I saw this in another answer

there are considered to be only seven or so actual plots anyway

Is this true? Is it like plots are generalized into a couple of types or forms? Where can I read more about this?

  • One analogy is that stories are like dresses designed to fit a limited line of mannequins. There may be only seven of those, but the stories are just as varied as dresses.
    – J.G.
    Apr 7 '18 at 21:55

It is true to a point. As you suggest, they are generalized form encapsulations of conflict. In other words, they are archetypes. Similarly, you will hear folks say there are only 32 plots at times, too. The number varies. Often one will be more popular than others for a while.

Understanding them can be helpful at times if you're studying story and story story structure.

Wikipedia has a nice summary of the seven basic plots. The resources and external links at the bottom might lead to other helpful articles. I didn't follow them.

  • 1
    I have written several stories that fall into none of the seven categories.
    – user5645
    Apr 24 '14 at 14:29
  • It's often a good idea if you could pull the relevant information out of an external source and put it directly in your answer. In case a website goes down or its content is edited, or becomes otherwise unavailable. Answers should be standalone sources of information. Apr 9 '18 at 8:25
  • Christopher Booker wrote a huge book on this exact topic. Called "the seven basic plots", it is quite detailed and extensive. The wikipedia link in this answer, is just a summary of Booker's Book. So if wikipedia ever gets closed down, people can just go find the original book, hopefully it won't be out of print in this dystopian wikipedia-less future. Apr 9 '18 at 9:58

When I took an SF writing class from Joe Haldeman, he said there was only one basic plot: Trouble.

  • There are books without trouble. I have this children's book that shows two characters baking a cake. No trouble. But a plot.
    – user5645
    Apr 26 '14 at 17:17
  • 3
    In that book, the trouble is that the children are hungry and have no cake. :-) Apr 28 '14 at 15:25

This site has lists of 3,7,20, and 36 respectively


I will post the list of 7 here:

"7 basic plots as remembered from second grade by IPL volunteer librarian Jessamyn West:

  • [wo]man vs. nature
  • [wo]man vs. [wo]man
  • [wo]man vs. the environment
  • [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  • [wo]man vs. the supernatural
  • [wo]man vs. self
  • [wo]man vs. god/religion"
  • How about animal fables? No [wo]man in those, still have plot.
    – user5645
    Apr 26 '14 at 17:18
  • 1
    @user5646 - the animals in fables are substitutes for people, with certain characteristics exaggerated; they're not (usually) meant to be literally interpreted as being actual animals.
    – Jules
    Apr 8 '18 at 21:46

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