1. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    There are only seven stories

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lyrical, Aug 13, 2015.

    I'm certain that most of us here have heard about the idea that there are only 7 (or 8 depending on your source) stories in the world, and each story is just a reimagining of one of the 7. A book was even written about the subect.

    For those who don't know, the 7 stories have been put forth in these terms:

    Overcoming the Monster: The protagonist is out to destroy some evil.

    Rags to Riches: The protagonist in unfortunate circumstances comes into much more favorable circumstances.

    The Quest: A wonderfully nerdy reality show. Oh, but in this context, the protagonist (or group) goes on a long journey to complete some goal, usually to find something or some place.

    Voyage and Return: The protagonist goes on a journey and eventually makes their way back home changed somehow.

    Comedy: Where the focus is on the humorous events that befall the protagonist, or triumph over some circumstances resulting in a happy ending.

    Tragedy: The protagonist devolves into something unlike their former self and falls from grace, who usually dies.

    Rebirth: A misguided/unlikeable/lost protagonist is faced with paradigm-shifting events and finds redemption or a new attitude towards life.

    My question is, do you guys agree with this theory? I know there are others out there claiming there are only 5 stories, or actually 12 stories, or what number have you. I also know that these 7 have also been put forth in other words as well. Does this seem like a fair assessment of the way things are, or do you disagree?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I read Christopher Bookers the Seven Basic plots and I find it a pretty accurate guideline. Though I don't think every book could be categorized within the seven I think a lot, if not most, could.

    Makes me wonder how my stories figure on the list ... Maybe there should be one more -
    8. Hero overcoming circumstance. - :)
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    There is also a theory that there are only three stories: 1) Man* vs. God (or nature), 2) Man vs. Man, 3) Man vs. Self.

    * - Disclaimer: "man" in this case is used in the traditional English-language manner to denote any person, male or female.
     
  4. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I think it's a nice theory, but I really don't agree with it.

    If you think about all the books you've read or films you've seen then you'll realise there are a lot more categories than those seven. Maybe those seven can be related to the majority in some way or other, but like Ed's theory, it's the reality/world we live in, so obviously everything is going to be connected to these concepts, even if only in the simplest of ways. It's like taking the most fundamental facts of life and claiming that all stories revolve around it; for example, there are only two types of stories, those based on planet Earth and those that aren't. It becomes vague.
     
  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is really only one story: "someone does something that causes things to change."
     
  6. DueNorth
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    DueNorth Active Member

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    Hmmmm? Where in this is the romance? Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Plus, how many different ways night you mix up 7 variables--not to mention all the details that make a story unique.
     
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  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I see these kinds of theories from time to time, but I don't think that thinking about literature in limiting terms is very useful for an author. In fact, it's probably harmful. So I try to avoid it.
     
  8. TheApprentice
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    TheApprentice Contributing Member

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    What if the protagonist holds a less-than-favorable moral code but that never changes? Like if its a douchebag protagonist?
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    exactly my thought. Where does romance fit into this?
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. These lists are probably not created for authors at all. I don't know who they're for, but we certainly shouldn't bother with trying to squeeze our stories into this pattern.
     
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  11. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    That is true. Most of the time I sort of resent these things because I feel like they minimize the creative proccess. Once in a while, though, I find comfort in them when I feel panicked that I'm telling a story that has already been done before. I tell myself: "It's okay. Every story has been done before. What matters is how yours is different."
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think looking at stuff like this is great for academic discussion of literature after the fact. I just don't think much about it beforehand, during the writing process.
     
  13. Song
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    Song Active Member

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    My friend always told me there was only one story and that was 'the journey'. I personally thought it was an oversimplification, but each to their own.
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's about as reductive as you can get. I don't think it provides much value, so I agree with you.
     
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  15. Aaron Lopez
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    Aaron Lopez Member

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    I've heard of the theory, and I can see it. I'd also suggest those seven stories are part of one larger construct (it would be a misnomer to call it one story), and it would end up going into metaphysics instead.

    The Lord of the Rings is a combination of all seven stories. That might be of interest for those looking to writing "epics".
     
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  16. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    According to another theory put forth by John Morreall (Comedy, Tragedy and Religion) this would be a comedy.
     
  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    I think it's healthy to explore all these theories of how many possible stories there are; just don't stop at one theory.

    Booker said seven, then revised that to nine. Blake Snyder says 15. Tobias said there are 20 master plots. Then there are George Polti's 36 dramatic situations. I seem to remember there were others, but I haven't thought about this in a long time.

    Bottom line: read all the theories and decide which one best suits how to want to view the world of writing. Then put it all aside and build your plots however works best for you. Of course, that means you'll have to try them all out, I guess, but that's not a bad thing... is it?
     
  18. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Where I think the theories buckle is when you're confront with contrasts in stories: you can take a story basis and change it just enough be questionable whether it sits within those categories. Basically, though the theories hold some truth, I don't think things can be lumped into such black and white categories.
     
  19. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    I'm sure there are some stories that can't be put in any of these categories. Waiting for Godot comes to mind...
     
  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yup. None of these seven can be applied to my current work in progress.

    I know humans like categories - we all love a list - but I don't find much value in theories like this.
     
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  21. Fernando.C
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    Fernando.C Active Member

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    These categories might be applicable to some works of literature but as a general classification of all stories? No, there all lots of irregularities here, stories that fit into none or encompass several of the seven. No it's really better not to even try to categorize stories.
    Writing is an art and the whole point of art is to break the rules and step outside known conventions otherwise your work of art will be boring and predictable.
     
  22. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Come to think of it, maybe romance can be fitted into any of these. I have for example a romance that goes well under "Rags to riches" (and then back to rags). Ok, it's not a classic romance novel, but the romance-part takes up a great deal of the story. I just don't follow the very strict "rules" about what and how a "romance" should be. And my first novel, who some would call romance too, although I think it's more accurate to call it a romantic comedy, is a good example of "The Quest".
     
  23. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    This may have been mentioned, but it could be said there is only one story: Discovery.
     

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