Are there only 7 types of stories?

I’ve heard it said-- possibly in some high-school level English class-- that there are only a limited number of story types, and every book, movie, short story, piece of fiction, etc. will fit into one of these categories. The exact number I remember hearing was 7, I think, but a quick Google search has the number being repeated as 3, 5, 6, 7, and 14; if I searched around some more, I’m sure I could probably find a few more numbers. The number 3 (which represents: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself) seems too general. I was thinking in terms of more specific terms, although I’m not sure what those would be.

I’m wondering if there is any truth to this idea that the entire range of fiction writing can be categorized in a small number of skeletal story types.

There are only two types of numbers: odd, and even.
There are only three types of numbers: positive, negative, and zero
There are only four types of numbers: less than one, one, even primes, and odd primes
There are only five types of numbers: negative numbers, zero, numbers with fewer than five digits in base 10, numbers with exactly five digits in base ten, and numbers with more than five digits in base 10.

You can partition an infinite set an infinite number of ways. Catagorizations are ways of imposing a view on a large set; the idea that they’re somehow “universal” is silly.

Besides, there are only three types of stories:

  • Stories that start with “It was a dark and stormy night.”
  • Stories that don’t start with “It was a dark and stormy night,” but whose first letter is a vowel.
  • Stories that don’t meet the above two criteria.

There! Hyper-specific, no vagueness at all, completely rational, and utterly useless.

Besides, your library contains more than seven books, no?

The Master speaks.

The notable recent attempt - which I haven’t read - at arguing that there are exactly seven basic plots is Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.

There you go, mathematical proof that 4 is not a number :).

(I think you meant numbers less than 1, 1, primes, and composites).

I was told there would be no math. :smack:

Whatever happened to “someone wants something and is having a hard time getting it?”

Which type is the movie “Memento”?

Since this is about the ARTS, let’s move this from GQ to Cafe Society.

samclem GQ moderator

Judging by the description of Booker’s scheme in Denis Dutton’s review, he’d probably lump it into the “Tragedy” category.

A classification which, inevitably, really tells us nothing about the film we wouldn’t already have realised.