The Six Basic Characters and Five Basic Settings

If you have delved into writing for any large degree you must have come across the idea (or the book) that there are seven basic plots. Now I am not going to tell you what these seven are (some have even said there are only two – tragedy and comedy), but I will tell you that this angers me. I mean when you over generalize to make something very complex very simple, it strikes me that much meaning is lost.

But I am not going to argue that there are more than seven plots. Instead I am going to argue that there are only a limited amount of characters and settings, the two other big areas in writing, to bring out your ire just as the seven plots brings out mine.

I would also like to say that I do this because many writers “specialize” in character because they think all plots have been done before. I also point out the limited settings because, I, as I have posted before, like to say I am a setting based author. So this exercise will annoy me as well as others.

Don’t laugh at the first category of character. You would be mistaken to say that that is the only character that is ever used. The first archetype of character is the “human”. Yeah you wince at the broadness of this category as many authors stated goal is to bring the character’s humanity to the written page. But enough. We are all humans and know what a human is at this point. So this is the first and most obvious category.

The rest of my 6 categories of character are: alien, robot or computer, godlike or near godlike, animal, and lesser magical creatures. That’s it. And I feel that the rest of these 6 are largely self explanatory for a human like you.

I bet you are thinking, well of course he has it down to 6 categories of character, since he uses such a broad stroke. Well you’re going to say the same thing again when I introduce the 5 categories of setting. After that, perhaps you’ll understand my anger when someone says there are only 7 plots.

The first setting is “earth” which prior to the last couple hundred years seemed to be the only place to represent many, many stories. But even then there was some attempt to buck the normal. Some stories took place in heaven or hell so I’ll just call the second category “the divine”.

As far back as Kepler’s day the other world or the exo planets, planets, moons, asteroids or comets category was born. Basically anything that was hard and had gravity.

Weird science fiction has pushed things further, saying that stories are possible in gas giants or stars (or even life can be stars) or neutron stars can have life or do something to life, and what stories are possible near the event horizon of black holes. These categories are ridiculous but fertile.

The last category is free fall, or any situation where gravity doesn’t enter the picture.

So there you have it, the 5 Categories of Setting and the 6 Categories of Character. Think on that and the whole idea of overly broad categories.

I myself will pick 7 stories with the different plots and read them to young impressionable people. Then, when I am done the 7, I am going to say “Enough! I have read you all the basic plots there are. I have shown you everything you need to know.” Then the young people will be jaded know-it-alls. They will fit in our post-modern world where everything is really just modern.

If they try to get out of my trap by mentioning “well at least there’s character and setting” I can wow them with the fact that combined with character and setting, there are still only 210 ( in other words: 7 plots x 6 characters x 5 settings) possible stories.

About Larry Russwurm

Just another ranter on the Internet. Now in the Fediverse as
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One Response to The Six Basic Characters and Five Basic Settings

  1. The astute regular reader will notice that this is a repeat. I had made a mistake when I initially published it and used strikethroughs to correct it. This made it messy looking and a bit confusing. So I am publishing it here, again. This makes a cleaner version that I can link to. Or anyone else can link to for that matter. I had already linked to it once so I may again.

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