Digsalot-ga responded at Google questions to the query, "The Seven Main Plots in All of Literature = ???:
1 - [wo]man vs. nature 2 - [wo]man vs. man [I suspect this should be [wo]man v [wo]man] 3 - [wo]man vs. the environment 4 - [wo]man vs. machines/technology 5 - [wo]man vs. the supernatural 6 - [wo]man vs. self 7 - [wo]man vs. god/religion
Presumably literature mirrors life and so I thought it would be interesting to see how many of those plots showed up in today's newspaper. Today's Monday so there's not much news in the Anchorage Daily News. When I was picking stories, I did have these seven plots in mind and decided not to keep adding the rest of the short AP pieces that had the same plots. I wasn't thinking at all of Cecil Adams' three topics (see below) or the story-line needs (also below.)
I've put the stories and the plots on this table and checked the plot I thought the story told. I would assume that there could be more than one such plot in a story, but that didn't appear to be the case today. Perhaps reporters are focused on one plot per story, unless it's a really long one.
(Some links are to the same story from other sources because the Anchorage Daily News doesn't post AP stories in their online version. Also I've used the hard copy headlines, which are not always the same as the online headlines.)
I don't claim to be correct here, but this is what it seems like to me.
|Stories||Seven Plots "Man v. ______"|
|Redistricting could lead to GOP majority in legislature||✔|
|Aging populations mean millions more diabetics||✔|
|Syria calls for Arab summit after suspension||✔|
|Wind energy project faulted||✔*|
|Foreign policy trips candidates||✔|
|Rocket to space station launches flawlessly||✔|
|Missing man found dead in rubble of home||✔|
|Supercommittee at cross purposes||✔|
|Police drive protesters from park||✔|
|Kotzebue teen leads the charge to prevent suicide||✔||✔|
|✔* this could be v. nature or tech but the story was focused on human mistakes|
I think I'd add another plot line, particularly with the Supercommittee story - man v. ignorance - but I guess that is covered in 'self'.
This is a pretty small sample size. I suspect the emphasis on man v. man would continue in a larger study. It's also clear that the same story could be written with a different plot.
Are there only seven plots? Cecil Adams, at The Straight Dope, thinks not:
My point is, never mind the 36, 20, 7, or whatever basic plots--take out sex, violence, and death and you lose 90 percent of literature right there.Sex is absent from this selection (No sexual harassment or Penn State stories today), but five of the ten include death and three touch on violence. I'd add money to the mix. Three of the stories touch on money (either $ amounts or 'banking.')
The forum writer also supplies 'seven basic needs for a story line.'
1. A hero – the person through whose eyes we see the story unfold, set
against a larger background.
2. The hero’s character flaw – a weakness or defense mechanism that
hinders the hero in such a way as to render him/her incomplete.
3. Enabling circumstances – the surroundings the hero is in at the
beginning of the story, which allow the hero to maintain his/her
4. An opponent – someone who opposes the hero in getting or doing what he/she wants. Not always a villain. For example, in a romantic comedy, the opponent could be the man or woman whom the hero seeks romance with. The opponent is the person who instigates the life-changing event.
5. The hero’s ally – the person who spends the most time with the hero and who helps the hero overcome his/her character flaw.
6. The life-changing event – a challenge, threat or opportunity usually instigated by the opponent, which forces the hero to respond in some way that’s related to the hero’s flaw.
7. Jeopardy – the high stakes that the hero must risk to overcome his/her flaw. These are the dramatic events that lend excitement and challenge to the quest.
All the stories but the Rocket story have clear opponents (though the hero and the opponent are not usually clearly identified). All have a life changing events, and all have some jeopardy.
And clearly, who is chosen by the reporter as the hero or the opponent will affect our perception of events, especially events we know little about.
Do we want to read/hear news stories that don't have these plot lines? It could be boring. How does that affect the accuracy of our understanding of what is happening in the world?
I'm reminded of the recent report that most types of crime in the US were down significantly, but that people don't feel that because the news still highlights the crimes (jeopardy, the deaths, the opponents.)