. Hero and his allies assemble to formulate a course of action, unless allies have already been strategically placed, or allies are recruited as the plot progresses.
  4. Hero travels to an exotic and interesting location.
  5. Hero encounters the damsel and some type of relationship begins.
  6. Hero encounters the villain's henchman. Hero disrupts the evil scheme or the henchman disrupts hero's intentions. In the process, hero discovers some previously unknown, but vital, information.
  7. An extended chase scenario occurs.
  8. Major complications arise. Hero makes a mistake or suffers a set-back, demonstrating that hero is not prepared to do what must be done. Hero tempted to abandon the mission.
  9. Hero acquires assistance or inspiration. Significant event re-ignites hero's will to fight.
  10. Hero infiltrates villain's highly secure fortress.
  11. Hero is captured and threatened with certain doom.
  12. Hero narrowly escapes the clutches of doom.
  13. Hero attains goal.
  14. Hero battles loyal henchman.
  15. Hero battles villain.
  16. Final plot twist.
  17. Resolution.
  18. Conclusion.
This basic formula is rather standard and predictable, but provides a solid foundation. Fortunately, it is quite flexible and adaptable. To make things a bit more interesting and less predictable, we can rearrange the specific order in which many of these plot points occur and include unexpected plot twists.


THE QUINTESSENTIAL EXPANDED OPTIONS PLOT OUTLINE

The expanded plot formula options for an epic "Hero versus Villain" action adventure story are as follows:
  1. Hero's circumstance is revealed.
    1. Hero is happily involved in a big adventure.
    2. Hero is happy with life, but looking for adventure.
    3. Hero is happy with life, but not looking for adventure.
    4. Hero is happy with life, having retired from a life of adventure.
    5. Hero is unhappily involved in a big adventure and wants out.
    6. Hero is unhappy with life, but looking for adventure.
    7. Hero is unhappy with life, but not looking for adventure.
    8. Hero is unhappy with life, having retired from a life of adventure.
    9. Hero is unhappy with life, dreading an upcoming mission or event.
  2. Hero receives a mission or encounters a problem that needs to be solved.
    1. Villain/henchman attacks hero.
    2. Villain arrives in hero's home turf.
    3. Hero arrives in villain's home turf.
    4. Villain sets an evil scheme into motion.
    5. Hero's ally/loved one/mentor is abducted.
    6. Hero is assigned a mission in the line of duty.
    7. Hero loses something or someone the hero wants back.
    8. Hero's ally/loved one/mentor mysteriously disappears.
    9. Hero witnesses a crime or experiences a traumatic event.
    10. Ally convinces hero to join a mission or begin a journey.
    11. A plane/ship/bus/train is highjacked while hero is aboard.
    12. Hero/ally/loved one/mentor is accused of a crime they did not commit.
    13. Hero convinces a necessary ally to join a mission or begin a journey.
    14. Former ally seeks revenge on hero/hero's employer for an unknown reason.
    15. Ally/loved one/mentor/messenger requests hero assist someone in trouble.
    16. Hero's ally/loved one/mentor committed suicide, but hero suspects murder.
    17. Hero is deceived/bribed/threatened/blackmailed/coerced into taking action.
    18. A plane/ship/bus/train crashes or is likely to crash while hero is aboard.
    19. A voyeur or fan becomes obsessed with hero and the consequences are shocking.
    20. Hero commits a crime, possibly taking something that hero desires or requires.
    21. Hero finds himself in serious trouble, narrowly escapes, and is now on the run.
    22. A serial killer is on the loose and inviting/taunting hero to stop the carnage.
    23. Hero must locate/retrieve/destroy some dangerous object/weapon/person/information.
    24. Hero, in the line of duty, kills/injures/captures the villain's ally or loved one.
    25. Damaging information/photograph/video is made public and hero must deal with the aftermath.
    26. Hero stumbles upon villain's evil machinations and, without thinking, jumps into the fray to stop it.
    27. Hero discovers information/opportunity/object/person that makes a mission possible or gives direction.
    28. A murder case has been cold for years. Suddenly, a new murder appears to be committed by the same unknown suspect.
    29. Strange events lead hero to suspect everyone in this seemingly nice family/company/town is actually hiding some secret.
    30. Ally/loved one/mentor is killed/injured/captured, causing hero to take action or complete ally's/loved one's/mentor's goal.
    31. Conspiracy theorist or psychic predicts something awful, but can’t get anyone to believe. Hero is the only one willling to help.
    32. Someone is trying to murder the hero/ally/loved one/mentor. They don't know why and may or may not know who the would-be killer is.
    33. Someone is trying to murder the hero/ally/loved one/mentor and they know exactly why. Perhaps the would-be killer harbors an old grudge or seeks secret information.
