How many stories are there?

There is a lot of talk in literature and writing that revolves around the concept of there really only being a handful of stories (plots) that exist...and everything we read Is really just a re-hash of those stories with settings and characters switched around.

Joseph Campbell researched and created the idea of the mono-myth - the idea that states there is one huge story and every tale just takes parts from that and makes it their own.  You may have heard of the Hero's Journey. Well, Campbell is the one that forged ahead with that idea and made it something solid.

But there are other workers of the craft with their own ideas where the grand monomyth is concerned.

Christopher Booker posits that there are 7 basic plots and all stories fall into one of those seven categories:
  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth
  8. Rebellion against "The One"
  9. Mystery
You can see 9 listed here, that is because the last two (according to Booker) are rare in the older texts but more common in modern.

Then we have Dramatica - which is a relatively new idea about story writing crafted by Chris Huntley and Michelle Phillips.  Dramatica looks at tale-telling from the angle of problem-solving.  Every story is about a problem of some kind, and the characters are in it to figure out the problem. It doesn't really matter what the genre is, all stories fall into this idea. Huntley and Phillips crafted their own software suite to help writers engage with their theory of story building.  I've not looked into it myself.

If you sit down with your favorite book, you can no doubt tear it apart and find elements of each of these in it.   I mentioned in a previous post about Cinderella being on Campbell's Hero's Journey.  If you take the tale apart, you can easily find those elements present.  You have your very basic idea of the girl who is called to adventure via the invitation to the ball.  Her supernatural ally that is enlisted is her fairy godmother. She has to overcome guardians in the form of her Stepmother and Stepsisters. She faces challenges and temptation at the Ball when she meets the Prince and wants to stay, only to be reminded of her deadlines when she dashes away. She loses everything as the magic fades and has to find her way home, where she has to face and overcome a second trial when the Prince comes looking for her (and she has to decide if she wants to escape or accept her fate).  When she finally chooses and escapes her imprisonment, she then has to decide how to handle the remnants of the enemy's influence on her ( in the figure of her stepmother and stepsisters).

Cinderella could also be seen from Booker's breakdown as either the "Overcoming the Monster" or "Rags to Riches" storyline.  Likewise, she has a problem (or a series of several) that need to be solved, and the tale is all about how she overcomes those challenges (using Dramatica).

Whether you adhere to Campbell, Booker, or Huntley/Phillips, the fact seems to remain that there is enough evidence to support the idea that stories have outlines (which may have existed for millennia). We, as authors, are merely their channel.

So - how would you craft YOUR choose-your-own-adventure?

C.S. Kading