7 plots you should know for a good corporate communication
The journalist Christopher Booker has named seven plots, that cover every single story we will ever tell. Every story ever told is just a variation or a repeat of these seven plots.
Based on the archetypes from J.G. Jung and Joseph Campbells hero’s journey, Booker sums up these categories:
1. Overcoming the monster
2. Rags to riches
3. The quest
4. Voyage & return
5. The Comedy
6. The Tragedy
7. The Rebirth
We will summarize the arcs of each plot, give an example and end with a tip what kind of company can use this plot.
1. Overcoming the monster
Example: James Bond or Jaws (or almost every other action movie)
Scenario: Something unknown or an enemy threatens the world or the surrounding of our hero. He (or she) has to become the savior to restore the peace. The enemy has to be destroyed in the progress.
The Arc: The hero is called upon and he is successful in the beginning. Then he experiences a setback, that soon turns into a nightmare. But our hero will escape miraculously this hopeless situation and averts death and eliminates the threat.
For companies that want to make the world a better place and fight against injustice.
2. From rags to riches
Example: It’s the fairytale plot as Cinderella
Scenario: A wallflower (hero) turns into a strong personality
The Arc: A suppressed hero, that can’t show its true potential, has the fate calling and takes his first steps into the world out of the shadow. First success is inevitable, but the crisis follows on foot: Everything fails, but the hero growths with the obstacles and manages the final test. Happy end.
Auf Unternehmen anwendbar: Start-ups, that have to make a name for themselves or the underdog, that nobody believes in.
3. The quest
Example: Lord of the rings
Scenario: Man wird auf eine Reise mit einer Mission geschickt mit einem fernen Ziel
The Arc: The hero is sent on a journey to fulfill a mission and has to face an unknown obstacle far away from home. Along the way he meets new companions and build a fellowship, that will support and lead him. Upon arrival of the alleged destination follows frustration, because the finish line is covered by obstacles (and two more movies will follow) and is further away then ever. He has to master different tests (the most difficult at the end), that helps eventually to reach the destination. In the end he returns home in triumph, but nothing is the same again, because he has seen things and has a lot more knowledge.
Companies: For the launch of a product or a new company. The destination is set, but the way up there is an adventure.
4. Voyage and Return (hero's journey)
Example: Alice in Wonderland
Scenario: The hero leaves the known world behind and searches for new things and returns home after achieving them.
The Arc: In the beginning the hero has to leave everything he knows behind. But there is a brave new world awaiting, that has to be conquered. The adventure turns into frustration after the hero meets new obstacles at every turn. There turn into nightmares and everything is going down. Just as he wants to quit (darkest moment) he overcomes the last obstacle (his biggest fear) and triumphs. With the new knowledge, the elixir, he returns home into the old world. Here he must start living with the new knowledge in his everyday life.
Companies: Prime example for any company’s history. If you are telling a origin story, a product story or if you are expanding or changing anything new.
5. The comedy
Example: Every Jane Austen book (almost, but it feels like it)
Scenario: A misunderstanding leads to a complication in the story, after it is solved there is a happy end.
The Arc: There lies a shadow over the world of our hero (no, it is not lord of the rings again). Countless misunderstandings lead to a complication of the plot (the aftermath: couples separate, arguments or distrust). The confusion rises fast in a hilarious matter, just to be cleared up in the final act (you can set your clock on this. If there are 20 minutes left of a movie, the peak of confusion is reached). In the end, everybody is happy again and there is mostly a happy event like a wedding.
Companies: To tell your success-stories in a funny way.
6. The tragedy
Example: Anna Karenina
Scenario: In contrast to the comedy the hero will not reach his goal, or he will die.
The Arc: To reach his goals, the hero takes a turn onto a dark path, that only works in the beginning. Dissatisfaction follows, because he realizes that his goals are unreachable. There is mostly a short glimpse of hope, but it ends again in frustration. The loss of control lets him fail or worth – he dies.
Companies: Although the tragedy is mostly hidden by companies, it shouldn’t be. No success can come without failure. You will learn from your mistakes and get back stronger then ever. It makes you human.
7. The rebirth
Example: Mission: Impossible I - VI (and counting)
Scenario: Although you think that the hero’s mission is doomed, he can turn his faith around and win.
The Arc: The hero must escape from a risky situation (or more than one). He seems to be safe, but the stroke of faith lets his enemy dominate. This enemy believes to be the winner and is too overconfident (conveniently the tell the hero their whole plan, so he can stop them in the near future) and becomes vulnerable. The hero is saved miraculously and can overcome his enemy. Happy end.
Companies: this plot is used in a lot of sectors, it can be told for people, companies or products.
What plot covers your story best?
Did you find your plot in these scenarios? The arc doesn’t have to be exactly the same, some parts can be shorter or didn’t happen at all. Sometimes one part can repeat itself over and over (if you face more than one enemy).
But as you can see, there are numerous movies or books, that are a sequel, but have exactly the same arc. But the audience doesn’t care – because the concept works.