The 7 Basic Story Plots
Think you’ve got a really original idea? Something you’re sure no one else has ever thought of? Well, you may be surprised to hear the theory that there are actually only 7 basic story plots that exist in every story ever written. These plots are reused over and over, albeit with different characters, settings, and details, but the essence is always the same. But don’t let that get you down, writers! The great thing about this theory is that if you get to know the basic plots really well, you can craft them to work for your story. Take a classic plot and add your personal style and creative ideas to make it your own. That’s what all the greats do!
The 7 basic plots are…
1. The Quest
A hero sets off on a journey to reach a goal. Along the way, he or she must overcome many obstacles.
As seen in: The Lord of The Rings, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Catcher in the Rye
2. Voyage and Return
The hero adventures in a completely new, often threatening world, and eventually returns to normal life a changed person.
As seen in: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; Alice in Wonderland; The Time Machine
Better known as the romantic comedy, the hero and heroine and kept apart by a series of complications, misunderstanding, or obstacles which are removed for a happy ending.
As seen in: Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare’s comedies
The protagonist starts high, and through a series of poor decisions or character flaws, falls from grace – to the sympathy of the reader.
As seen in: Romeo and Juliet, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Anna Karenina
The hero is imprisoned by a dark force (whether physically, emotionally, etc) and eventually overcomes it, emerging as a changed person.
As seen in: Many fairy tales, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; A Christmas Carol, The Secret Garden
6. Overcoming the Monster
The protagonist must face a great creature, often much stronger than himself, and eventually overcomes the beast.
As seen in: Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, The War of the Worlds
7. Rags to Riches
Through a course of events, an ordinary protagonist rises to become extraordinary – the change doesn’t necessarily need to be about money, as long as a positive and dramatic change has taken place.
As seen in: Harry Potter, Cinderella