Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Seven Basic Plots

Holy Moly, gone for all of May, then two posts in one day! I assure you, that rhyming was unintentional. :)

From Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, the seven storylines are:

Overcoming the Monster - A terrifying, all-powerful, life-threatening monster whom the hero must confront in a fight to the death. An example of this plot is seen in Beowulf, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Dracula.

Rags to Riches - Someone who has seemed to the world quite commonplace is shown to have been hiding a second, more exceptional self within. Think the ugly duckling, Jane Eyre and Clark Kent.

The Quest - From the moment the hero learns of the priceless goal, he sets out on a hazardous journey to reach it. Examples are seen in The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Voyage and Return - The hero or heroine and a few companions travel out of the familiar surroundings into another world completely cut off from the first. While it is at first marvellous, there is a sense of increasing peril. After a dramatic escape, they return to the familiar world where they began. Alice in Wonderland and The Time Machine are obvious examples; but Brideshead Revisited and Gone with the Wind also embody this basic plotline.

Comedy - Following a general chaos of misunderstanding, the characters tie themselves and each other into a knot that seems almost unbearable; however, to universal relief, everyone and everything gets sorted out, bringing about the happy ending. Shakespeare’s comedies come to mind, as do Jane Austen’s perfect novels.

Tragedy - A character through some flaw or lack of self-understanding is increasingly drawn into a fatal course of action which leads inexorably to disaster. King Lear, Madame Bovary, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bonnie and Clyde—all flagrantly tragic.

Rebirth - There is a mounting sense of threat as a dark force approaches the hero until it emerges completely, holding the hero in its deadly grip. Only after a time, when it seems that the dark force has triumphed, does the reversal take place. The hero is redeemed, usually through the life-giving power of love. Many fairy tales take this shape; also, works like Silas Marner and It’s a Wonderful Life.

This post comes to you from pure curiousity. I believe my novel AUC is a Voyage and Return story. Since so many of you are fellow writers, I'm curious... where does your story fall?

Secondarily, does anyone refute the notion of seven basic, all encompassing, never ending plots? If so, please share your reasoning. :)

P.S. Don't miss the first post of today, below. Or miss it if you like. :) So long as it's intentional missing rather than accidental.

1 comment:

Bella said...

I think my YA story is a cross between a tragedy. quest and confronting a monster...kind of hard to tell, lol