7 types of stories: Overcoming The Monster

A kraken from the deep.

The "Overcoming the Monster" plot is one of the classic story archetypes identified by British author Christopher Booker in his book "The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories." This type of plot involves a protagonist setting out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist's homeland. The evil force or antagonist is often depicted as a monster in a literal or figurative sense, and the protagonist must confront and defeat this enemy to restore balance and safety.

This plot structure is deeply ingrained in human storytelling, appearing in myths, folklore, and modern narratives across various cultures. It can be adapted to fit many different settings and themes, from classic fairy tales to contemporary superhero stories.

Common tropes and elements

  1. The Monster or Villain: The antagonist presents a great evil that must be defeated. This "monster" may be literal (like a dragon or a serial killer) or figurative (such as a corrupt corporation or a debilitating disease).
  2. The Call to Adventure: The protagonist is called away from their ordinary world to face the threat. Often, they are reluctant at first but are compelled to engage with the conflict.
  3. The Arrival: The hero often has to leave their familiar world and enter the domain of the monster. This could be a physical journey to a new location or a metaphorical journey into a new realm of experience.
  4. Initial Success: The hero often has early successes against lesser foes or preliminary challenges, which build up their confidence.
  5. The Ordeal: The hero faces their first real test, often confronting the monster or its minions in a significant way. This is sometimes a 'false climax' with a seeming victory.
  6. The Final Battle: After setbacks, the hero must confront the monster in a final showdown, where they are severely tested and must use everything they've learned.
  7. The Hero's Transformation: The protagonist is often changed by the ordeal, gaining new wisdom, maturity, or power. They are no longer the person they were when they began their journey.
  8. The Escape or Return: After defeating the monster, the protagonist must return to their ordinary world. Sometimes this involves a literal escape from the collapsing lair of the monster, or a metaphorical escape from the damaging influence of the defeated antagonist.
  9. Restoration: Often, defeating the monster results in the restoration of order to the world, the lifting of a curse, or the rescue of a captive.
  10. Reward: The hero receives a reward for their bravery. This could be a literal treasure, the hand of a princess/prince, or a symbolic reward such as self-knowledge or reconciliation with loved ones.

Example stories to draw inspiration from

This plot type is prevalent in horror, action, and fantasy genres.

  1. Beowulf: In this ancient Anglo-Saxon poem, the hero Beowulf comes to the aid of the Danish king Hrothgar, whose kingdom is being terrorized by the monster Grendel. Beowulf defeats Grendel and later, his mother, ensuring the safety of Hrothgar's kingdom.
  2. Jaws: In this thriller film, the seaside town of Amity becomes threatened by a great white shark. The story follows Chief Brody, along with a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter, as they seek to kill the monster and restore peace to their community.
  3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: In the second book of the Harry Potter series, Harry and his friends must identify and overcome the monster (the basilisk) that's petrifying students at Hogwarts School.
  4. Alien: In this science fiction horror film, the crew of the spaceship Nostromo must confront and destroy an alien creature that has infiltrated their ship.
  5. The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins and a group of dwarves journey to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their ancestral home from the terrifying dragon, Smaug.
  6. Godzilla: In many variations of the Godzilla franchise, the giant monster (or kaiju) poses a threat to humanity, and humans must devise a way to defeat or deter it to survive.
  7. Star Wars: A New Hope: The Death Star, a space station capable of destroying an entire planet, represents the monster. The heroes, including Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, must destroy it to save the Rebel Alliance.
  8. The Hunger Games: In a dystopian future, Katniss Everdeen must overcome the monstrous arena of the Hunger Games, as well as the oppressive Capitol regime, in order to survive and protect those she loves.