    34. Ally/loved one/mentor/messenger presents hero an opportunity to obtain something the hero desires or has lost (money, freedom, redemption).
    35. Hero must travel to a certain point by a certain time, perhaps with some information/object/person in tow, or there will be dire consequences.
  3. Hero begins toward the goal. Hero and his allies assemble to formulate a course of action, unless allies have already been strategically placed, or allies are recruited as the plot progresses.
    1. Hero is joined by an important ally.
    2. Hero loses the support of an important ally.
    3. Hero conceives and begins a risky plan to obtain what hero desires or achieve a specific goal.
  4. Hero travels to an exotic and interesting location.
    1. Hero desires information.
    2. Hero desires to infiltrate the villain's organization.
    3. Hero desires to locate some object/person/headquarters.
    4. Hero desires to meet with local allies/counterpart/asset and acquire additional information/resources/equipment.
      1. Hero is joined by an important ally.
      2. Hero loses the support of an important ally.
  5. Hero encounters the damsel and some type of relationship begins.
    1. Damsel may be in distress and require assistance.
    2. Damsel may be presented as an ally and genuinely be an ally.
    3. Damsel may be presented as an ally but actually be an adversary.
    4. Damsel may be presented as an adversary but actually be an ally.
    5. Damsel may be presented as an adversary and genuinely be an adversary .
    6. Damsel may be a possible love interest for hero, in addition to any of the above.
      1. Hero may seduce damsel.
        1. Damsel may welcome hero's advances.
          1. Hero's advances may succeed.
            1. Consummation may be interrupted or postponed.
          2. Hero's advances may fail.
        2. Damsel may resist hero's advances.
          1. Hero's advances may succeed.
            1. Consummation may be interrupted or postponed.
          2. Hero's advances may fail.
      2. Damsel may seduce hero.
        1. Hero may welcome damsel's advances.
          1. Damsel's advances may succeed.
            1. Consummation may be interrupted or postponed.
          2. Damsel's advances may fail.
        2. Hero may resist damsel's advances.
          1. Damsel's advances may succeed.
            1. Consummation may be interrupted or postponed.
          2. Damsel's advances may fail.
  6. Hero encounters the villain's henchman. Hero disrupts the evil scheme or the henchman disrupts hero's intentions. In the process, hero discovers some previously unknown, but vital, information.
    1. Henchman attacks hero.
    2. Hero is joined by an important ally.
    3. Hero loses the support of an important ally.
    4. Hero is betrayed by ally/damsel/love interest/mentor.
    5. Henchman presents a minor obstacle that complicates hero's plan.
    6. Henchman kills/captures/injures hero's ally/damsel/love interest/mentor.
    7. Hero's actions create minor international/diplomatic/political complications.
    8. Hero finds himself in serious trouble, narrowly escapes, and is now on the run.
    9. Hero, in the line of duty, kills/injures/captures the villain's ally or loved one.
    10. Hero/ally/damsel/love interest/mentor is taken into custody by local authorities.
    11. Hero discovers local authorities are in league with villain, complicating the mission.
    12. Hero crosses the line, committing a crime or action that signifies a point of no return.
    13. Hero formulates and begins a risky plan to obtain what hero desires or achieve some goal.
    14. Villain is betrayed by ally/henchman/damsel/love interest/mentor/business partner/rival villain.
    15. Villain moves up the deadline, as response to hero's activity, increasing time pressure for hero.
    16. Hero witnesses a crime or experiences a traumatic event and, without thinking, jumps into the fray.
    17. Hero, intentionally or unintentionally, presents a minor obstacle that complicates villain's scheme.
    18. Hero/ally/damsel/love interest/mentor makes a minor mistake, causing a rather problematic complication.
    19. Henchman offers hero an easy way out of trouble that involves looking the other way. Hero rejects the offer.
    20. Hero's mission is interrupted, possibly by the villain's scheme or a betrayal, and develops into a larger mission.
    21. Villain kills or injures his own ally/henchman/love interest/mentor/business partner, showing that villain is capable of anything.
    22. Hero discovers information/opportunity/object/person that makes the mission possible or gives direction. Hero begins toward the goal.
  7. An extended chase scenario occurs.
    1. Typically, this involves the hero, his allies, the damsel, various enemies, fantastic vehicles, incredible feats of physical prowess, much destruction, or any combination thereof.
  8. Major complications arise. Hero makes a mistake or suffers a set-back, demonstrating that hero is not prepared to do what must be done. Hero tempted to abandon the mission.
