Guide to Literary Terms

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Formula

Formula - a fixed and conventional method of developing a plot. In films, television, and western stories, there are several stock formulas, including the redemption theme, the Cinderella story, and the country bumpkin plot. While formulas are hackneyed, stereotypical, and use the same conventions repeatedly, there are also formulas in the form of poems in the oral tradition. They are predictable and conform to the patterns of the genre.

Formula is Latin, a diminutive of forma, meaning “form.”

An example of a formula plot is the traditional rags to riches story, such as found in the novel Moll Flanders.