There are only 2 types of stories

1) A hero goes on a journey.
2) A stranger comes to town.

I heard that many years ago, I can’t remember where. It stuck with me, but, to this day, I can’t decide if it’s a useless classification or if there’s something profound to it.

You can find many examples of 1 (Lord of the rings, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, …).

You can find many examples of 2 (One flew over a cuckoo’s nest, ET, Spirited away, Trading places, Pleasantville, …).

Many stories seem to mix the two. I recently watched “Rango”. It’s undoubtedly a “stranger comes to town” story. Rango is accidentally dumped in a little town in the middle of the desert. At the same time, it’s also about Rango’s quest. There’s a case to be made that the 2 types are really just one. If you happen to live in a town that the hero passes in his journey, from your point of view it’s a “stranger comes to town” story. If the stranger is not the hero but some evil disrupting force, then the townsfolk are forced into a quest (spiritual journey) to restore the former harmony. I put “Lord of the rings” in category 1 but you could argue that Sauron is the stranger come to town.

There are probably scores of movies that can fit neither pattern without some violence.

I was reflecting upon “se7en”. Why did the screenwriters turn Mills into a new transplant into the police force? It seems to me that it could’ve worked fine with Mills and Somerset being and old team. Who’s the stranger come to town? Mills or Doe?

Harrison’s “Deathworld” that Nate North plans to adapt is a classic “stranger comes to town” plot.
 
I think there might be a couple more classics dynamics than just those two but those are def cornerstones in the art of storytelling of which all subsequent paradigms are based. "Journey" of any sort whether it be an obvious adventure or metaphorical for an emotional transformation. Rebel Without a Cause is a classic mix of the two.

I think stories with more than one MC don't fit these formulas as closely. I guess you could just mix and match, group of friend on journey, new kid in school, family goes on journey, new girl at office.
 
Well I mean yea if you scrub it down to something like that. You might as well say, there's one type of story: Something happens.
 
There are really only 2 kinds of screenplays: 1) the kind where after reading, the reader will whip out their pocketbooks to buy it from you and turn it into a movie or 2) all other kinds.

Make sure the screenplay you write is in the first group! :)
 
There are really only 2 kinds of screenplays: 1) the kind where after reading, the reader will whip out their pocketbooks to buy it from you and turn it into a movie or 2) all other kinds.

Make sure the screenplay you write is in the first group! :)
Theodebernacius is talking about genre...

Anyway, I agree with you, even though, we Europeans, find the majority of the US movies, a total waste (of money and soul) :)
 
I love the replies!
I too think it's kind of reductionist and academic to break it down like that. It is useful though because sometimes we get lost in the spaghetti of a screenplay and lose sightof our narrative line.

Someone has a book out that places stories into I think 8 (?) categories. Medea, incredible journey, man v. nature etc.
 
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Almost every story ever written has derived from one the seven basic plot archetypes and used in combination with Aristotle’s Six Dramatic Elements they serve as a solid foundation to story writing.

The Quest

The Quest story model revolves around a central protagonist striving to meet an all important and often far off goal. The hero cannot rest until this task has been completed. Along this journey the hero will be met with obstacles and forces trying to stop him from achieving his goal.

Examples of the this story model are The Lord of the Rings, Apocalypse Now, Raiders of the Lost Ark,

Voyage and Return

Much like the Quest, the Voyage and Return story type is based around a journey. In this plot type the hero is transported to another world and then back again. On this journey the protagonist learns things that give him a deeper understanding of himself and the world around him.

Examples of Voyage and Return stories are Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels, Back to the Future, the Wizard of Oz.

Rebirth

In the rebirth story type the protagonist is often cast under some dark spell either instigated by himself or an outside force. The heroes liberation can only be achieved through the actions of other good forces. In these story types the redemptive power of love can be a liberating force. What is striking about the Rebirth story type is that the protagonists imprisonment is derived from something from within his own psyche.

Examples of the Rebirth story type are A Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast.


Comedy

Defining the Comedy story archetype is problematic as in modern times the term has come to mean simply anything that is funny. Therefore stories constructed from the other basic plot types have been mistakenly termed comedies.

Aristotle described comedy as showing people to be worse than they are and tragedy as showing people to be greater than they are. In the classic definition of Comedy plots the characters are thrown into a state of confusion, darkness and bewilderment where resolution can only come when these constricting factors have been played out to their extremes.

Comedy examples are All’s Well That Ends Well, When Harry Met Sally, Some Like It Hot.

Tragedy

In Aristotelian tragedy the central character is an individual (usually of great status) who goes through a series of actions and decisions that unwittingly brings about their own downfall. This downfall is supposed to provoke feelings of pity and fear in the audience and end in a catharsis or what is sometimes called a “purging” of emotion.

Examples of Tragedy are Hamlet. Carlito’s Way, Macbeth, Oedipus the King.

For more on Aristotle and his theories read Aristotle and the six key dramatic elements.

Overcoming the Monster

In Overcoming the Monster stories the hero/heroes must overcome a dark evil creature/person/entity that has exerted an evil destructive force over a place, persons or people.

Examples of this plot are The Silence of the Lambs, Dracula, Jaws, Hansel and Gretel.

Rags to Riches

In Rags to Riches plots the central character is seemingly plucked from nothing to greatness where he/she is very often rich and of immense status. In this story type the hero very often gets quick success which is swiftly taken away from him/her. In order for him/her to return to this “rich” state the protagonist must very often defeat a foe of some kind.

Examples of this story type are Aladdin, Cinderella, Great Expectations.



Read more at Suite101: What are the Seven Basic Plot Definitions?: Writing Creative Stories Using Classic Plot Archetypes and Models | Suite101.com http://www.suite101.com/content/the-...#ixzz1R9uZFv4U
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Theodebernacius is talking about genre...

Anyway, I agree with you, even though, we Europeans, find the majority of the US movies, a total waste (of money and soul) :)
And yet some of you can't get enough David Hasslehoff. :lol:

Let's keep the blanket statements about cultural superiority out of here though. :P I hate most crappy mainstream movies just as much as anyone, but it's hardly representative any more than my joke is representative.

Double Edit:

Sorry, should avoid posting when I'm cranky from stress. Tried to make a joke, then the explanation ruined it. :(
 
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directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Well I mean yea if you scrub it down to something like that. You might as well say, there's one type of story: Something happens.
Perfect!

I was never one for theory and academic breakdowns and this is
why. Only two types of stories seems to me of no use at all. I
think that's why I love drc's one type of story - something happens.
Also of no use to a writer but completely accurate. I think these
breakdowns are an attempt to understand storytelling but really
doesn't help the story teller. We write the story; some academic
breaks it down.

I think my bias against academia is showing...
 
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