How do you write a bestseller or an award-winning screenplay? You could say great writing, or unique characters, or exciting conflicts. But writing a lot is a great storyTo knowjmasterIskind of storyyou try to say
What types of stories are there? And how do you use them to tell a great story?
In this article, we'll cover the ten story types, share which ones are becoming bestsellers, and share the hidden values that will help you master each type.
But first, what do I mean by "types of stories"?
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Definition of types of stories
As stories evolved over thousands of years, they began to break down into patterns called story types. These types tend to trade with the same underlying values. They also share structure, characters, and what Robert McKee calls obligatory scenes.
But wait, are there really story types?
First, I want to address a certain uneasiness you might feel about this idea. If you think stories are magical and mystical and the idea of putting them in a box sounds awful to you, I just want to say I get it. I feel the same way about stories!
You see, there are two ways to discover the patterns that stories take: the different types of stories.
You can start with the stories themselves: search through hundreds or even thousands until you get to four, seven, twelve or even thirty-six main plots. That's what Christopher Booker did with his excellent guide.The Seven Basic Actions: Why we tell stories, and you can getBreakdowns of each type here.
And of course that can help, but what about stories that are a little weird, genre-bending, or offbeat?
Don't they have a "type"?
The other way to figure out the type of stories is to dig deeper, to the underlying reasons people tell stories in the first place, to the reason we've been telling stories for thousands of years, right down to the campfire stories our ancestors told each other.
Why do we tell stories? The reason people have always told stories (and always will) is because we want something.
Maybe we want something as simple as staying alive. This was one of the reasons why, long ago, our ancestors told tales of surviving attacks by wild beasts.
Maybe we want love or belonging, which is why we share great love stories about couples who are meant (or doomed) to be together.
Maybe we want to become the best version of ourselves. We tell stories of how people have overcome adversity and even shunned their narrow-minded communities to fully self-actualize.
Or maybe we want to tell stories about what it means to transcend, to go beyond oneself and one's circumstances and to serve the good of the whole community, the whole world, and so we tell stories of sacrifice and great heroism.
In other words, the basic types of stories come from values, from the things people want, and the good thing is that there's a lot of research on the values that people think are universal.
Story types are defined by 6 values
Great, best-selling stories are about values.
definition of value
Value, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the consideration that something deserves; the importance, value, or usefulness of something.
In other words, a value is something you admire, something you want. When you value something, it means it is youI think it's good.
values in stories
Here are some examples of things that might be important to you:
- A brother
- to honor
This could easily become an endless list.
But if you think about it, each value can be distilled into six essential human values. Based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, these values are as follows (Credit toRoberto MckeejShawn Coynefor the introduction to these concepts):
- survival of nature.The value of life. Because if you don't have your life, you don't have much.
- survival of others.Surviving crime, other people, even monsters, you might say.
- love/community.The value of human connection.
- we areThe value of their status and hierarchy within a community.
- personal growth.The value of realizing your potential.
- Transcendence.The courage to go beyond yourself to discover a greater purpose.
Once you distill these values, you can convert these values into scales, since these values are usually in conflict with their opposite.
- Survival in nature >life versus death
- Survival of the Others >Life versus fate, worse than death
- Love/Community >love versus hate
- We are >Success versus failure
- Personal Growth >Maturity vs. immaturity
- transcendence >right versus wrong
In fact, it is the conflict between these values that creates the movement and change that makes the story work.
These are the same values that drive good storytelling.
Taking this a step further, you can take these scales of values and map them to different story types or plot types. Thats how it works:
- Life vs Death:Adventures, action stories
- Life versus fate worse than death:suspended, terror,mystery stories
- Love vs Hate:Romance/Love Stories
- Success versus failure: Achievement/Sports Stories
- Maturity vs. Immaturity:Coming-of-age stories
- Right versus wrong:Temptation/moral stories
Transcending these types of actionsliterary genre. you can have oneScience fiction love story, a historical thriller, a fantasy story, a mysterious love story or even a young adult adventure story. (For more information, seemy guide to literary genres here.)
The nature of your story's plot will determine much of your story: the scenes you should include, the conventions and tropes you use, your characters (including leads, supporting characters, and antagonists), and more.
