How to Get the Ball Rolling: Nine Story Templates

9 Story Templates

9 Story Templates

Much has been written, over the centuries, about what constitutes a good story. Each sage on the subject has had his or her own interpretation on how many story templates there are, and it is not the purpose of this post to go into the merits of each here. I do, however, want to suggest, for the sake of brevity and conciseness, that most stories can be accommodated within one of nine general types, or a mixture thereof. What I mean by this is that although the names, places, and finer grain of each individual story differ from those of the original, the basic structure of the narrative follows a similar pattern. Here are some influential stories that have so captured the imagination of the world that they have created story types:

1. Romeo and Juliet

Boy meets/wins/has girl, boy looses girl, or boy finds/doesn’t find girl: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle.

2. Faust

Selling your soul may bring short term riches and success, but there’s always a price to be paid, leading to ruin and damnation: Wall Street, Fatal Attraction.

3. Cinderella

Dreams do come true, despite initial setbacks from wicked or opposing forces: Rocky, Pretty Woman.

4. Circe

The spider and the fly; the victim and the manipulator; the temptress ensnaring the love-struck, or innocent victim, often seen in film noir: Body Heat, The Postman Always Rings Twice.

5. Orpheus

The theft of something precious, either lost, or taken away; the search to redeem it, and the tragedy or success which follows it: Rain Man.

6. Tristan

Stories about love triangles — man loves a woman, but he or she is already spoken for: Fatal Attraction.

7. Candide

The hero who won’t stay down; the innocent on a mission; naive optimism winning the day: Indiana Jones, Forrest Gump.

8. Achilles

The destruction, or endangerment of an otherwise good person, because of an inherent flaw: Superman, Othello, the protagonist in film noir.

9. Frankenstein

Man’s attempt to rise to the level of God, ending in tragedy and failure: Frankenstein; Icarus.

In Summary

All stories follow a pattern originating from source material. Mixing and varying material from these sources accounts for the structure of most stories being told today.


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4 thoughts on “How to Get the Ball Rolling: Nine Story Templates

  1. Mark Landen

    Hi Stavros,

    Great article! A long time ago in an Intro to Literature class we discussed something similar, yet I sold the book and couldn’t find a good resource for it until now. I’m seeing several of these in the book I’m developing, and nearly all are incorporated in the series.

    Would you say the Cinderella story is representative of the “zero to hero” motif? It seems nearly all of the Marvel “origin story” movies use this template.


  2. Russ Welsh

    It sounds kind of weird, because of the things attached to my “buddy cop” screenplay (even in it’s plot), but I believe it to be a Cinderella-type story… especially the way you noted it above. Funny.

    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      Interesting. Stories often contain a combination of elements from different “templates”.


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