Did you know there are only seven different stories?
Don’t believe me? Well here they are, courtesy of a British critic called Christopher Booker:
3. Overcoming the monster
4. Voyage and return
6. Rags to riches
Can you believe that? With all those hundreds and millions of books out there. Only seven stories?
What’s a writer supposed to do?
When I first found this out, I was pretty pissed off. Here I was, an ambitious up-and-coming writer, with my head filled with stories, then what do I find? They’ve all been written and actually there are only seven of them.
Of course, my natural reaction was to figure out who to blame. Obviously, it wasn’t my fault, so it had to be someone else’s. But who do you blame for something like this? After all, the big problem I had was being born after each of those seven stories had been written. What was I supposed to do – take time itself to court? It seemed that as far as legal remedies went, there wasn’t an awful lot I could do.
After I got over my fury (which believe me, took a good while), I began to feel sad. Sad for all those writers slaving away on their books, not realising that there was no point as their stories had already been written. Sad for all those hundreds and thousands of books sitting around in bookshops, and taking up digital space on the web, wholly unaware that they were actually completely redundant. Sad for all those readers wasting their time as all they needed to do was read seven books and be done with it all.
So that’s exactly what I decided to do. I would read each of those seven stories. At that’s where things began to get really complicated. You’d think it would be easy. After all, all I had to do was find seven stories. That shouldn’t take long at all. But the more I tried, the harder it became to actually pin them down.
I mean, take Quest for example. You’d think that would be easy. The Hobbit, or something obvious like that. But hang on a minute. Bilbo leaves home and then comes back, so does that make it Voyage and return? And he helps destroy Smaug the dragon, so maybe it’s really Overcoming the monster. And the bits with the trolls is pretty funny, so could it really be Comedy? And I could go on and on.
That’s when I realised something. Maybe there are only seven stories. But there are also hundreds and thousands of different stories, each similar to other stories in some ways but also unique in others.
So I no longer care about those seven stories. I just sit down and write my own stories, knowing that each one is a brand new, completely unique creation. And who knows. Maybe one day, I’ll actually write something so ground-breakingly different and original that Mr Booker will have to go back and add to his list. Eight different stories. I like it.
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