They say there is only a finite number of stories in the world.
They say that as few as seven, or six, or three narratives exist and that these are simply told again and again, with the names and places changed to protect the storyteller from overly observant readers.
They will tell you that the journey along these narrow narrative paths, will still have merit because the view is worth seeing from each of the varied and different stopping off points.
But who are they?
Christopher Booker is widely referred to in these discussions. His 2019 book The Seven Basics Plots: Why We Tell Stories come up with, well, seven basic plots (monster / rags-to-riches / quest / voyage-and-return / rebirth / comedy,
In 1959 Foster-Harris came up with only three (tragedy, unhappy ending, happy ending), which seems to show that this kind of thing has been around for some time as has the rare skill of stating the bloody obvious.
I was initially sceptical about these ideas, but then I realised that over-simplification was a lot of fun.
With a little imagination, it is quite possible to categorise everything in this way.
Let’s look around at the animal kingdom for some inspiration:
Cats – hissers / purrers / scratchers
Dogs – bouncers / biters / waddlers
Bears – gummy bears / teddy bears / ones with fish in their mouths
In fact, you can equally categorise anything you want. Go ahead, try it, it’s fun.
Politicians – Jolly and fat / bony and austere / principled and dangerous
Movies – expensive films / cheap and arty / foreign
Vacuum cleaners – spinny ones / skinny ones / those that are both skinny and spinny
It’s a new year, so we are encouraged to simplify our lives in much the same way. So, a typical new year’s resolution could be to drink less, exercise more and work smarter.
More whimsically, I would offer myself the following advice: write more, worry less, write even more.
Luna the Dog’s resolutions are: bounce more, read more, and chew more socks.
Socks are Luna’s main obsession (besides books). The habit hasn’t got so bad yet as to cause her to pull them directly off your feet, but she’ll be hiding around the corner when you finally take them off yourself.
And when it comes to stories, she has the following classification to offer: those with socks in them (happy ending) / those without (unhappy ending) / and those with vacuum cleaners (tragedy).