Seven Basic Plots

The Seven Basic Plots come from Christopher Booker’s book of that title, in which he argues that every successful narrative ever written is based on a version of one or more of these seven plots. I have summarised them here for ease of reference and converted the summary to PDF format to allow for easy download. The two pages can easily be enlarged or made into a poster for display on your classroom wall.The Seven Plots


9 thoughts on “Seven Basic Plots

  1. I have been doing lots of work on differentiating “story” and “narrative” and can’t help but notice that you have chosen to use the term “narrative” where I would have perhaps selected “story”. Do you have any thoughts on the story/narrative debate?

    • Hi Fiona,
      I have never felt the need to differentiate between ‘narrative’ and ‘story’ but I’m intrigued to hear about your work. Perhaps you’d care to share it with us?

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  3. I learned about “the 7 plots” when I was in graduate school, not referring to literature but referring to American movies. It is so true, at some point I realized that a good movie is one that does not telegraph the ending- rare to find in Hollywood!

    • Thanks Cora. The second half of Booker’s text is taken up with why we tell stories, which is just as interesting, if not more so, than his theories about the seven basic plots.

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  6. I am a middle school English teacher, and I was considering revamping my approach to teaching short stories using the 7 basic plots. Is there a comprehensive list matching classic short stories and novels to the 7 basic plots?

    • Hi Mike,
      Not aware of a ‘comprehensive list’ beyond the list of examples which I’ve taken from the Booker text itself and which appears as the last column on the poster. Could be a job for ……an English teacher for example!

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