Seven stories

In the past three days I have heard two separate references to the "seven basic plots" in literature, so I tried to figure out what they are. The Internet Public Library guide to The Basic Plots in Literature suggest that others have identified three basic plots, twenty or thirty six, and even one.

7 basic plots "as remembered from second grade by IPL volunteer librarian Jessamyn West:" (This article is referenced often, but I'm kind of surprised that the IPL would leave this summary up there based on a memory from second grade...not exactly authoritative)
  1. [wo]man vs. nature
  2. [wo]man vs. man
  3. [wo]man vs. the environment
  4. [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  5. [wo]man vs. the supernatural
  6. [wo]man vs. self
  7. [wo]man vs. god/religion
OR, from this review of The Seven Basic Plots, by Christopher Booker:
  1. Overcoming the Monster (Beowulf, Jaws)
  2. Rags to Riches (Cinderella, David Copperfield)
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return (Alice in Wonderland, The Time Machine)
  5. Tragedy
  6. Comedy
  7. Rebirth (Christmas Carol, Snow White)
But even he couldn't stick to seven. He added two more plots...
8. Rebellion (1984)
9. Mystery (for the detective novels)

Oh well. I personally like Vonnegut's analysis of the plots. "There's a person, doing stuff. And it's okay. And then, oh shit! Something happens!"

Anyway. I enjoy how others have creatively used the notion that there are seven basic plots in literature. Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books in the U.K. is an organization and museum celebrating British literature. At least one independent publisher has used "seven stories" in their name, and bloggers (probably struggling to name their blogs) have incorporated the idea into their blog names as well.

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