Friday, 2 March 2012

The seven basic plots / Why we tell stories – Brooker 2004

A book that aims to explain to us why we tell stories. It gives a nice summary of the 7 basic plots of stories.

“But in fact there are certain things we can be pretty sure we know about our story even before it begins. For a start, it is likely that the story will have a hero, or a heroine, (…) in the story ultimately rests; someone with whom, as we say, we can identify. (…) We are introduced to our hero or heroine in an imaginary world.” (Brooker, 2004, KINDLE).
“Then something happens: some event or encounter which precipitates the story's action, giving it a focus. (…) This event or summons provides the `Call' which will lead the hero or heroine out of their initial state into a series of adventures or experiences which, to a greater or lesser extent, will transform their lives.” (Brooker, 2004, KINDLE).
“The next thing of which we can be sure is (…) that the action which the hero or heroine are being drawn into will involve conflict and uncertainty,” (Brooker, 2004, KINDLE).
“Finally we shall sense that the impetus of the story is carrying it towards some kind of resolution. (…) Either they end, as we say, happily, with a sense of liberation, fulfilment and completion. Or they end unhappily, in some form of discomfiture, frustration or death. (…) The plot of a story is that which leads its hero or heroine either to a 'catastrophe' or an `unknotting'; either to frustration or to liberation; either to death or to a renewal of life.” (Brooker, 2004, KINDLE).

For all types of story holds:
“(1) This begins with an initial phase when we are shown how the hero or heroine feel in some way constricted. This sets up the tension requiring resolution which leads into the action of the story.
(2) This is followed by a phase of opening out, as the hero or heroine sense that they are on the road to some new state or some far-off point of resolution.
(3) Eventually this leads to a more severe phase of constriction, where the strength of the dark power and the hero or heroine's limitations in face of it both become more obvious.
(4) We then see a phase where, although the dark power is still dominant, the light elements in the story are preparing for the final confrontation. This eventually works up to the nightmare climax, when opposition between light and dark is at its most extreme and the pressure on everyone involved is at its greatest.
(5) This culminates in the moment of reversal and liberation, when the grip of the darkness is finally broken. The story thus ends on the sense of a final opening out into life, with everything at last resolved.” (Brooker, 2004, KINDLE, L 3913).

“The essential pattern underlying all this, the pattern of any properly constructed story, is therefore that of a threefold ebb-and-flow, in which the swings between the two poles become more pronounced until the climax is reached.” (Brooker, 2004, KINDLE, L 3920).

Thus far, it is a very interesting book. But when it tries to go one step beyond the mere categorization, it wasn’t that convincing at all. When it tried to explain why we tell stories, Brooker argues (in a Jungian framework), that we learn form stories the archetypal roles we can/ should play in life, seems to me quite simplistic. That the archetypes appear in books, no one can deny. But why it should be only those roles, and why there can’t more (less stereotypical) roles is less convincing.

Moreover, being able to find these roles in most stories, doesn’t necessarily add explanatory power – so there is always a feeling, that it is a rather descriptive an not very analytical or even new argument.

And the last step, that we tell stories s we can learn to play these archetypal roles, I finally find patronizing.

So overall, a very interesting first part of the book. Disappointing part 2-end.
PS: i switched to kindle for my business books. hence less good-looking pictures of business books. the good news is: i will buy proper novels only as hardcovers . better pictures of better good-looking books.

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