Michiko Kakutani reviews books for the New York Times. She's usually good—but when she's bad she's great! (By "bad", I mean tearing into something she doesn't like.) Kakutani recently critiqued The Seven Basic Plots, a thick new work by Christoper Booker that attempts to characterize all of storytelling. As a sucker for parlor-game taxonomy I must salute his list:
... even if, as Kakutani suggests, the analysis is derivative, biased, or obtuse. At least Booker is trying to bring some order to the world of words!
Pursuing this theme further, I find that the Internet Public Library http://www.ipl.org/ offers multiple answers to the frequently asked reference question "What are the basic plots in literature?" Paraphrasing loosely, they range from the One:
... true, but less than helpful—through the Three:
... but there are not "plots", in my opinion—through the Seven:
... promising, but distressingly non-orthogonal—to the Twenty, credited to Ronald B. Tobias:
That last is quite an excellent list, detailed enough to be useful but not overwhelming in length. (The IPL does offer one more, a rather disorganized and uninteresting set of 36 or 37—severe overkill in my judgment.)
Now, taking the initial letters of the Tobias Top Twenty Themes, can anybody make a good anagram out of QAPRERTRUTMTMLFSDWAD? ("Dr. Trump warms aft Q.E., Ltd." isn't good enough. Nor is "Mutt perqs dwarf Dr. Malt.") Or maybe better as a mnemonic would be to rearrange the 20 and add words to make a little story to connect them?