'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Saturday, 8 May 2010


Illustration by Slug Signorino

I read somewhere that there were only a limited number of story plots. Because of my characteristic memory quirk (that is, remembering the general idea but not the essential details) I can't remember if it was seven, or ten, or how many. Anyway, in the belief that this was something that is carved on a stone tablet somewhere as being one of those Well-Known Literary Truths, I asked my friend Google.
I could find plenty of discussion about this, but no consensus on the actual number. The main problem seems to be the definition of how detailed you get with the definition of the story plot.

However, Cecil Adams in The Straight Dope plot article explains it nicely and I do like his final words:

"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."

But this is all just a preamble to this great little piece of writing I found.
Click on it to read it more easily.


  1. Great post! There's another cool one: http://bit.ly/cTQRvJ

  2. Welcome to TLVD James! And thanks for your comment. Yes, the Avatar vs Pocohontas/Tarzan plots. And I expect there are more.

  3. Hmm...fascinating. I believe the modern term is 'intertextuality' - plagiarism is so not done! x

  4. 'Intertextuality' - What a great word!

  5. That amused me. This is so obvious but I never seem to see these things until they are pointed out. Now, of course, I shall be comparing everything to see if I can identify its intertextual partner.

    Love the WV: deladips. Some sort of strawberry in chocolate and cream concoction perhaps.

  6. Mmm, or gold Kiwifruit slices served with a peppermint chocolate sauce for dunking.
    Or, I know! - the best fondue I ever had: Banana slices in hot toffee sauce. A real delectadipple!

  7. There is some truth I think in a limited number of basic plots. Star Wars is hardly the "original" of its kind either. Have to confess I never got through the Star Wars films; but I'm all the more familiar with the Potter books. Rowling borrows quite deliberately from all kinds of classics, that's "her thing", and I think she does it well. My theory is that the plot of the whole HP series is really based on Beowulf. (Link goes to a piece posted in a "side-blog" of mine. It's not quite my whole world.)

  8. It could be said that both Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker are characters in one of the bigger well known story plots which is
    "The Journey Of The Hero" - this journey is an archetypal journey that we all take (either physcially or psychologically) within our own lives in one way or another - and this universal story is the biggest story of all!

  9. Welcome to TLVD DawnTreader. I have had a peek at your wonderful Potter discussions, will have to revisit when I have more time. (Thanks for introducing me.)

    Another author who uses plots and names from almost everywhere, including Beowulf, is Terry Pratchett.

    Alden , yes indeed. We are the hero of our own film. Wasn't there a film about that?

  10. Katherine, I'm also well familiar with Terry Pratchett. I've listened to the whole Discworld series as audio books (thanks to my brother who is a huge fan and has been collecting them).

    Found my way to your blog from GB's (which you might already have guessed perhaps)

  11. Ye, Katherine. It is called 'The Movie Hero'. How original is that?