What’s Your Story Type?

Story Power author Kate Farrell has written a new blog post on the 7 types of story there are to tell, take a look.

We are in the middle of a story of epic proportions: global pandemic, record-breaking natural disasters, social and economic injustice, upcoming national elections. How will it all end—and what is the story you’re telling yourself about it? You may be surprised to discover that everyone has a favorite story type, and that there are really only seven types.

Your daily predictions for the outcome of ongoing events might be based on your story type of choice.

In a recent, encyclopedic analysis of plot or tale types written by Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, Booker states in the introduction:

“There are indeed a small number of plots which are so fundamental to the way we tell stories that it is virtually impossible for any storyteller ever entirely to break away from them … Once we become acquainted with [stories’] symbolic language, and begin to catch something of its extraordinary significance, there is literally no story in the world which cannot then be seen in a new light: because we have come to the heart of what stories are about and why we tell them.”

Christopher Booker reflects on the deeper nature of storytelling and mythmaking through a decades-long analysis, influenced by Carl Jung. Though Booker lists seven basic plots in the title of his book, he actually includes nine in the book itself, stating that the last two are more recent:

1. Overcoming the Monster: in which the hero must venture to the lair of a monster which is threatening the community, destroy it, and escape (often with a treasure).
2. Rags to Riches: in which someone who seems quite commonplace or downtrodden but has the potential for greatness manages to fulfill that potential.
3. The Quest: in which the hero embarks on a journey to obtain a great prize that is located far away.
4. Voyage and Return: in which the hero journeys to a strange world that at first is enchanting and then so threatening the hero finds he must escape and return home to safety.
5. Comedy: in which a community divided by frustration, selfishness, bitterness, confusion, lack of self-knowledge, lies, etc. must be reunited in love and harmony (often symbolized by marriage).
6. Tragedy: in which a character falls from prosperity to destruction because of a fatal mistake.
7. Rebirth: in which a dark power or villain traps the hero in a living death until he/she is freed by another character’s loving act.
8. Rebellion Against ‘The One’: in which the hero rebels against the all-powerful entity that controls the world until he is forced to surrender to that power.
9. Mystery: In which an outsider to some horrendous event (such as a murder) tries to discover the truth of what happened.

It’s tempting to critique an overarching analysis such as this mammoth effort: the reduction of almost the entirety of world literature into seven or nine plot types. But Booker’s system has value in simply how he is thinking about story: that there are basic story themes we all seem to use and that these have sustaining and compelling power.

Storytellers can classify their own material in general categories as a way to reflect or define their purpose in sharing stories. For example, if you seek to entertain as a storyteller, you might not tell stories of rebirth. On the other hand, if you are a storyteller/facilitator in a penitentiary program, stories of rebellion and rebirth might be excellent tale types.

Knowing that stories’ basic themes are limited, that story material will repeat ancient patterns, whether those in folklore or literature, gives modern storytellers a shape or structure to their craft.

Prompts: Story Types

1. What is your favorite plot type?

2. Close your eyes and recall its emotional effect.

3. What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?

4. Which books do you read the most? What genre?

5. What plot types do most of your personal stories have?

6. What effect do you want your stories to have on your audience?

As you experience these uncertain times day by day, be aware of yourself as the storyteller to your own life. What story type you are telling will not only frame your responses, but possibly influence many others.


Story Power by Kate Farrell

Story power

Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories

Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent—it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story.