How does this work in practice? Let's look at examples:
Example of the adventure story type
Let's look at a classic example,The Hobbit, one of the best-selling novels of all time, by J.R.R. tolkien
Wenn Sie versuchen, das zu verstehenTypof the story you're trying to tell, the first question to ask yourself is, "What value scale do most of the scenes fall on?"
The question that keeps coming upThe Hobbitis this: "Will Bilbo Baggins survive the confrontations with the spiders, the trolls and the orcs, or will he not survive?"
The Hobbitis an adventure story at heart, and that means most of the scenes are on the life-or-death scale.
While there are certainly scenes that balance good versus evil and maturity versus naivety, most scenes walk the scales of life versus death.
The 10 types of stories
Now that we've seen an example, let's break down the top ten story types and talk about how they work.
Each of these plot types has typical archetypes for its stimulating incidents and main event/climax. While you can change or even revise these archetypes, it's best to understand how they work and ensure your new version of the event can resolve as many conflicts as the typical method.
Please refer to our respective guides for more informationincitement incidentsjClimax.
These ideas are not new, and I must also give an enormous debt of gratitude to the historical theorists who have come before me, particularly Blake Snyder, author ofsave the cat; Robert McKee, author deStory; and Shawn Coyne, author ofStory-Raster.
1. Type of adventure story
bravery:life versus death
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):The Search for the MacGuffin. A MacGuffin is an object, place, or (sometimes) person of great importance to the characters in the story and what drives the plot. For example the ring inLord of the rings, the Horcruxes in Harry Potter or the Ark of the Alliance inIndiana Jones. Most types of adventure plots revolve around a MacGuffin, and the stimulating incident involves the introduction of the MacGuffin and its importance.
Main event:Final showdown with the villains (while trying to get the MacGuffin).
Examples: The Odyssey,Lord of the Rings,The Hobbit,Beowulf,Alice in Wonderland
Use:Most (but not all)hero's journeyStories fit this type, as well as any type of "Journey and Return" plot.
2. Type of action story
bravery: life versus death
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):
- Great crime against me. Many action plots begin with some sort of injustice being inflicted on the protagonist, usually, though not always, by the main antagonist. This begins the plot of the story as the protagonist seeks to right these wrongs or often seek revenge.
- The appearance of a great evil. An alternative stimulating incident involves the rise of some sort of great bad guy. This can be another character, like an antagonist, a force of nature or cataclysm, or a different type of creature. The appearance of this evil thing requires the protagonist to react urgently.
Main event:Showdown with the bad boy
Examples: The Count of Monte Cristo,The hunger Games
3. Type of horror story
bravery:Life versus fate, worse than death
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):
- Prohibited Object/Action. Many horror stories begin with the main character doing something forbidden, either stealing a forbidden item or causing the death of another person, resulting in retaliation, often in the form of a monstrous creature, being, or person. .
- "Monsters in the house." This type of storyline was coined by Blake Snydersave the cat, begins when the characters become trapped in some sort of space, often a house but possibly a confined space like a city or even the world as a whole, with some sort of monstrous creature, being, or person.
Examples:the glow,The Exorcist,The Haunting of Hill House,The grudge, Candyman,Macbeth
bravery:Life against a fate worse than death
The Thriller storyline type is closely related to the Action and Mystery storyline types. Both begin with some kind of crime, contain investigative elements and culminate in the hero being at the mercy of the villain.
However, what makes it unique is that there's always an element of horror, a sense that this is somehow worse, more monstrous than your average crime.
It's a fine line, however, and many story theories, such as Robert McKee's, make no distinction between thriller and action plot types.
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):Show me the body (monstrously brutalized). As with the Mystery storyline type (below), the Thriller storyline types involve a tantalizing incident in which a crime is discovered, be it a literal corpse, a robbery, or some other type of crime. However, in the thriller, the crime has an air of horror, the crime is particularly monstrous, brutal, etc.
Main event:Hero for better or for worse. In the climax scene, the main character is trapped and at the mercy of the antagonist, showing his (temporary) dominance. Depending on the story arc, the protagonist may reverse their situation or succumb to the antagonist.
5. Type of crime story
bravery:life versus fate worse than death (in the sense of restoring justice)
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):show me the body All types of mystery plots contain a tantalizing incident where a crime is uncovered, be it a physical corpse, a robbery, or some other type of crime.
