Google Answers: The Seven Main Plots in All of Literature = ???
It may be worth noting that Christopher Booker in his "Seven Basic
Plots -- why we tell stories" has a different take -- and it took him
35 years to draw his conclusions, having started in 1969!!
The man vs xxxx plots above would all be summarised as "overcoming the monster".
He gives us, (fogive me for desperately oversimplifying his magnus opus):
1. Overcoming the monster -- defeating some force which threatens...
e.g. most Hollywood movies; Star Wars, James Bond.
2. The Quest -- typically a group setoff in search of something and
(usually) find it. e.g. Watership Down, Pilgrim's Progress.
3. Journey and Return -- the hero journeys away from home to somewhere
different and finally comes back having experienced something and
maybe changed for the better. e.g. Wizard of Oz, Gullivers Travels.
4. Comedy - not neccesarily a funny plot. Some kind of
misunderstanding or ignorance is created that keeps parties apart
which is resolved towards the end bringing them back together. e.g.
Bridget Jones Diary, War and Peace.
5. Tragedy - Someone is tempted in some way, vanity, greed etc and
becomes increasingly desperate or trapped by their actions until at a
climax they usually die. Unless it's a Hollywood movie, when they
escape to a happy ending. e.g. Devils' Advocate, Hamlet.
6. Rebirth - hero is captured or oppressed and seems to be in a state
of living death until it seems all is lost when miraculously they are
freed. e.g. Snow White.
7. Rags to Riches - self explanatory really. e.g. Cinderella &
derivatives (all 27,000 of them)!!!
Each of these plots goes through 4 or 5 main phases which are
universally recognisable and re-used. Some stories choose to jump in
at phase 3 or leave early and often leave us feeling unsatisfied.