Friday 22 May 2009

WRITING TIPS: Seven Basic Plots

Seven is an important number.

In my blog post Writing: The Way of The Warrior I correlated the seven underlying principles of bushido with writing.

The number “seven” again takes on importance in Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories”.

Part One reviews the seven classical plot types. Here are the seven basic plots:

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

In turn, each plot takes the Hero through five progressive stages:

1. The Call Stage
2. The Dream Stage
3. The Frustration Stage
4. The Nightmare Stage
5. The Resolution Stage

Booker’ s detail is precise and his insight into what makes a story work is invaluable, as are his many practical examples drawn from movies and novels. In this way, Booker brings a clear sense of what plot types work and why. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is serious about their writing.

I was interested to note that I have a tendency to favour “voyage and return” or “rebirth” plots. What do you think your favourite plot type is?


Justus M. Bowman said...

I'm not sure yet, but perhaps one day I'll read this book.

Tess said...

I ususally end up writing 'the quest' stories. But, I struggle with plot so I'll keep an eye out for this book, thanks!

And, thanks for the congrats on my blog. Writing friends are the kindest friends :)

Litgirl01 said...

Hmmm...I can't choose between:

Voyage and return

I think voyage and return. :-)

Love this post Ann!!

Morgan Mandel said...

I love the rags to riches plot - wishful thinking, I guess. I also dabble in others.

Morgan Mandel

Helen said...

I haven't read this book. It sounds like The Writer's Journey, though, and that's also a good one. I'm going to note The Seven Basic Plots and look for it. Thanks.

Straight From Hel

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Ann,

Thanks for the tips. This sounds like a good book. I haven't read it yet-so I'm not certain what plots I tend to write more... I write a lot of "fish out of water" plots and "be careful what you wish for" Plots... LOL

septembermom said...

I'm a big fan of any "rebirth" plot. I guess for me I can't resist reading about the human quest to begin anew. However, I do have to mention the tragedy of Madame Bovary. I find reading about her tragedy to be compelling too. Interesting post, thanks Ann.

Weronika Janczuk said...

Hi Ann!

I usually have problems with writers trying to "divide up" plot types into categories like this; honestly, I think that writing is a form of basically two plots based upon either the external or internal conflict that drives the story.

That does not mean, however, that I'm unwilling to listen. I'd say, based on the list provided here, that my three favorite plot types to write would be voyage + return, tragedy, and rebirth; to read, however, I love rags to riches and the quest type stories. Odd, I think.

Thank you for sharing!


Amanda Holly said...

Oh it has to be rebirth! Kind of like what I want to go through myself! LOL!

Marilyn Brant said...

Ann, not only did I enjoy this post (I'm a comedy girl with plots that tend to be voyage and return-ish), but I loved the Warrior post you also wrote!! Just fabulous the way you tied these principles to writing. I already have a list of people I who I think should read both of them, too :).

B.J. Anderson said...

I'm a total quest girl. Although I like rebirth, too. :D Thanks for the report on this book!

sputnitsa said...


I have to say, my initial reaction to the thought of clear "types" was to grumble and grouse, but I couldn't help reading your review and...I've just added a new book to my "to read" list. :) So thank you.

I'm a new writer :) But so far my one and only is Quest. Now, thanks to you, I feel a contrarian urge rising in me to write all the seven types. What a mad urge. I shall club it to death. Or nourish and cultivate it. :)

Lovely blog. Btw I lived in South Africa for nine years and Botswana for one. So we are sort of former neighbors. ;)

~ Ruth