Want to buy or sell something? Check the classifieds

The Seven Basic Plots

The Mad Hatter

A-List Customer
Messages
321
According to an op-ed in today's L.A. Times, there are seven basic plots which underly all stories:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion...0,4280910.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

The first and most basic of plots, for instance, is Overcoming the Monster. From Greek myths to "Jaws," "Star Wars" and James Bond, we see a hero who, on behalf of a community, sets out to challenge and slay some monstrous deadly figure. The monster — malevolent, blinkered, totally selfish — personifies the dark power of the human ego. But in this respect, it is only the extreme version of the dark figures we see in stories of every kind.

Similarly selfish figures overshadow the disregarded little hero or heroine of the second plot, Rags to Riches — Cinderella, David Copperfield, Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady." But he or she is eventually revealed, like Superman, to be someone exceptional, and the story usually ends on the image of a man and woman united in perfect love.

A third plot, the Quest, centers on the battle of a hero and his companions to reach some far-off, priceless goal. From Homer's "Odyssey" to "Raiders of the Lost Ark," they must face all kinds of ordeals and enemies. But, in the end, the power of darkness is overcome, the treasure secured, the kingdom established. And often again, as Odysseus with his Penelope, we see the hero united with the woman he loves.

Fourth is another type of story based on a journey, Voyage and Return. The heroes or heroines drop out of their familiar world into an abnormal world. Its strangeness, at first exhilarating, gradually turns to nightmare until, in a final thrilling escape, they return to where they began, like Dorothy returning from Oz, Robinson Crusoe from his island, Scarlett O'Hara returning to Tara.

A fifth plot is that of Comedy. Usually, if not always, this is about the confusion that keeps a hero and heroine apart. Finally, all misunderstanding is resolved, darkness gives way to light, hero and heroine are united — as we see in comedies from ancient Greece, through Shakespeare, Mozart, even "War and Peace," to all those 20th century versions, from "Singin' in the Rain" to "Four Weddings and a Funeral."

The essence of Tragedy as a basic plot is that it shows us what happens when heroes and heroines pass under the spell of the dark power of the ego. Initially they may enjoy dreamlike success, like Macbeth, or Humbert Humbert in "Lolita," or as in the movie version of Bonnie and Clyde. But gradually the dream turns to nightmare, until they are destroyed.

The seventh and last plot is Rebirth. A hero or heroine becomes imprisoned by the dark, egotistical power in some state of living death — Snow White, Dickens' Scrooge, Capt. Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music." Finally, he or she is liberated by some redeeming figure, as Snow White is by her prince or as Von Trapp is by Maria, to end yet again on an image of light triumphing over darkness, life and love over death and separation.
 

HarpPlayerGene

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,682
Location
North Central Florida
Hmmm.... those certainly are seven of the plots. There's one, however, which I don't think I see covered, which is very often used in modern films, and which a friend of mine calls the, "You Pissed Me Off So I Came Back To Kill You" plot. :D
 

Flitcraft

One Too Many
Messages
1,037
I've seen something similar before...

but I always wonder, where does King Kong fit into this theory...hmmm...[huh] :rolleyes: :)
 

Ethan Bentley

One Too Many
Messages
1,225
Location
The New Forest, Hampshire, UK
HarpPlayerGene said:
Hmmm.... those certainly are seven of the plots. There's one, however, which I don't think I see covered, which is very often used in modern films, and which a friend of mine calls the, "You Pissed Me Off So I Came Back To Kill You" plot. :D

Ah those are great films; the more you annoy me, the more outrageous (i.e. explosive) my revenge will be!
 

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
Messages
5,125
Location
Hudson Valley, NY
A friend once told me that there are only two basic plots:

The Hero goes on a quest
&
The Stranger comes to town

He then want on to say that it could be simplified even further: this is actually really the exact same plot... just viewed from two different perspectives!
 

Geronimo

One of the Regulars
Messages
119
Location
Texas
Very interesting.
A third plot, the Quest, centers on the battle of a hero and his companions to reach some far-off, priceless goal. From Homer's "Odyssey" to "Raiders of the Lost Ark," they must face all kinds of ordeals and enemies. But, in the end, the power of darkness is overcome, the treasure secured, the kingdom established. And often again, as Odysseus with his Penelope, we see the hero united with the woman he loves.
Would Snakes on a Plane qualify for this one? :p

Interesting that the only 'comedy' is the romantic comedy.
 

C-dot

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,908
Location
Toronto, Canada
This reminds me of the seven types of conflict, essential to literary plot:

1 - man vs. nature
2 - man vs. man
3 - man vs. the environment
4 - man vs. machines/technology
5 - man vs. the supernatural
6 - man vs. self
7 - man vs. god/religion

Conflict was first described in Greek Literature (agon). Aristotle wrote that in order for a plot to work, the hero must have a single conflict, and according to Plutarch, an ennobling one.
Joseph Campbell's Monomyth is also related (re: Odysseus), and the history makes for interesting reading. :)
 

Ethan Bentley

One Too Many
Messages
1,225
Location
The New Forest, Hampshire, UK
C-dot said:
This reminds me of the seven types of conflict, essential to literary plot:

1 - man vs. nature
2 - man vs. man
3 - man vs. the environment
4 - man vs. machines/technology
5 - man vs. the supernatural
6 - man vs. self
7 - man vs. god/religion

Ah interesting, how does man vs. nature differ from man vs. the environment?
 

C-dot

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,908
Location
Toronto, Canada
Ethan Bentley said:
Ah interesting, how does man vs. nature differ from man vs. the environment?

Man vs. Nature refers to Man fighting something he cannot change, a "force of nature"; for example a terminal illness. The environment would refer more to a feat such as mountain climbing, or lawn mowing :)
 

Ethan Bentley

One Too Many
Messages
1,225
Location
The New Forest, Hampshire, UK
C-dot said:
Man vs. Nature refers to Man fighting something he cannot change, a "force of nature"; for example a terminal illness. The environment would refer more to a feat such as mountain climbing, or lawn mowing :)

Ah I see I was looking at it too literally, really need to read some more De Bono.
Thank you for the explanation :).
 

Forum statistics

Threads
103,003
Messages
2,923,522
Members
49,901
Latest member
Yitaro
Top