Monday, November 28, 2016

V is for Variations on archetypal story themes

Ana muses: 

Christopher Booker, author of The 7 basic plots, distills all of storytelling to 7 basic archetypes that make up all of storytelling throughout history. 

1   Overcoming the Monster
2   Rags to Riches
3   The Quest
4   Voyage and Return
5   Comedy
6   Tragedy
7   Rebirth

Overcoming the Monster 
The hero must destroy the monster to restore balance to the world. In the real world, this story appeals to readers who are overcoming an addiction, fighting off a pervvy boss, debt, beating an illness or anything else that requires something to be defeated for the hero (your customer) to win.
Rags to Riches
A modest and moral but downtrodden character achieves a happy ending when their natural talents are displayed to the world at large. In the real world, this theme appeals to anyone with an undeniably incredible talent who wants to break through and be successful. This could apply to photographers, musicians, artists, and yes even bloggers.

The Quest
The hero, often accompanied by sidekicks, travels in search of a priceless treasure and must defeat evil and overcome powerful odds, and ends when he gets both the treasure and the girl. The Odyssey is a classic example of this kind of story.

Often "Quest" stories make our hero(s) encounter a variety of challenges that are all seemingly unrelated. In the real world, this is very much the story of every beginning entrepreneurial journey.
Voyage and Return
Stories of normal protagonists who are suddenly thrust into strange and alien worlds and must make their way back to normal life once more. Examples of this are Alice in Wonderland, or Cast Away. 

Not in the "Haha" that's funny kind of way, but more in the Shakespeare kind of way. The plot of a comedy involves some kind of confusion that must be resolved before the hero and heroine can be united in love.
As a rule, the consequences of human overreaching and egotism. Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet etc... Stories from this category are usually very self evident. 
This story archetype almost always has a threatening shadow that seems nearly victorious until a sequence of fortuitous (or even miraculous) events lead to redemption and rebirth, and the restoration of a happier world. The best example of this is "A Christmas Carol" where Scrooge much change his ways in order to not be hated and have a much better impact on the world around him. 

Do you agree with this categorization?


  1. I've just tried (but failed) to slot my novels into any one of these categories. Maybe we use aspects of several different categories in our stories?

  2. Maybe mixing themes is the new normal.

  3. In my WIP, the heroine overcomes the monster. The hero has a rebirth.

  4. I think this might be the case of "sometimes the blue vase is just a blue vase" or whatever it's called. I think creativity is more expansive than this list and I think we also combine some to create new ones. But it's definitely a good start!

  5. I was trying to fit these themes into romance as well.

    I thought maybe the rebirth?

    I think I need to try slotting mine into specific ones like Paula did. It will be interesting to see if they fit.

  6. I struggled to place my wip in any of these categories. I felt the story covered two or three of them.