Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why you've heard that story before

Some guys at the University of Vermont with time on their hands have discovered that there are only six basic story types.
  1. A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground. 
  2. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. 
  3. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story. 
  4. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. 
  5. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. 
  6. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.
I'm sure you read those excellent stories just this week. I know I did.

How these scholars discovered this phenomenon is so complicated that I'm not going to get into it. Let's just say that they assigned emotional values to words, then data mined the heck out of a bunch of stories. Shakespeare would approve, I suspect.

They aren't the first to attempt this. Aristotle tried his hand at it, as he did with just about everything else. To his discredit, he didn't employ data mining.

How you can use this in your pathetic life: If you fall asleep during a movie, you might ask yourself the next morning if the plot failed to conform to one of these types.

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