In pre-blogging days, when I could say things down the pub and sound clever, I used to say that once the Odyssey was written there were no new stories left to write. On the interweb you can't be so glib and breezy, because someone will ask you to explain or defend what you say. Which is as it should be.
Over at A Wayfarer’s Notes, a couple of weeks ago, I briefly intervened in a discussion of the blogger’s reaction to a reading of the Epic of Gilgamesh. An assertion I made was questioned and I intended to expand on my comment. The thread quickly transcended any minor point that I might have been able to make and became a mini-epic in its own right, with bloody fights, alliances made and broken and remade, peripheral skirmishes brought into the main action, and the final resolution, manifesting the triumph of the greatness of the human spirit, and, very unusually for a blog thread, the original point of the post was clarified, illuminated and understood. (And right at the end, just a tiny hint that there might be sequel in the offing...)
I do, however, think that most, or all, stories, their plotlines that is, follow an essential, basic pattern:
People, context (where, relations, etc), unacceptable (because bad, unexplained) situation => acceptable (because good, desired, satisfying, coherent) situation through medium of central character
These can be exemplified by a few of the commonest types:
Personal achievement- boy wins girl, defeats baddie, etc
Public achievement- defeating enemy nation, monster etc
Mystery- resolution thereof
Founding legend, identity legend, justifying legend
Bildunsroman- growing and learning, reaching knowledge/maturity
I’m not trying to oversimplify, just to reduce the concept of story to a few basic elements which always seem to be present and to help us recognise that something is a story and not a different kind of text. Or perhaps it just means that I think it’s only a story if it has an ending.
There are, of course, an unlimited number of ways the basic story can be written, which is good news for those of us who go on scribbling.