Monday, January 4, 2016

It's all the saaaaame!!!

According to John Yorke, over at The Atlantic:

"A ship lands on an alien shore and a young man, desperate to prove himself, is tasked with befriending the inhabitants and extracting their secrets. Enchanted by their way of life, he falls in love with a local girl and starts to distrust his masters. Discovering their man has gone native, they in turn resolve to destroy both him and the native population once and for all.

Avatar or Pocahontas? As stories they’re almost identical. Some have even accused James Cameron of stealing the Native American myth. But it’s both simpler and more complex than that, for the underlying structure is common not only to these two tales, but to all of them.
Take three different stories:
A dangerous monster threatens a community. One man takes it on himself to kill the beast and restore happiness to the kingdom ...
It’s the story of Jaws, released in 1976. But it’s also the story of Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon epic poem published some time between the eighth and 11th centuries.

And it’s more familiar than that: It’s The Thing, it’s Jurassic Park, it’s Godzilla, it’s The Blob—all films with real tangible monsters. If you recast the monsters in human form, it’s also every James Bond film, every episode of MI5, House, or CSI. You can see the same shape in The Exorcist, The Shining, Fatal Attraction, Scream, Psycho, and Saw. The monster may change from a literal one in Nightmare on Elm Street to a corporation in Erin Brockovich, but the underlying architecture—in which a foe is vanquished and order restored to a community—stays the same. The monster can be fire in The Towering Inferno, an upturned boat in The Poseidon Adventure, or a boy’s mother in Ordinary People. Though superficially dissimilar, the skeletons of each are identical."


Read the whole thing.

For the book length version, see The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. 
It's good.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't followed the link yet, but must (it is the internet) jump into comment.

    Back in the mid-80's, I took a night class in "How to Write". The teacher then offered this same observation of there being only seven plots. Since then various pundits I've come across have offered other numbers, but never higher than eleven or lower than six.

    Now, on to that link.