The Seven Basic Plots

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories is a 2004 book by Christopher Booker containing a Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning. Booker had worked on the book for 34 years.

The meta-plot

The meta-plot begins with the anticipation stage, in which the hero is called to the adventure to come. This is followed by a dream stage, in which the adventure begins, the hero has some success, and has an illusion of invincibility. However, this is then followed by a frustration stage, in which the hero has his first confrontation with the enemy, and the illusion of invincibility is lost. This worsens in the nightmare stage, which is the climax of the plot, where hope is apparently lost. Finally, in the resolution, the hero overcomes his burden against the odds.[

The key thesis of the book: “However many characters may appear in a story, its real concern is with just one: its hero or heroine. It is he with whose fate we identify, as we see him gradually developing towards that state of self-realization which marks the end of the story. Ultimately it is in relation to this central figure that all other characters in a story take on their significance. What each of the other characters represents is really only some aspect of the inner state of the hero or heroine themselves.”

The Seven Basic Plots are the basics of plotting:

The plots

Overcoming the Monster

Definition: The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist’s homeland.

Examples: PerseusTheseusBeowulfDraculaThe War of the WorldsNicholas NicklebyThe Guns of NavaroneSeven Samurai (and its Western remake The Magnificent Seven), James BondStar Wars.[

Rags to Riches

Definition: The poor protagonist acquires power, wealth, and/or a mate, loses it all and gains it back, growing as a person as a result.

Examples: CinderellaAladdinJane EyreA Little PrincessGreat ExpectationsDavid CopperfieldThe Prince and the PauperBrewster’s MillionsThe Emperor’s New Groove.[

The Quest

Definition: The protagonist and companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location. They face temptations and other obstacles along the way.

Examples: The OdysseyThe Pilgrim’s ProgressThe Lord Of The RingsKing Solomon’s MinesWatership DownLightning ThiefApocalypse Now.[

Voyage and Return

Definition: The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to them, they return with experience.

GONE WITH THE WIND, from left: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, 1939

Examples: RamayanaAlice in WonderlandGoldilocks and the Three BearsOrpheusThe Time MachinePeter RabbitThe HobbitThe SpongeBob SquarePants MovieMad Max: Fury RoadBrideshead RevisitedThe Rime of the Ancient MarinerGone with the WindThe Third Man.[


Definition: Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion. Booker makes sure to stress that comedy is more than humor. It refers to a pattern where the conflict becomes more and more confusing but is at last made plain in a single clarifying event. The majority of romance films fall into this category.

Examples: A Midsummer Night’s DreamMuch Ado About NothingTwelfth NightBridget Jones’s DiaryMusic and LyricsSliding DoorsFour Weddings and a Funeral.


Definition: The protagonist’s character flaw or great mistake which is their undoing. Their unfortunate end evokes pity at their folly and the fall of a fundamentally good character.

Examples: MacbethThe Picture of Dorian GrayCarmenBonnie and ClydeJules et JimAnna KareninaMadame BovaryJohn DillingerRomeo and JulietJulius Caesar.[


Definition: An event forces the main character to change their ways and often become a better person.

Examples: “The Frog Prince“, “Beauty and the Beast“, The Snow QueenA Christmas CarolThe Secret GardenPeer Gynt.

Here is the link of the book should you wish to purchase it:

Mohammed Abbasi

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