Main event:The confession. The antagonist confesses to the crime and justice is restored, the power of life over death.
Examples:IsInspector GamacheSerie, Harry Potterand the Chamber of Secrets(as a subplot)
6. Type of romance/love story
bravery:love versus hate
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):Meet cute or we should break up. Acts of love begin with the meeting of the couple or with the separation / entering into some kind of conflict. In "Meet Cute Inciting Incident," the couple meets in unexpected, comical, and/or often chaotic ways, often with an initial extreme dislike for one another.
Main event:love test. After some kind of breakup, the protagonist has to overcome obstacles to show his love to the other.
Examples: Midsummer Night's Dream,Romeo and Juliet,10 things I hate about youand most romantic comedies
To learn more about how to write or edit a love story, watch this training video:
7. Type of performance/sports history
bravery:Success versus failure
The core value of the performance story type is appreciation, which is about looking good in front of your community, usually after you've accomplished a great feat or won a widely recognized competition.
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):Entry into the Grand Tournament. Performance stories, whether the medium of performance is sport, music, art, or some other avenue, all contain a stimulating incident in which the characters participate in a major tournament, performance, or competition. This competition is usually a real event (e.g. the Olympic Games, State Championships) but can also be a less formal competition.
Main event:The big tournament. After preparing for the big event by overcoming small obstacles throughout the story, the protagonist faces his challenger in the final competition.
Examples: Wunder,Kobra Kai,Geist,Hamilton
8. A kind of coming-of-age story
bravery:Maturity vs. immaturity
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):
- Here There Be Dragons (Confrontation with the Unknown). Coming-of-age plots often begin with a tantalizing incident involving something unknown, something outside of the protagonist's current worldview. This confuses the protagonist and shows him how much he needs to learn about the world.
- The Headmaster's Office. Alternatively, the character may get into trouble early on, often in a school setting. This forces the character to begin the process of reflecting on their life and making changes.
Main event:The revelation. In a moment of crisis, the protagonist has a major revelation of his worldview, which leads him to see the world in a new and more differentiated way.
Examples: How to train your dragon made easy,Catcher in the Rye,goodwill hunt,Harry Potterand the Philosopher's Stone,The ugly Duckling
9. Temptation/moral story type
bravery:good versus evil
The value of good versus bad here is not good guys versus bad guys. This type of plot is usually action. Instead, evil is in character, and they must choose between doing good, sacrificing themselves, or being selfish and evil.
Inciting Incident Archetype(s):let's make a deal Temptation stories often begin with a proverbial "deal with the devil," in which the character is tempted to do something they believe is relatively harmless but could bring them great rewards.
Main event:apocalypse. Faced with the consequences of their actions, the main character must either accept their consequences and change, or continue trying to escape them and face damnation.
Examples: financial world,A Christmas song
10. Combinations (Advanced!)
While all great stories are driven by values and the conflict between them, many stories combine plot types and/or value scales in unique ways, creating new plot types of their own.
Often this approach works best with longer works, epics that combine many arcs into a single story, or shorter works, such as short stories, that may not contain all of the elements of longer, more established plots.
However, combining or rearranging chart types is considered advanced. Think about this before attempting to create your own totally unique type of storyline, especially if you're a new writer, as you risk the story not working or getting lost in the plot and not ending.
Remember: working with an established type of storyline requires just as much creativity and flair to create dramatic situations as developing your own.
While the most popular stories fit into the ten storyline types above, you can also get more specific by examining subtypes.
Subtypes are more specific plots with unique conventions, tropes, and characters. Examples of subtypes are Revenge Plans, a subtype of Action Plans; Heist Plans, a subplot of an adventure story; or obsession with love stories.
Most stories that work fall somewhere within the above plot types andatThe stories that work fall on all six value scales.
These 10 story types work for any story arc
Great novels, films, memoirs, and plays take many forms, but University of Vermont researchers have identified six main forms, which we'll discuss in detail in ourStory arc guide. Here are all six:
- Rags to riches.Story with a happy ending that transitions from a negative value to a positive value.
- wealth to rags.Tragic story that goes from positive to negative value.
- man in a hole.Story with a happy ending that leads from positive to negative and back to positive again.
- Icarus.Tragic story that leads from negative to positive and back to negative values.
