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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Are There Any New Stories?

I’ve decided to briefly leave the world of politics and current events and write some literary posts. So, here we go.

Are there any new stories? It has long been taught in creative writing courses that there are only 6 or 7 basic stories and that all literature replays these stories, usually modified in their telling by the human era in which they have been told. Their success from a literary standpoint is based on the quality of the writing and the effectiveness in which the tale is told. Christopher Booker, a former Spectator columnist and Private Eye, wrote a 700 page book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. He divides these plots as follows:

–––Overcoming the Monster. A hero defeats a monster and restores order to a world threatened by the monster, e.g. Beowulf, Jaws,

–––Rags to Riches. A modest, usually virtuous but downtrodden character achieve a happy ending when his special talents or true beauty is revealed to the world, e.g.  Includes any number of classics such as Cinderella, David Copperfield.

–––The Quest. A hero, often with a friend or friends, travels to find an invaluable treasure, battles evil and overwhelming odds, and ends when he finds the treasure and gets the girl, e.g. The Odyssey.

––––Voyage and Return. A hero is suddenly propelled into strange and alien worlds and has to find a way back to normal life again, e.g. Robinson Crusoe.

–––– Comedy. Not necessarily humorous. There is some kind of confusion that has to be resolved before the hero and heroine can be united, e.g. Shakespeare’s comedies

–––––Tragedy. The terrible consequences of human overreaching and egotism, e.g. Julius Caesar, Anna Karenina, King Lear etc.

––––Rebirth.A threatening shadow is nearly victorious until a series of (often miraculous) events results in redemption and rebirth, and the renewal of a happier world, e.g. A Christmas Carol (Ebeneezer Scrooge).

Therefore, one can say that there are no new stories, and though as hard as we try, we end up with a varient of an already told tale. In Science Fiction ( one of my prime interests)  we can always add the science and technology that sets us apart from earlier times. But the basic plot that underlies the tale, in fact any tale I think, has been told before.

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