An overcoming-the-monster day

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
The Quest
Voyage and Return
Comedy
Tragedy
Rebirth

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:

  1. Anticipation stage (signs the monster is on its way)
  2. Dream stage: (first encounters with the monster)
  3. Frustration stage: (first confrontation but failure to overcome it)
  4. Nightmare stage: (fight ‘to the death’, with the monster looking stronger)
  5. 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

31 thoughts on “An overcoming-the-monster day

  1. Great post. Though, as in everything, labeling can have its flaws. Or, to put it another way, I believe stories are combinations.
    As for the current plot, I guess Tragedy defines it fairly well. (I’m not jesting)
    So, working on re-birth. 🙂
    Take care my dear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so sorry to hear of your life’s challenge and wish you well for the sequel of rebirth, for inevitably it come sin time, whether we want it to or not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your kind thoughts. Actually it is more for one of my daughters. And I know it will take time. But time is slow sometimes. 🙂 And until she is okay, I won’t be. Meantime… working on helping her as much as we can.
        Take care.

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        1. ‘You’re only as happy as your least happy child’ is a well-worn phrase, but so true. All best wishes.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Quite true. And thank you. There will be better days. Enjoy the rest of the week.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. There will be, when everyone is ready. I don’t like the phrase ‘moving on’ so much as experiences stay knitted into us, but brighter days come.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I know. By experience. I just wish I could move the clock forward a tad. (A large tad!) 🙂
                Thank you for your kind words. Have a lovely week-end in Blackburn, Lancashire.

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  2. Never saw fiction writing in this light. So, thank you for sharing. And I instantly linked my last book to your plots, voyage and return it is 😊🌸

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, nothing like a traditional odyssey. I am trying to get my daughter to read The Phantom Tollbooth, classic voyage and return for children, which her brother loved, but she’s impatient with it. I admit, I felt impatient with Lord of the Rings!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow. That is amazing. You are instilling good reading habits in your kids. My daughter loves reading. Currently she is finishing Harry Potter. She is on her fourth book

        Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s an uphill battle with my daughter, she’s, ‘I like Maths not reading,’ as if we have to choose!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha. Maths is excellent. Don’t you think 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Definitely, it’s especially important to keep girls engaged in Mathematics in this country.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Absolutely. I am glad she does 😊

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  3. In our house with two teenage daughters we seem to touch everything on that list at least once a day. When that doesn’t happen we tend to panic and wonder what is wrong.

    On a personal note I do tend to lean towards the monster. What’s not to love. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This made me smile; I know what you mean. Pity the parent that doesn’t embrace the monster.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Just went (back) to your “About” page.
    Lancashire. Blackburn, Lancashire?
    Four thousand holes…
    And though the holes were rather small,
    They had to count them all…
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, only a few miles from Blackburn! We’re in the Ribble Valley. Liverpool was in Lancashire when the Beatles grew up and in the 1960s, before its own urban borough of Merseyside was created.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You don’t say! 🙂 That explains why – on earth – “Blackburn, Lancashire”. When I heard it for the first time (living in East Africa) I thought: “Must be an invented name”. Like in French, we say “Trifouilly-lès-oies” to mean a village in the middle of nowhere. Hmmm. Thanks for enlightening me.
        Bon week-end.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah, in this part of the world (northern England), a ‘burn’ is a stream – ‘burna’ in Old English. So the name means something like ‘dark stream’. Seems rather romantic compared to the reality of the town itself!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Love that. (I’m a sucker for languages) Wonder what the root for “burna” was. 🙂
            (More places to visit, so little time)
            Have a great week Libre.

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  5. That’s a great post about fiction writing. Never thought about that from this angle 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m between dream & nightmare 😂😂 especially with zero sugar, lots of training, sun & the necessity to edit

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Argh, editing can be its own monster. It is a brave soul that does this without chocolate.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah it’s hard…😂 I feel sleepy at 7-8pm (and actually go to bed 9:30pm) 😅

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Very interesting question in the end…no easy answers…the Master Plotter is most ingenious …

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve had the village cold, so I think the plot is that the monster overcame me. And then, like the Doctor, I’ll regenerate.

    I’ve also read that there are seven plots (they never seem to be the same seven), or three (I go on a voyage; a stranger comes to town; the narrator forgets what the third plot is–probably that somebody dies). I’m grateful for the confusion. It keeps me from taking it all too seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also fighting the dreaded! Hope you feel better soon. Think it was John Gardner, the American critic, who said there are only two plots, person goes on a journey / person comes into town, Maybe death is one of the journeys?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some English PhD student could make a dissertation out of folding one list into another.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. They probably already have 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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