We all love stories. From the rainforests of the Pygmies, to the cliffs of Dover, the villages of Burkina Faso to the suburbs of Kingston, stories grab our attention. How many books line your shelves, how many stories have you read? What if I were to tell you that they all follow one of just seven predictable plots? Absurd?
Not according to Christopher Booker, who’s investigated storytelling around the world for 40 years. Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots is a long, but fascinating book. The author boldly concludes that all of your favourite stories fall into one of seven ‘pre-written’ plots. How many do you recognise?
- Overcoming the monster Evil threatens the land. The hero/heroine sets out and destroys it. (Epic of Gilgamesh, James Bond, Terminator, Jaws)
- Rags to riches Dark forces suppress and ridicule the hero but eventually this deliverer breaks through the evil and blooms like a flower coming up from the ground. (Cinderella, Aladdin, Harry Potter)
- The quest The hero/heroine learns of treasure or a love that is needed or wanted. And off they go to do battle on a quest. (The Odyssey, The Hobbit, Watership Down)
- Voyage and return The protagonist goes on a journey far from home where they will encounter hardships and joys, and return far wiser and more mature.
(Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, Finding Nemo)
- Comedy The hero and heroine are destined to get together but dark forces and misunderstandings prevent them from doing so. Eventually things are resolved and the couple are united. (Shakespeare’s comedies)
- Tragedy In many ways this is the opposite side of Overcoming the monster. The main character is in fact the villain and as the story unfolds, the villain spirals down into darkness, which frees the land or themselves from the evil influence. (King Lear, Sweeney Todd, Goodfellas)
- Rebirth A loser or a villain comes to their senses and is redeemed from death to life. (A Christmas Carol, Sleeping Beauty, Star Wars)
It’s incredible to me that you can explain the Bible’s overall story by taking any one of these seven plots.
It comes as a surprise to many people to hear that the Bible has a storyline. Many seem to think that the Bible is only full of laws and rules but that is not true. Most of the Bible is narrative and has the overarching theme of God coming to the rescue. But within that theme all the seven plot lines come together.
I have been reading and teaching the Bible now for nearly 40 years, and you can see all the seven plots within the overall story of the Bible. In fact all seven plots are an aspect of the wonderful message that is found in it.
That is why I believe the Bible has the best stories. It can explain us and the world so movingly. Over the next seven issues of Canbury Pie I will take one of these plot lines to explain the Christian truths found in the greatest literature of all - the Bible.