What are the different types of stories / archetypes?

What are the different types of story archetypes?

Table of Contents

A story archetype is a theme or general role for a character. The boundaries are often fuzzy, and a character can represent more than one archetype. Certain archetypes are ancient but more contemporary interpretations are based on dramaturgical principles.

A story’s archetypes are the building blocks that make it a memorable story. Using these archetypes allows the writer to use themes and characters that resonate with readers. As a result, readers will be able to identify with protagonists and can empathise with them. 

An archetypal story is an epic story, and is based on a theme of the human condition. Its main character is called a “Protagonist.”, and his goal is to defeat the antagonist. The protagonist often carries out heroic actions to protect his or her home. Similarly, a tragic story can be a morality tale.

The protagonist fights an evil force to save his homeland from destruction. The story is told from the point of view of the protagonist, and the antagonist takes the form of an enemy. The action of the protagonist is a reflection of his or her values and is universally applicable. Some stories are more specialised than others. The protagonist may be an outsider or an insider and is also  a hero who faces many trials and triumphs.

The protagonist must overcome challenges and overcome obstacles in order to gain the sympathy of the reader. He must be the hero in a tragic story. The protagonist of the story is the hero or heroine, and he or she is the hero in a tragic novel.

Here are the 7 Basic plots 

Overcoming the Monster

A wicked entity is attacking our hero, their world, and humanity. The hero must fight and conquer this monster, which is rarely easy, but they prevail and are rewarded handsomely. Some examples of this are the stories of Beowulf, Dracula, and King Kong.

Rags to Riches

This one is self-explanatory: our hero is insignificant and rejected by others at first, then something happens to elevate them, exposing them to be remarkable. Examples of this are Aladdin, The Ugly Duckling, and Superman.

The Quest

In order to complete the mission, our hero must embark on a lengthy, perilous journey and overcome all difficulties. Examples of this are The Lord of the Rings, and The Wizard of Oz.

Voyage and Return

The Voyage and Return, while similarly focused on a voyage, is considerably different from The Quest. The hero escapes back to the safety of their house after venturing out of their ‘regular world’ into the overpowering and unfamiliar. Examples of this are Alice in Wonderland, Finding Nemo, and Gulliver’s Travels as examples.


A tale composed of humorous incidents, usually featuring a mix-up, misunderstanding, or confusion that ends in hilarious turmoil. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and  Bridget Jones’ Diary are just a few examples.


This is the version of the story that does not have a happy ending. While we’ve seen successful heroes and vanquished monsters in previous archetypes, this story follows a different path and ends in loss or death. Consider Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Breaking Bad as examples.


Our hero ‘falls under a terrible spell’ – whether it’s sleep, disease, or enchantment – before breaking free and being redeemed in our last narrative type, rebirth. Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and The Secret Garden are few examples

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