Dennis O’Neil: Mark Twain and The Seven Basic Plots

Dennis O'Neil

Dennis O'Neil was born in 1939, the same year that Batman first appeared in Detective Comics. It was thus perhaps fated that he would be so closely associated with the character, writing and editing the Dark Knight for more than 30 years. He's been an editor at Marvel and DC Comics. In addition to Batman, he's worked on Spider-Man, Daredevil, Iron Man, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the Question, The Shadow and more. O'Neil has won every major award in the industry. His prose novels have been New York Times bestsellers. Denny lives in Rockland County with his wife, Marifran.

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3 Responses

  1. Too few people grasp the true definition of tragedy, in comparison to comedy. Stephen King (and Mel Brooks) once described it as “it’s tragedy if it happens to you”. But it’s the choice that separates it. “A bunch of crap happens to a guy” can be a horror story ( or the Book of Job) or a comedy, depending on his the crap is presented. But “A guy makes a bad choice, and a bunch of crap happens to him” is a tragedy.

    When a statement is made to the effect of “That’s (just) a that kind of story”, that’s not always a dig. It’s a testament to how much you can do with that one story type. Alien is, at its core, a haunted house movie.

    Neil Gaiman once wrote about a subset of the Quest that he called the Plot Coupon. A character is asked to go get a number of rare items which will in concert do some wondrous thing, He illuminated this structure with an off-the-cuff example so delightful and hilarious that he was besieged with fervent requests to flesh it out into a proper story, which shows not only how good a writer he is, but how easily one can craft a fun (if not entirely original) story by simply sticking to the basics.

    The example:

    • mike weber says:

      I looked at that Gaiman page.

      That sounds amazingly like an Infocom computer text adventure.

      Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor, maybe…