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Computers

Science says works of fiction follow one of six plot types

Researchers from the University of Vermont data-mined over 1,700 works of fiction and found that they all followed one of six emotional arcs.

The "Cinderalla" story follows the "rise-fall-rise" arc, for instance.

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You'll never be able to read every story out there, but there's a good chance you've already read every story type.

Researchers at the Computational Story Lab at Burlington's University of Vermont data-mined through 1,700 popular fiction stories and determined that they all follow one of six emotional arc types. They are as follows:

  • A rags-to-riches, steadily rising emotional arc, as in the case of "Alice's Adventures Underground" by Lewis Carroll.
  • A steadily declining emotional arc, often seen in tragedies, like in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
  • A fall and then a rise.
  • A rise and fall.
  • Rise-fall-rise, like in the "Cinderella" fairly tale by Charles Perrault.
  • Fall-rise-fall.

The researchers' computers scanned the novels for words that convey either positive or negative emotion and used that information to determine the arc's trajectory throughout a story.

You can find it explained in greater detail by MIT Technology Review here.