    1. Villain gains a powerful ally.
    2. Hero is mortally injured or terminated.
    3. Hero narrowly survives death and returns.
    4. Hero's actions prompt local authorities to deport hero.
    5. Hero, knowingly or unwittingly, falls in love with villain.
    6. Hero loses public opinion and support, while villain gains it.
    7. Hero discovers that he's been unwittingly lured into aiding the enemy.
    8. Hero falls in love with damsel/love interest, complicating the mission.
    9. Hero's actions threaten to prompt war or military action between nations.
    10. Villain convinces hero that villain's motivation is just and morally correct.
    11. Hero discovers villain is a decoy/pawn/underling and not the primary villain.
    12. Hero's actions create minor international/diplomatic/political complications.
    13. Villain/henchman kills/captures/injures hero's ally/damsel/love interest/mentor.
    14. Hero and villain must work together to defeat a common enemy or reach some goal.
    15. Hero foils the evil scheme or completes the mission, but is killed in the process.
    16. Villain unexpectedly escapes or narrowly survives death and returns for retribution.
    17. Henchman unexpectedly escapes or narrowly survives death and returns for retribution.
    18. Hero is pitted against ally/loved one/mentor and only one of them can prevail/survive.
    19. Villain changes strategy and vows to eliminate hero before completing the evil scheme.
    20. Hero challenges villain directly to a contest and loses or makes a deal and is cheated.
    21. Villain challenges hero directly to a contest and wins or makes a deal and cheats hero.
    22. Hero crosses the line, committing a crime or action that signifies a point of no return.
    23. Hero discovers the information/object/person is not or was never in villain's possession.
    24. Hero fails to foil the evil scheme or complete the mission and is terminated in the process.
    25. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor unexpectedly escapes or narrowly survives death and returns.
    26. Hero engages villain or henchman and wins the battle, but this strengthens villain's resolve.
    27. Hero discovers the primary villain is a close family member/ally/damsel/love interest/mentor.
    28. Villain/villain's ally/henchman assists hero to foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    29. Hero and villain/villain's ally/henchman both obtain the desired item, divide it, and separate.
    30. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor dies helping hero foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    31. Villain is betrayed by ally/henchman/damsel/love interest/mentor/business partner/rival villain.
    32. Villain moves up the deadline, as response to hero's activity, increasing time pressure for hero.
    33. Hero's ally/damsel/love interest/mentor is killed, captured, injured, or any combination thereof.
    34. Hero's plan is discovered or fails. Hero must devise another, more dangerous and desperate, plan.
    35. Hero loses an important ally/person/object/information that holds the key to completing his mission.
    36. Hero must do something hero swore to never do, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    37. Villain/henchman offers hero a tempting bribe/deal/easy way out of trouble that involves looking the other way.
    38. Hero discovers all this trouble was actually caused by the very person/group/organization seeking to resolve it.
    39. Hero is betrayed by ally/damsel/love interest/mentor, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    40. Hero's plan is thwarted by a massive natural disaster, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    41. Hero discovers disturbing details of villain's scheme. Others may not believe hero when hero reports this information.
    42. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor is injured and will die, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    43. Villain kills or injures his own ally/henchman/love interest/mentor/business partner, showing that villain is capable of anything.
    44. Hero's personal life collapses, paying a high price for the struggle, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    45. Hero battles villain/henchman. It goes horribly wrong. Hero knows there is no way he can defeat the villain or complete the mission.
    46. Hero discovers the information/object/person is a decoy, bait, counterfeit, incomplete, nonfunctional, or person is a willing accomplice.
    47. Hero is tempted by an irresistible opportunity. If hero gives in now, it will be impossible to foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    48. Hero's worst fear, the one he's been struggling with and haunts his nightmares, has just become a reality. If hero doesn't face it now, he'll lose everything.
    49. Villain forces hero to commit a terrible and morally reprehensible act, perhaps kill an innocent/ally/damsel/love interest/mentor/entire village, in order to save another/many others.
