Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Storytelling: plots

One interesting PGU in writing is to list the number of possible (basic) plots. Some (many?) writers have done some thinking on that, and come up numbers ranging from 1 ("stuff happens") to 100, and anything in between. One popular number seems to be 7, as in this book called "The Seven Basic Plots". Here's one writer claiming that there are 20 plots, and here's 36.

The usual hierarchy applies: how many plots depends on what level of abstraction. The more detailed, the more plots, obviously. With enough details there are as many plots as there are stories. And with everything abstracted away from you get one single plot: "stuff happens", which covers pretty much all stories (but isn't very helpful in any way).

I think 7 plots sound about right; the right level of abstraction for most purposes. I will make it one of my (ongoing) assignments to identify which those are (maybe I'll agree with one of those who already have decided upon 7 specific plots. Maybe not.)

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