The most popular are those that follow Icarus (rise-fall) and Oedipus (fall-rise-fall) arcs and stories that follow more complex arcs, which use the basic building blocks in sequence. Researchers also say that the most popular arcs are those that involved two sequential man-in-hole arcs and a Cinderella arc followed by a tragedy.
From Harry Potter and Romeo and Juliet to the stories of Oedipus and Icarus, almost every tale told conforms to one of just six plots, researchers have claimed.
A major new analysis of over 1,700 stories identified the core plots ‘which form the building blocks of complex narratives’.
Researchers used complex data-mining to locate words linked to positive or negative emotion in each story to reveal the set of arcs.
A major new analysis of over 1,700 stories identified the core plots ‘which form the building blocks of complex narratives’. Shown, the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which researchers found has the ‘rise, fall rise’ plot.
What Are The Six Arcs?
Fall-rise-fall: ‘Oedipus Rex’, ‘The Wonder Book of Bible Stories’, ‘A Hero of Our Time’ and ‘The Serpent River’.
Rise-fall: ‘Stories from Hans Andersen’, ‘The Rome Express’, ‘How to Read Human Nature’ and ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’.
Fall-rise: ‘The Magic of Oz’, ‘Teddy Bears’, ‘The Autobiography of St. Ignatius’ and ‘Typhoon’.
Steady fall: ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘The House of the Vampire’, ‘Savrola’ and ‘The Dance’.
Steady rise: ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’, ‘Dream’, ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ and ‘The Human Comedy’.
Rise-fall-rise: ‘Cinderella’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Sophist’ and ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’.
The most popular stories have been found to follow the ‘fall-rise-fall’ and ‘rise-fall’ arcs.
An emotional arc is similar to a plot building block that tells a story by generating an emotional response from the reader, reports MIT Review.
For example, ‘man falls into hole, man gets out of hole’ or one of the most well-know, ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl’.
And prior to Computational Story lab at the University of Vermont’s study most believed there was anywhere from three to more than thirty different arcs.
To conduct the study, researchers used sentiment analysis, which is the idea that words have both positive and emotional impacts, to map the emotional arcs.
Words can be measured of the emotional valence of text and how it changes from moment to moment.
The team then analyzed the emotional polarity of ‘word windows’ and slid these windows through the text to create a picture of how the emotional valence changes.
This task was performed on fictional works taken from the Project Gutenberg website that had been downloaded more than 150 times each.
And finally, the data-mining technique led the team to the six main emotional arcs: Fall-rise-fall, like Oedipus Rex; Rise and then a fall, such as stories from Hans Andersen; Fall and then a rise, like The Magic of Oz; Steady fall, like in Romeo and Juliet; Steady rise, like in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground; Rise-fall-rise, like that of Cinderella.