The Seven Basic Storylines

If you’re struggling for story ideas, the seven basic story lines will help you find inspiration.

Tuesdays mean Twitter here at the “Friend” Fiction Desk – Tracey’s Writing Hour at 11 am. One thing that our writers occasionally tweet about is writer’s block – finding inspiration when faced with a blank page. Years ago, I remember reading in a film magazine that there are essentially seven basic plotlines, and all others (such as mystery or romance) are related to them in some way. So if you’re struggling to find inspiration, here are the seven basic storylines, as outlined by Christopher Booker in his book, “The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories”.

  1. Overcoming the monster – so, essentially, goodies v baddies! The protagonist sets out to defeat a malign force. Examples include Star Wars, war films, James Bond.
  2. Rags to Riches – a poor person gains riches, and matures as a person in the meantime. For example – Aladdin, Cinderella, Oliver Twist.
  3. The Quest – an important object or location must be reached, with numerous hurdles to be overcome en route. E.g. The Lord of the Rings.
  4. Voyage and Return – the journey to somewhere new and the return home, with threats overcome in the meantime. One example is, The Wizard of Oz.
  5. Comedy – light-hearted, often with misunderstandings along the way, and a feel-good resolution. For example – Christmas favourite, Home Alone!
  6. Tragedy – our main character has a fatal flaw or makes a mistake, although they have often have an essentially good character. Examples include King Lear, the Scottish play, Romeo and Juliet.
  7. Rebirth – a central event forces the main character to re-evaluate their life and change for the better. As seen in A Christmas Carol, and Beauty and the Beast.

Got a story in mind but not sure what to do now? Our Writing Tools can help –

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!