Story, theories of

Even the most realistic story inadequately represents the confusing complexity of real events. Reality is never so tidily "real" as when dressed up and dished up as a story!

But there are many theories; some are inspirational, some are schematic. I'll try to collect a few of them here. Also, don't forget to check out my rules for making cuts, and my list of pairs of stock characters

Standard Construction:

Grapple with a problem in stages.

  1. Exposition
  2. Rising Action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling Action
  5. Denouement

Simply Stated:

  1. Get someone up a tree.
  2. Throw rocks at him.
  3. Get him down again.

The Seven Stories According to Christopher Booker:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

Theory of Four Stories:

  1. Between two people - love
  2. Between three people - love triangle
  3. Struggle for power
  4. Journey

Ronald B. Tobias: 20 Master Plots:

  1. Quest
  2. Adventure
  3. Pursuit
  4. Rescue
  5. Escape
  6. Revenge
  7. The Riddle
  8. Rivalry
  9. Underdog
  10. Temptation
  11. Metamorphosis
  12. Transformation
  13. Maturation
  14. Love
  15. Forbidden Love
  16. Sacrifice
  17. Discovery
  18. Wretched Excess
  19. Ascension
  20. Descencion

Denis Johnston's Eight Plots for Plays:

(I like this the best!)

  1. Cinderella - or unrecognised virtue at last recognised
  2. Achilles - the fatal flaw
  3. Faust - the debt that must be paid
  4. Tristan - the love triangle
  5. Circe - the spider and the fly
  6. Romeo and Juliet - boy meets girl etc.
  7. Orpheus - the gift taken away
  8. The Hero Who Cannot Be Kept Down

Howard Barker:

"The theatre must start to take its audience seriously. It must stop telling them stories they can understand."

Jan Kjærstad:

"Stories are not about what is good or evil, but about good and evil. A story has both aesthetics and ethics as a complementarity, if I may use such a word. But in addition, stories have a third inexplicable element, something that produces a kind of leap within us and moves outside or within the ethic/aesthetic problem. And here it is not about "beyond good and evil," but a quite different problem, a problem which in a sense lies ahead, is more fundamental; and this completely different level concerns our powers of imagination.

"Stories then, are essentially about giving people new eyes so that they can see the world in a different way."

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Jonathan Paul Cook © 2010