- Cinderella.A story with a happy ending that starts out negative, turns positive, turns negative and finally turns positive again.
- Oedipus.A tragic story that starts positive, turns negative, turns positive and finally turns negative in the end.
Again we have oneA full guide to the six storylines, complete with plot diagrams, can be found here.
These arcs are independent of the parcel type.
You can have a tragic Icarus crime story where the villain escapes. You can have a Cinderella horror story where the monster starts out bad, then seems almost defeated, only to come back stronger, and finally ends up being destroyed.
Although certain genres and plot types havetendenciestowards certain plots, the types work independently of the arc. Choose any combination of arcs and chart types and it will still work.
2 tips for using these chart types
How do you actually write a book with such arguments? Follow these two tips:
1. Know your values first
Bad books, stories thatNOWork, I don't know what your values are.
Or they try to have all possible values.
You can't do that if you want to tell a great story. You have to choose! If you want to master the kind of story you're trying to tell, start by finding the value of the story.
Here's a video showing how an author figured out his plot type by delving into the core value of his story.
2. Focus on the conflict between values
You've heard your stories need conflict, but that doesn't mean more arguments and chases.
The kind of conflict your stories needfurtherfrom is betweenValues, and the way to the masteranyThe nature of the story consists in conflicting the main value of the story with its opposite.
Writing an adventure story means you have to have life and death moments.
When you write a thriller you have to have moments of life versus fate.worseas death
When writing a love story, you need to have as many moments of negative love, anger, disappointment, and even hate as moments of love.
When you write sports history, there have to be so many near-failure moments, rightactuallyfailure as there is success.
When writing a coming-of-age story, you should include moments when the character's growing maturity clashes with its opposite, immaturity.
Finally, when you're writing a temptation or morality story, you need moments of temptation where the character really considers taking actions they know are wrong because they'll benefit them or solve a bigger problem could.
So what about you? What story are you trying to tell?let us know belowthe comments.
Need more help with the plot?After practicing this plot element in the following exercise, check out my new bookThe writing structurethat helps authors improve their plot and write books that readers love. Low price for a limited time!
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Set the story types to use now as followsCreative writing practice.
First select one of the history scales above.
Then sketch the scene of the triggering incident or another scene where your protagonist is confronted with the negative value on this scale.
Finally, set a timerFifteen minutes. Write as much as possible about your scene.
When time is up, post your scene in the practice box below. And when you're done, check out others who have shared their scenes. Let them know what you think!
Enter your practice here:
Joe Bunting is the author and community leader of The Write Practice. He is also the author of the new book.Crowdsourcing Paris, a true adventure story set in France. It was a #1 release on Amazon. keep following himInstagram(@jhbunting).
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- Point of View.
- Idea. It starts with an idea. ...
- General plot. What is the novel about? ...
- Character. I tend to move away from plot once I have the elevator pitch down. ...
- A synopsis. Ah, the synopsis. ...
- Write! I do a first draft where I essentially write up the above synopsis. ...
- Read. ...
- Re-write. ...
- Prose edit.
The genres include Monster in the House, Golden Fleece, Out of the Bottle, Dude with a Problem, Rites of Passage, Buddy Love, Whydunit, The Fool Triumphant, Institutionalized, and Superhero.What are the 9 types of stories? ›
- Overcoming the Monster.
- The Quest.
- Voyage and Return.
- Rags to Riches.
- Rising Action.
- Falling Action.
There are eight elements of a story: theme, plot, characters, setting, conflict, point-of-view, tone and style.What are the 5 types of traditional stories? ›
Traditional literature comes in five different forms: folktales, fables, myths, epic and legendary heroes, and the Bible.What are the 5 types of short stories? ›
- Novella. A work of fiction between 20,000 and 49,999 words is considered a novella. ...
- Novelette. A novelette falls in the range of 7,500 to 19,999 words. ...
- Short story. ...
- Flash fiction. ...
- Short Fiction Challenge.
- 1 — A Theme. Plot (#5) is what happens in a story, a theme is why it happens—which you need to know while you're writing the plot. ...
- 2 — Characters. I'm talking believable characters who feel knowable. ...
- 3 — Setting. ...
- 4 — Point of View. ...
- 5 — Plot. ...
- 6 — Conflict. ...
- 7 — Resolution.