The seven plots of business stories

Written by Chris Hewitt

12 February 2021


Are you struggling to find stories for your business? It’s an often-quoted maxim that fiction stories typically fall under one of seven basic plot types. This was observed in the book Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by journalist, author and co-founder of Private Eye, Christopher Booker.

Business stories have plots too and you can use these to tell your own business story. First, you need to pinpoint which plot is your story.

To help you figure out which story matches your brand, I’ve outlined the seven plot-types reimagined for your business.

1. Slaying the monster

Example stories: James Bond, Jaws, Star Wars

Think of a time when your business faced a life-threatening challenge. How did it come about? What was at stake? And what steps did you take to resolve the problem? Risk stories can be an inspiration to others.

2. Rags to riches

Example stories: Cinderella, Jayne Eyre, Aladdin

Who are the people behind your business and how was it created in the first place? Give us the detail. And make it real. What were they afraid of? What inspired them to launch? Founder stories present the human face of a corporate body.

3. The Quest

Example stories: The Lord of the Rings, Raiders of the Lost Ark

What is the higher cause of your business? What do you stand for? Or what are you against? This is your WHY brought to life. Vision stories convey leadership and work well both internally and externally.

4. Voyage and return

Example stories: Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland

Who have you taken on a journey, overcoming adversity along the way? Customer stories should give an honest account, tracking the highs and lows along the path to a positive business outcome.

5. Comedy

Example stories: Bridget Jones’s Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral

We don’t see the lighter side of business often enough. Look for amusing anecdotes. Human interest stories, with humour, are engaging.

6. Tragedy

Example stories: Macbeth, Bonnie and Clyde, Carmen

For the very brave. This is where you talk openly about your failures of the past. The day I went bust. What an opener that would be. Authentic stories are highly relatable.

7. Rebirth

Example stories: Groundhog Day, A Christmas Carol

Was there a time when your business changed direction when market dynamics dictated it should? Lessons-learnt stories make great thought leadership content.

Some of these stories will resonate more depending on who the audience is at any given time – whether that’s internal comms, potential investors, customers, prospects, channel partners or simply the C-suite. Think about how you can match your story-plot to story-audience.

I’ll be sharing more posts unpicking each of the plots in detail over the coming weeks. Follow us on LinkedIn to see them all.

Do you need help to define your own business story?

We run bespoke B2B storytelling workshops.

Find out more