Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Seven Basic Plots

I'm about three-quarters of the way through Christopher Booker's "The Seven Basic Plots: why we tell stories"
I never liked English Literature as a subject at school, but since then I've come to love mythology and fantasy fiction. The idea of Storytelling has some small relevance to my work as well.
In the first part of the book, Christopher Booker explains his idea of the archetypal plots underlying all the best stories - "Overcoming the Monster", "Rags to Riches", "The Quest", "Voyage and Return", "Comedy", "Tragedy", and "Rebirth". Warning: this part of the book contains a huge number of plot summaries of novels, films, plays etc - some people may want to avoid spoilers!
In part two, he then looks at the archetypal figures playing roles in these stories, but this section drags a bit as he tends to re-hash the same story outlines as were used to explain the plots in part one.
Part three then looks at where (in his view) storytelling has gone wrong in the last century or two, showing how many novels only follow part of one of his archetypal sory arcs, and are incomplete as a result.
I have found it to be a fascinating read, building on the likes of Frazier's "The Golden Bough" and Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand faces" as giving new insights into the art of storytelling.

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