It’s a famous concept in fiction writing that there are 7 story plot types or archetypes. In his 2004 book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, journalist and author Christopher Booker outlines each of these plot types, provides evidence of their endurance and ubiquity through the centuries, and elaborates on them in later chapters. These seven basic plots are:
Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
Voyage and Return
This theory (and indeed Booker’s tome) has its detractors – not to mention the fact one may read, elsewhere, that there are, in fact four plot types. Or five. Or nine. Perhaps it’s twenty (e.g. see 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Roland Tobias, 2012). And I daresay there are other numbers and theories out there.
Nevertheless, it can be a fun game to match the book you’re reading (or movie you’re watching). And if you write, any of these ‘plot number’ theories might give a starting point or get some ideas going for your next plot.
I have started to wonder what plot type characteristics and trajectories can be spotted in the course of a day. Lately, we have had a lot of days when it feels my family and I have been ‘Overcoming the Monster’, with one ambush after the other of fresh news about job threats and challenges, family illness, worrying exam grades, expensively collapsing roofs…
Booker describes the generic ‘monster plot’ phases as below, with my comments in brackets:
- Anticipation stage (signs the monster is on its way)
- Dream stage: (first encounters with the monster)
- Frustration stage: (first confrontation but failure to overcome it)
- Nightmare stage: (fight ‘to the death’, with the monster looking stronger)
- Miraculous escape: (the monster is defeated).
I am being far too dramatic of course. Also churlish and ungrateful. Most of the above ‘monsters’ have in no way been life-threatening, and there are many more reasons to be grateful than there are challenges in our family life. They are not ‘Tragedy’. Still, I have found the mental image of battling and picking off these monsters one by one to be helpful.
What has the plot of your day (or week / month / year) been?
Photo, alphaspirit, ID: 255373417