There’s No Such Thing as an Original Story

It’s often quoted that there are only 7 stories in the world that all basic plotlines can fall into:

  1. Overcoming the Monster: Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it.
  2. Tragedy: The flip side of the Overcoming the Monster plot. Ourhero protagonist character is the Villain, but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence.
  3. Rebirth: As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and does a Heel Face Turn to avoid inevitable defeat.
  4. Rags to Riches: surrounded by dark forces who suppress and ridicule him, the Hero slowly blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate.
  5. The Quest: Hero learns of a great MacGuffin that he desperately wants to find, and sets out to find it, often with companions.
  6. Voyage and Return: Hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, ultimately triumphs over the madness and returns home far more mature than when he set out.
  7. Comedy: Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.

with this rather limited range, it’s unsurprising to find that ideas are often repeated.  This is something that I’m struggling with at the moment. Whenever I think of a cunning new angle to take on fairy tales for my story Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a cursory amount of research informs me that someone has come up with that story arc already (Thanks Wikipedia).

It’s highly frustrating. But I think I’m just going to have to accept that not all of my ideas are “original”, and go with my best ideas even if some of them are already out there. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can only hope that the angle I take on various folklore will be the best constructed.

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8 responses to “There’s No Such Thing as an Original Story

  1. I know how you feel. One thing I’ve learned from reading lots of stories from other novices is that its not so much the story arc, but the writing style that makes a great story. Plots are a dime a dozen, but well developed characters and an engaging writing style can bring that uniqueness that keep readers engaged.

    • Thanks, it’s good to feel that I’m not alone in this. Hopefully my writing style and character development will live up to the task.

  2. I’d heard about Five Basic Plots: Romance, Cowboy/Hero, Coming-of-Age, Tragedy, Detective … I think that’s how it went. Anyway, I like your list better! Thanks, Em xoxo

  3. This reminds me a lot of a book called The World in Six Songs by DJ Levitin. There are only six basic types of songs that shape human nature: Friendship, joy. comfort, knowledge, religion and love songs.
    Thanks for the post.

  4. Pingback: Why You Want To Watch This Show | Larkable.com

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