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Q: The Seven Main Plots in All of Literature = ??? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: The Seven Main Plots in All of Literature = ???
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: mikeginnyc-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 29 May 2003 20:28 PDT
Expires: 28 Jun 2003 20:28 PDT
Question ID: 210539
It' s been said many times that there are only "seven main plots" in
all of literature.  What ARE those seven plots??? Can I get a list of
the seven basic situations or storylines?
Subject: Re: The Seven Main Plots in All of Literature = ???
Answered By: digsalot-ga on 29 May 2003 21:00 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello there

1 basic plot - 3 basic plots - 7 basic plots - 20 basic plots - 36
basic plots

All of these seem to have have good reasonings going for them.  I
guess it just depends on how detailed you want to make a basic plot.

According to Jessamyn West, an IPL volunteer librarian, the seven
basic plots are:

1 - [wo]man vs. nature 

2 - [wo]man vs. man 

3 - [wo]man vs. the environment 

4 - [wo]man vs. machines/technology 

5 - [wo]man vs. the supernatural 

6 - [wo]man vs. self 

7 - [wo]man vs. god/religion 

You can find that list along with the others here: - The Internet Public

Additional information about the above list: - The Straight Dope:
What are the seven basic literary plots?

There are also claims made that there are seven basic needs to a story
line.  So I thought I would add them.  This is called trying to fill
up the page since the direct answer to your question is so short that
my fellow researchers will climb all over me for not giving anough
answer for the money.  I also double spaced the list to try and
stretch things a bit.

It is amazing what peer pressure can do.

1. A hero – the person through whose eyes we see the story unfold, set
against a larger background.

2. The hero’s character flaw – a weakness or defense mechanism that
hinders the hero in such a way as to render him/her incomplete.

3. Enabling circumstances – the surroundings the hero is in at the
beginning of the story, which allow the hero to maintain his/her
character flaw.

4. An opponent – someone who opposes the hero in getting or doing what
he/she wants. Not always a villain. For example, in a romantic comedy,
the opponent could be the man or woman whom the hero seeks romance
with. The opponent is the person who instigates the life-changing

5. The hero’s ally – the person who spends the most time with the hero
and who helps the hero overcome his/her character flaw.

6. The life-changing event – a challenge, threat or opportunity
usually instigated by the opponent, which forces the hero to respond
in some way that’s related to the hero’s flaw.

7. Jeopardy – the high stakes that the hero must risk to overcome
his/her flaw. These are the dramatic events that lend excitement and
challenge to the quest.

search - Google

terms - seven basic plots, seven basic story lines, 7 basic plots, 7
basic story lines

Please note: - I double spaced between search and terms as well.

If I may clarify anything, please ask.


Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 29 May 2003 22:22 PDT
Just as an additional side note, here is some more detail about the
list of 36.  One of our more colorful researchers (mostly pink)
thought it would be a good addition.

Cheers again

Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 29 May 2003 22:54 PDT
It would also help if I put the link.
mikeginnyc-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
The essence of my query was fulfilled ... and it was very QUICKLY and
clearly fulfilled, which I appreciated.  I appreciated, as well, that
digsalot-ga has a sense of humor ... though it began to wear thin for
me, the SECOND time "D" referred to double-spacing to make up for not
having more material, which - even though merely a joke - casts me in
the position of being the childlike, gullible client, so easily fooled
by the cheap trick of spacing.  (By the way, D, the double-spacing
doesn't even come through when Google forwards your answer.)  I was
headed toward a 3-star rating, when D forwarded a clarification, with
enough integrity to credit MostlyPink with the impetus to send it,
that made me feel more thoroughly and conscientiously answered. Which
raised my rating to 4 stars ... and, let me say again, a reflection of
my genuine appreciation for a fast and, indeed, thorough answer.  Not
"exceptional", to quote the next line of this feedback form, but truly
welcome nonetheless. THANKS. mike

Subject: Re: The Seven Main Plots in All of Literature = ???
From: livers-ga on 15 Nov 2004 10:08 PST
It may be worth noting that Christopher Booker in his "Seven Basic
Plots -- why we tell stories" has a different take -- and it took him
35 years to draw his conclusions, having started in 1969!!

The man vs xxxx plots above would all be summarised as "overcoming the monster".

He gives us, (fogive me for desperately oversimplifying his magnus opus):

1. Overcoming the monster -- defeating some force which threatens...
e.g. most Hollywood movies; Star Wars, James Bond.

2. The Quest -- typically a group setoff in search of something and
(usually) find it. e.g. Watership Down, Pilgrim's Progress.

3. Journey and Return -- the hero journeys away from home to somewhere
different and finally comes back having experienced something and
maybe changed for the better. e.g. Wizard of Oz, Gullivers Travels.

4. Comedy - not neccesarily a funny plot. Some kind of
misunderstanding or ignorance is created that keeps parties apart
which is resolved towards the end bringing them back together. e.g.
Bridget Jones Diary, War and Peace.

5. Tragedy - Someone is tempted in some way, vanity, greed etc and
becomes increasingly desperate or trapped by their actions until at a
climax they usually die. Unless it's a Hollywood movie, when they
escape to a happy ending. e.g. Devils' Advocate, Hamlet.

6. Rebirth - hero is captured or oppressed and seems to be in a state
of living death until it seems all is lost when miraculously they are
freed. e.g. Snow White.

7. Rags to Riches - self explanatory really. e.g. Cinderella &
derivatives (all 27,000 of them)!!!

Each of these plots goes through 4 or 5 main phases which are
universally recognisable and re-used. Some stories choose to jump in
at phase 3 or leave early and often leave us feeling unsatisfied.

What is much more interesting is Why are there only seven basic plots;
how are they important. For this you need to read his book, but the
answer is connected strongly to the psychology of Jung, the Ego and
the Self.

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