Over the past week or so, we’ve had a chance to look in depth at each of Christopher Booker’s 7 Basic Plots as they apply to marketing and storytelling:
Overcoming the Monster: The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force which threatens the protagonist and the things/people/places the protagonist cares about.
Rags to Riches: The poor protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, or a mate, before losing it all and gaining it back upon growing as a person.
The Quest: The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way.
Voyage and Return: The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to him/her, returns with nothing but experience.
Comedy: Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstances, resulting in a successful or happy outcome.
Tragedy: The protagonist is a villain who falls from grace and whose death is a happy ending.
Rebirth: The protagonist is a villain or otherwise unlikable character who redeems him/herself over the course of the story.
To wrap up, I thought I’d include a very simplified decision tree to give you some sense of what story archetype you might want to use for a given situation. As printed in the image, this is by no means the “One Right Way” to use each archetype. Archetypes are like tools; there are a finite number of ways you can use a hammer safely and effectively, but an infinite number of things you can build with it.
(click to download a PDF version)
May you tell your marketing stories in a much more compelling manner!
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