This post, from Jennifer E. Pierce, originally appeared on her Just Jen blog on 8/4/09. In it, she proposes that there’s really only one ‘plot type’: protagonist overcomes obstacle.
Once we grasp this essential idea–and the variants on this theme–it shouldn’t disappoint, it should actually free you. Establish the obstacle and write against it. Though I know most of you reading here are writing fiction and the application is obvious, this is even so of non-fiction. The best writing establishes an obstacle and overcomes it through argument and eloquence of expression. The organization of the writing only falls into place if it is a step-wise process of overcoming a clearly defined obstacle.