Thursday, 26 January 2012

What's Your Story?

Are you worried that your story is so totally awesome and unique you don't even want to breathe a word about your query because someone will take your idea it's just that amazing?

Well, cool your heels sister, chances are your completely original, never-been-seen-before-idea, has already been written.

RELAX. Apparently every story is basically a remake. There is a common belief that every story ever written falls into one of seven categories.

  1. Tragedy. Where the hero with a fatal flaw meets a tragic end.
  2. Comedy. Not necessary a thigh slapping, laugh fest, but always a happy ending, usually of the romantic persuasion.
  3. Overcoming the Monster.
  4. Voyage and Return.
  5. Quest. Ah yes, it is the journey and not the destination that propels the plot forward.
  6. Rags to Riches.
  7. Rebirth. This is where the main character has an epiphany and discovers a new meaning of living.
I tend to agree with this list. But then why do we keep writing the same stories over again?

Probably for the same reason musicians keep writing songs with the same notes that Bach and Beethoven used. And the same reason fashion designers come out with new ways to wear pants and jackets each season.

The theme may be the same, but the characters, settings, and dialogue are different. Every story is a window display but how you dress up the mannequin makes all the difference.

Let's look at the list again. I've put a classic and contemporary novel beside each one to demonstrate how wonderfully different two of the same story can be.

  1. Tragedy. Macbeth by Shakespeare. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  2. Comedy. Emma by Jane Austen. When It Happens by Susane Colassanti
  3. Overcoming the Monster. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  4. Voyage and Return. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll. Reckless by Cornelia Funke
  5. Quest. Lord of The Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. City Of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  6. Rags to Riches. Cinderella by Brothers Grimm. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti
  7. Rebirth. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

What theme does your story fall into? Get any new ideas for your MC? Will they meet a tragic end or have a happy romantic ending?

Next Monday I'll be blogging the latest episode of Once Upon A Time.



Unknown said...

"Every story is a window display but how you dress up the mannequin makes all the difference." <-- I like that :-)

I definitely agree that we're telling the same basic stories over and over, but we obviously find SOMETHING sufficiently different in them, or we'd stop buying new books!

BR Myers said...

Thanks, Rachel. I have a thing for fancy department stores!

And yes, keep buying books.

Jessica Taylor said...

This is fascinating, Bethany. I've written 3 manuscripts. I'm querying the 3rd and completely re-imagining/rewriting the 1st. Every single one would fall in the "quest" category.

BR Myers said...

Thank you! Glad to help the creative juices flowing. Good luck with your 'quest'.

Unknown said...

Well, it was Joseph Campbell that said there is only one story. The monomyth, and it is simply recreated over and over. With my students we have studied numerous books, and its totally true. These are all just variations of the monomyth. :) Cool info. Thanks!

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