from Marketing Memetics, by Michael Taylor
According to Booker there were only 7 stories ever told. Overcoming the Monster (Jaws, Beowulf, King Kong), Voyage and Return (Alice in Wonderland, The Time Machine, The Wizard of Oz), Rags to Riches (Aladdin, Cinderella, Slumdog Millionaire), The Quest (Lord of the Rings, The Iliad, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Tragedy (Macbeth, Requiem for a Dream, Anna Karenina), Comedy (Dumb and Dumber, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Big Lebowski) and Rebirth (Groundhog Day, A Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast). Every successful myth, movie, novel and TV show can be placed in one of these categories.
From Aristotle’s 3 act structure to Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, humans have reverse-engineered what makes a good story for millennia. Only Vonnegut that had his theory fed into a computer. Researchers coded the words in 1,737 fiction texts by happiness, and found six core ‘shapes’, mapping to Vonnegut’s thesis. By extracting the shape of the story, you see patterns you otherwise wouldn’t. The tale of Cinderella is no obvious match for Christianity’s origin story. Looking at Vonnegut’s graph, “the tales were identical”.
It starts with a staircase-like climb in good fortune with Cinderella’s fairy godmother, which “looks like the creation myth of virtually every society on earth” — deities imparting incremental gifts. The stroke of midnight lines up with ‘let there be light’ and Cinderella’s curfew is a mirror image to Adam and Eve’s rejection from the Garden of Eden. If this exercise seems academic, Vonnegut insists this is “the most popular story in our civilization.” and “every time it’s retold, someone makes a million dollars.”
A Story of Stories
Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus
Kurt Vonnegut graphed the world’s most popular stories
KURT VONNEGUT GRAPHS THE SHAPES OF STORIES
Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories
Story structure – the hidden framework that hangs your story together
The emotional arcs of stories are dominated by six basic shapes
The Seven Basic Plots
The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling, as Identified by an A.I.
Three, six or 36: how many basic plots are there in all stories ever written?
Understanding The Seven Basic Plots
What is Dramatica?