    50. Villain/henchman from hero's past, and unrelated to the present plot, unexpectedly returns intent on revenge. This must be dealt with before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
  9. Hero acquires assistance or inspiration. Significant event re-ignites hero's will to fight.
    1. Hero regains an important ally for the final battle.
    2. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor convinces hero to return and continue.
    3. Hero discovers the identity of the primary villain and changes focus.
    4. Hero completes a dangerous or seemingly impossible task to prove himself worthy.
    5. Hero gains the strength/confidence/information/object required to complete mission.
    6. Hero and allies clear up any unresolved problems and make preparations for the final battle.
    7. Hero's ally/damsel/love interest/mentor is injured and will die unless hero accomplishes the mission quickly.
    8. Hero re-evaluates some clue/object/information and discovers that it holds the solution to achieving his goal.
    9. Hero deceives/bribes/threatens/blackmails/coerces a key person into providing the required information/object/assistance.
    10. Hero gives a speech, final argument, or performance that convinces others to do the right thing or not to do the wrong thing.
    11. Hero begins the battle to defeat the villain or complete the mission and wins too easily. Villain retaliates with ruthless vengeance.
  10. Hero infiltrates villain's highly secure fortress.
    1. Typically, the fortress is located in a remote and inaccessible place, such as an island, atop some lofty mountain, inside a volcano, on a stealth ship, etcetera. Hero battles villain's security system/guards/pets (sharks, piranhas, tigers, or some such predator).
    2. For a twist, villain infiltrates hero's fortress/headquarters/base of operations. This places hero into a defensive, rather than offensive, position.
  11. Capture and threat.
    1. Villain captures hero.
    2. Villain tortures or attempts to terminate hero/allies/damsel/love interest/mentor.
  12. Escape and rescue.
    1. Hero manages to escape.
      1. Hero rescues allies/damsel/love interest/mentor from certain doom.
      2. Hero fails to rescue allies/damsel/love interest/mentor from certain doom.
    2. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor manages to escape.
      1. Ally/damsel/love interest /mentor rescues hero from certain doom.
  13. Attainment.
    1. If hero has infiltrated villain's fortress, then
      1. Hero obtains the information/object/person that he has been seeking and proceeds to wreak havoc.
      2. Hero fails to obtain the information/object/person that he has been seeking and proceeds to wreak havoc.
    2. If villain has infiltrated hero's fortress/headquarters/base of operations, then
      1. Villain obtains the information/object/person that he has been seeking and proceeds to wreak havoc.
  14. Hero battles loyal henchman.
    1. Hero defeats and captures henchman.
    2. Hero defeats and terminates henchman.
    3. Hero defeats henchman, but henchman escapes.
  15. Hero battles villain.
    1. Hero defeats villain, but villain attempts to escape.
      1. Villain escapes.
        1. If hero has infiltrated villain's fortress, then hero destroys villain's fortress. Generally, this involves massive explosions.
      2. Hero captures the villain.
        1. If hero has infiltrated villain's fortress, then hero destroys villain's fortress. Generally, this involves massive explosions.
      3. Hero terminates the villain.
        1. If hero has infiltrated villain's fortress, then hero destroys villain's fortress. Generally, this involves massive explosions.
      4. Hero's attempt to defeat villain goes horribly wrong.
        1. Hero is mortally injured or terminated.
        2. Villain escapes.
        3. Villain's ally/henchman rescues villain.
        4. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor captures villain.
        5. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor/villain's ally/henchman eliminates villain.
        6. If hero has infiltrated villain's fortress, then ally/damsel/love interest/mentor destroys villain's fortress. Generally, this involves massive explosions.
  16. Final plot twist.
    1. Villain gains a powerful ally.
    2. Hero is mortally injured or terminated.
    3. Hero narrowly survives death and returns.
    4. Hero's actions prompt local authorities to deport hero.
    5. Hero, knowingly or unwittingly, falls in love with villain.
    6. Hero loses public opinion and support, while villain gains it.
    7. Hero discovers that he's been unwittingly lured into aiding the enemy.
    8. Hero falls in love with damsel/love interest, complicating the mission.
    9. Hero's actions threaten to prompt war or military action between nations.
    10. Villain convinces hero that villain's motivation is just and morally correct.
    11. Hero discovers villain is a decoy/pawn/underling and not the primary villain.
    12. Hero's actions create minor international/diplomatic/political complications.
