After analysing over 1,700 novels, researchers at the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab have found any story has one of the following six basic plots.
Type 1 – Rags to riches – a steady rise from bad to good fortune
Example: The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri)
Things start off badly as Dante and the poet Virgil descend through the circles of hell. Later they climb the Mountain of Purgatory and Virgil is replaced by Beatrice – Dante’s ideal woman. They finally go up into heaven.
Type 2 – Riches to rags – a tragic fall from good to bad
Example: Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
A real tragedy including love failure, huge debt and suicide.
Type 3 – Icarus – a rise followed by a fall
Example: Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare)
The boy and the girl first fall in love and declare it in the balcony scene. Romeo kills Tybalt and runs away. There is still some hope that the lovers will get together, but after Juliet drinks the potion everything goes from bad to worse.
Type 4 – Oedipus – fall, rise, then another fall
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
The novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein’s Creature in Victor’s own words, as told by Captain Walton in a series of letters to his sister. At one point, the Creature takes over the narrative, making the novel a story within a story within a story. Victor talks about his happy early life and from then there is a downward trajectory. At one point, the Creature offers Victor a way out – make him a female companion. But Victor refuses. From this point on, his fate is sealed.
Type 5 – Cinderella – rise, fall, then rise again
Type 6 – Man in a hole – fall, rise
Sentiment analysis was used to get the data. This is a statistical technique which is often used to analyse social media posts. Each word is given a ‘sentiment score’. Words can be categorised as positive or negative, or can be associated with a few more subtle emotions, such as surprise, fear, trust and anger.
Happy English learning!!