Will We Ever Run Out of Stories to Tell?

A philosophical post today.

There have been a lot of stories told since humanity first began. It's often been said that there are only seven basic plots in all of fiction (or one, or three, or 20, or 36, depending on who you ask). So, as you can imagine, especially with all the books being published around the world today, things are bound to get a little repetitive.

But will we ever get to a point where all the possible stories have been told already? Will we ever reach a point where there can be nothing new? And, if the answer is yes, how close are we?

Some people might say that this has already happened. One of my favorite genres is YA dystopia (it started with Divergent and kind of escalated from there). But as I've read more and more books in this genre, I've started to notice a pattern:


  1. The protagonist (always a teenager, usually female) is about to reach a turning point in their lives (e.g. the Reaping, or the Choosing Ceremony)
  2. Around this turning point, the protagonist realizes that something is wrong with the system of government which s/he lives under
  3. With the help of his/her friends, the protagonist takes down the government and then everyone lives happily ever after.

It's not just YA dystopia. Pick any genre you like, and you'll start to see a lot of repetition. What's happened here? Why are things so repetitive? Does this mean that we're nearing the apocalypse of No More Stories???

No, of course not. The reason for a lot of this repetition is genre conventions. Of course there's going to be a murder in a murder mystery -- that's why they call it a MURDER mystery! Also, for every major bestseller, there's bound to be a few dozen copycat books, who try to ride off the back of the success of said major bestseller.

I can practically guarantee that there are still original ideas out there which haven't been written about yet. Even though a colossal number of books have been published to date, a) many of them are not original, and b) original ideas are very rare. They're original, for crying out loud!

Okay, so the Story Apocalypse hasn't happened yet, and it won't happen for a while yet. But what if it does happen? What if there does come a point where nothing is original anymore?

Relax. Even if it does happen, that point will most likely be so far in the future that most of the books we know and love today will have been forgotten. And guess what that means? It means that people living in the Story Apocalypse won't notice any difference, because writers will just be coming up with stories whose originals have been forgotten.

In other words, in the far distant future, when Divergent has been long forgotten, some budding writer will think, completely out of the blue, "Hey, what if there was a society where everyone was split up into factions based on their values? I could call them, like, Dauntless and Erudite and Candor ..."

Actually, when you think about it, we could be living in the Story Apocalypse right now, and we just don't know it.

Soooo manyyyyy storiesssss...

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2 comments:

  1. "Actually, when you think about it, we could be living in the Story Apocalypse right now, and we just don't know it." I've been thinking about this a lot lately- because.. I think we sort of do?? It just isn't as obvious as in Divergent. Example- when we are born, it's decided we're either one gender or the other, and with that gender, there comes a lot of expectations (fractions). Some people realise they're the opposite the gender, they got assigned at birth, and they legally change it, some get surgery or take hormones (the choosing ceremony). Some people realise their gender is much more fluid and can't fit into a box (divergent) but that is frowned upon - just like in Divergent :o

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  2. That's a great analogy, actually! Not really what I meant by "Story Apocalypse", but a completely valid point. Hopefully, in real life, everyone will learn to live in peace rather than trying to murder all the Divergent.

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