Notes for fiction writers

Articles and websites that writers of fiction may find useful.

Plot patterns and narrative structures

Aarne–Thompson Tale Type Index

  • First developed by Antti Aarne and published in 1910.
  • Translated, revised, and enlarged by Stith Thompson in 1928 and again in 1961.
  • Identifies recurring plot patterns in the narrative structures of traditional folktales.
  • Focuses more on the morphology  (structure) of folktales rather than the details of their characters’ actions.
  • Thompson indexed folktale motifs (repeated elements, themes, or patterns) separately in their Motif-Index of Folk-Literature


Monomyth (the hero’s journey)

  • The monomyth, or the hero’s journey, is the structure of a tales that involve a hero going on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis, wins a victory, before returning home changed or transformed.
  • Concept introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949): “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”


Thompson’s Motif-Index

  • Stith Thompson compiled, classified, and numbered the traditional motifs folktale types in Antti Aarne’s Aarne’s index.
  • Motifs are the recognizable and consistently repeated story elements (common characters, objects, actions, and events) that are used in the plot structures.


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