    13. Villain/henchman kills/captures/injures hero's ally/damsel/love interest/mentor.
    14. Hero and villain must work together to defeat a common enemy or reach some goal.
    15. Hero foils the evil scheme or completes the mission, but is killed in the process.
    16. Villain unexpectedly escapes or narrowly survives death and returns for retribution.
    17. Henchman unexpectedly escapes or narrowly survives death and returns for retribution.
    18. Hero is pitted against ally/loved one/mentor and only one of them can prevail/survive.
    19. Villain changes strategy and vows to eliminate hero before completing the evil scheme.
    20. Hero challenges villain directly to a contest and loses or makes a deal and is cheated.
    21. Villain challenges hero directly to a contest and wins or makes a deal and cheats hero.
    22. Hero crosses the line, committing a crime or action that signifies a point of no return.
    23. Hero discovers the information/object/person is not or was never in villain's possession.
    24. Hero fails to foil the evil scheme or complete the mission and is terminated in the process.
    25. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor unexpectedly escapes or narrowly survives death and returns.
    26. Hero engages villain or henchman and wins the battle, but this strengthens villain's resolve.
    27. Hero discovers the primary villain is a close family member/ally/damsel/love interest/mentor.
    28. Villain/villain's ally/henchman assists hero to foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    29. Hero and villain/villain's ally/henchman both obtain the desired item, divide it, and separate.
    30. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor dies helping hero foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    31. Villain is betrayed by ally/henchman/damsel/love interest/mentor/business partner/rival villain.
    32. Villain moves up the deadline, as response to hero's activity, increasing time pressure for hero.
    33. Hero's ally/damsel/love interest/mentor is killed, captured, injured, or any combination thereof.
    34. Hero's plan is discovered or fails. Hero must devise another, more dangerous and desperate, plan.
    35. Hero loses an important ally/person/object/information that holds the key to completing his mission.
    36. Hero must do something hero swore to never do, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    37. Villain/henchman offers hero a tempting bribe/deal/easy way out of trouble that involves looking the other way.
    38. Hero discovers all this trouble was actually caused by the very person/group/organization seeking to resolve it.
    39. Hero is betrayed by ally/damsel/love interest/mentor, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    40. Hero's plan is thwarted by a massive natural disaster, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    41. Hero discovers disturbing details of villain's scheme. Others may not believe hero when hero reports this information.
    42. Ally/damsel/love interest/mentor is injured and will die, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    43. Villain kills or injures his own ally/henchman/love interest/mentor/business partner, showing that villain is capable of anything.
    44. Hero's personal life collapses, paying a high price for the struggle, before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    45. Hero battles villain/henchman. It goes horribly wrong. Hero knows there is no way he can defeat the villain or complete the mission.
    46. Hero discovers the information/object/person is a decoy, bait, counterfeit, incomplete, nonfunctional, or person is a willing accomplice.
    47. Hero is tempted by an irresistible opportunity. If hero gives in now, it will be impossible to foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    48. Hero's worst fear, the one he's been struggling with and haunts his nightmares, has just become a reality. If hero doesn't face it now, he'll lose everything.
    49. Villain forces hero to commit a terrible and morally reprehensible act, perhaps kill an innocent/ally/damsel/love interest/mentor/entire village, in order to save another/many others.
    50. Villain/henchman from hero's past, and unrelated to the present plot, unexpectedly returns intent on revenge. This must be dealt with before hero can foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
  17. Resolution.
    1. Hero foils the evil scheme or completes the mission.
    2. Hero fails to foil the evil scheme or complete the mission.
    3. Hero negotiates a mutually beneficial arrangement with villain.
  18. Conclusion.
    1. Hero recovers from injuries.
    2. Hero enjoys the reward of a job well done.
    3. Hero struggles with the result of failure.
    4. Hero consummates relationship with damsel/love interest.
    5. Hero ends relationship with damsel/love interest.
    6. Damsel/love interest ends relationship with hero.
    7. Tragedy ends hero's relationship with damsel/love interest.


