View Full Version : How many stories are out there?

06-12-2009, 07:57 PM
I've often heard this bit of wisdom, that there are only so many stories in the world, and all we do is tell and retell them.

I've heard it said on AW when people have been worried about sharing their storiesand ideas; what if the plot gets stolen, they say, and sold to an agent by the thief....

Well, the recieved wisdom sounds right to me; I've tried in my head from time to time to devise some totally original plot but some common theme or similarity to some fable or other always shows through.

But has anyone ever written a list? And how would we categorise the stories into their fundamental types? What are the basic themes?

If this has been done already, please tell me where I can read the list. If not, can we start our own list? Are there any list-loving geeks out there who might like to start? Or do you think that this is a stupid or impossible project, and why?

06-12-2009, 08:03 PM
Some people say seven. Some people say 36. I'm sure some people say 42. Here's one list that is out there, although you can Google any number of them:

06-12-2009, 09:15 PM
Thanks! thats an amazing collection of lists. I haven't had a chance to digest it properly yet, but for now my list-making urge is sated....

I should have known, of course, that the literary theorists out there would've tackled this one ad infinitum.

Still interested, though, to know if anyone out there has any other versions of the list.

Thanks again, Blueobsidian.


06-12-2009, 10:34 PM
If you are talking about ways to broadly categorize plots, go with the lists given.

However...I have a personal story. So do you. And I can think of almost unlimited ways my story could have turned out differently. And we are two of only a few billion people alive right now. So, I think that makes the number of potential stories (just from living people) somewhere in the neighborhood of a number I can't readily comprehend, but the phrase virtually unlimited comes to mind. That's why two writers can take the same exact plot and come up with stories that are as different as you and I.

And that's why no one should be worried about anyone stealing ideas.

06-12-2009, 11:08 PM
... before answering a question like this it would have to be decided what a "story" is, with some common consensus being reached, if possible.