The Truth About Writing a Good Story

What if I told you there were only seven ways to write a story? That every thing you read, write, and watch can all fall under the same basic plot lines?

Well it’s true, sorry to burst your bubble of creativity or rain on your next brilliant story of how a dog found his way home after being lost. These are the only seven basic plots that every writer follows (whether consciously or subconsciously) when writing:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. The Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

(via Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, summarized here)

Now you’re probably thinking, “Gee, you were right. Everything I’ve ever written or thought about writing has been done before. I’m doomed.”

That last part may not be necessarily true, because while every story deals with those plot lines, not every story is written by you. No, I’m not trying to re-inflate your ego, I’m just stating facts. Unless you plagiarize directly, everything you write is yours, its original.

There may only be seven basic plots but there are hundreds of thousands of stories that have been told and are waiting to be told. What makes a good story, what makes them special, is you and your ability to put words together.

No one else in the world can share your experiences and your thoughts, making everything you write original. And if you can relay your originality onto a page, chances are you’re well on your way to writing/creating a good story.

But personal experience doesn’t count for everything. Original content is great but if you struggle to catch and hold the eye of a reader/listener than your story has failed.

You need to be able to “jazz up” your storytelling, knowing when to add more detail to make the reader want to hear how the story ends.


“The dog barked so I ran away.”

Not great. It’s basically just a factual statement, not part of a story. Now look at this:

“The Rottweiler bared it’s teeth at me and let loose a series of vicious, guttural barks that send me running before it figured out how to get off it’s leash.”

It’s all about adding a little excitement, interjecting a little tone into your story.

And I don’t mean to mislead anyone and make you think that the only way to write a good story is to be original and to have a captivating tone. Just like the amount of stories that are waiting to be told, there are thousands of ways to write a good one.

Some people will like the way you write and others won’t, which is why when writing a story, perspective is key. You can’t always think about what the reader will like because some people are bound to dislike it but that doesn’t make it a bad story. What really makes a story good, sometimes even great, is the author’s ability to keep the audience engaged and wanting more.

A good story will make the reader think, and on occasion, make them forget about themselves for awhile and give over to the story completely.

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