SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – If you’re struggling to write the next Great American novel, it may help (or hurt) you to know that there are only six types of story plots, according to researchers. 

You read that right. Researchers analyzed over 1,700 novels and revealed that consistently, books go into one of six plots. The novelist Kurt Vonnegut spoke about a similar idea. He explored this idea in a 1995 lecture and in his autobiography.


The rise is what many would typically call “rags to riches” story. Things may be either bad or good, but they’ll get better and never really go as bad as when it first started. Our characters will start at the bottom, and make their way up to the top. 

Some examples of this include: 

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Holes by Louis Sachar


In exact opposition to the rise is the fall. This one is called “riches to rags” story. Things will start great and just continue a downward spiral. This can also be called a tragedy, so think of Romeo and Juliet or Othello. There is no happy ending, and that’s the end of it. 

Some examples of this include: 

Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Animal Farm by George Orwell


This is the “man-in-the-hole” story. Characters in these stories start low, and are forced to climb back out again. Shakespeare’s classic comedies are a good example of this. Think of “All’s Well That Ends Well” as an example.

Some examples of this include: 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


Going in a similar pattern, rather than starting at the bottom and going up, the “rise-fall” has the character start at the top and falls to the bottom. These tend to be the “morality” stories or Fables. These are the types of stories designed to teach a lesson that we should have learned from the story rather than real-life experience. Think of the Icarus story. Things were going great until the son flew too close to the sun, and then everything came crashing down. 

Some examples of this include: 

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton


In this, the character will start low, then get better, then fall again. This is the Oedipus story. This is less common than the other genres. 

Some examples of this include: 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway


This story is called the “Cinderella” story for its happy start, then drop, and then finally to a happily ever after. This is the most common genre, often found in love stories, sports stories, Disney movies, and other stories that have happy endings. 

Some examples of this include: 

Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte

Disney’s Pinocchio

A final note, while these six types set the stage for plots, not every story hits the six story types perfectly every single time. Often, especially in modern tellings, stories go through a constant shift between rising and falling actions, but no matter what happens, researchers say each story will stay within a specific category.