From The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling, as Identified by an A.I. by Adrienne LaFrance, published in The Atlantic
Based on author Kurt Vonnegut’s 35-year-old master’s thesis that every story has a narrative shape, a group of researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide collected computer-generated story arcs for nearly 2,000 works of English language fiction and classified each into one of six core types of narratives based on what happens to the protagonist.
The researchers’ focus was on the emotional trajectory of a story, not merely its plot. They also analyzed which emotional structure writers used most, and how that contrasted with the ones readers liked best.
They used a collection of fiction from the digital library Project Gutenberg, they selected 1,737 English-language works of fiction between 10,000 and 200,000 words long.
Then, they ran their dataset through a sentiment analysis to generate an emotional arc for each work.
The most-prevalent six narratives the data revealed are:
1. Rags to Riches (rise)
2. Riches to Rags (fall)
3. Man in a Hole (fall then rise)
4. Icarus (rise then fall)
5. Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)
6. Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)
So if you have the proverbial writer’s block consider one of the six narratives to free your story.
Kurt Vonnegut explains his thesis of the shape of the narrative.
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