The Basic Plots of All Stories

That there are a finite number of basic plots from which all other stories are formed is accepted as fact by many literary theorists: Georges Polti, for instance, believes that there are thirty-six dramatic situations, while Ronald Tobias believes there to be only twenty.

The Internet Public Library has compiled together the most commonly accepted lists of “basic” plots: one, three, seven, twenty or thirty-seven different plots, depending on which definition you subscribe to.

In contrast to the seven selected by the IPL, there are also these additional seven “basic” plots, as described by Christopher Booker in his appropriately titled book, The Seven Basic Plots:

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth



3 responses to “The Basic Plots of All Stories”

  1. To be fair given that a number of those themes can and do overlap there are probably less than 7. I’m adding that book to my wishlist, or will it be a bit of an anticlimax now?

  2. 1. You take a journey.
    2. A stranger comes to town.

  3. I’d cite S John Ross’s Big List of RPG Plots as a spiritual predecessor. It’s was written with table top gaming in mind, which somewhat limits the nature of conflict, but is similar in nature.