THE QUINTESSENTIAL VILLAIN

Villains play the most crucial role in every tale. The villain is even more essential than a hero. A hero is only as good as the villain is evil. Every phenomenal hero requires an equally phenomenal villain. Without a threatening villain, any hero is less impressive.

A compelling villain needs to be quite memorable, rather disturbing, and very nasty. Commonly, the villain exemplifies characteristics or viewpoints that are diametrically opposed to those of the hero, creating a contrast distinguishing heroic traits from villainous ones. Great villains always possess solid motivation, a reason for their actions. Villains don't pursue some specific goal simply for the sake of being evil.

In fact, the most interesting villains believe themselves to be the true hero of their own story. In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil. Villains may be driven by greed, neuroses, or the conviction that his cause is just. Nevertheless, villains are driven by something not unlike those things that drive a hero.

Fiction mirrors life. More accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus reality, to bring life into a cleaner and sharper understanding. In reality, there are no villains madly cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate an evil scheme. There are only people with problems, struggling to find solutions.

In an attempt to add realism, many authors employ "sympathetic" villains. Villains that wish to make the world a better place, but go to antagonistic lengths to do so. Villains that exercise a code of honor when combating enemies, even if it is to achieve antagonistic goals. Villains that are pushed into antagonistic lifestyles or actions by society's mistreatment, but go to absurd lengths in seeking the justice they desire. Villains that are manipulated by malevolent forces.

Often, easily recognizable villains are characterized by an unusual physical appearance, abnormality, deformity, mannerism, or fashion sense. Commonly, an outstanding villain will possess some obscure interest, hobby, or odd obsession. Occasionally, a top notch villain will keep some sort of exotic pet.


THE QUINTESSENTIAL HENCHMAN

Generally, the tradition of a strong literary villain employs at least one loyal, dangerous, and distinctive henchman. Typically, the henchman utilizes some type of unique weapon or an unusual and particularly lethal skill. As with primary villains, many henchmen are easily physically recognizable.

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