The Mathematics of Literature

Hearing that one of my short plays is going to be produced locally sent me into a validation-inspired frenzy to get something else going. So as I am taking a wee break from tidying up a full length play, simultaneously proud and insecure, I slam into this fascinating article from the Scientific American: Great Literature Is Surprisingly Arithmetic.

It reports the finding that most great stories follow mathematically similar plots – and that there are 6 identifiable arcs. According to the number crunchers, the data shows that 85% of great stories they analyzed fell into one of recognizable 6 patterns. (They’ve got graphs and everything! Check it out!)

I feel strangely comforted by the compact symmetry provided by  this study. If there are only 6 good ways to tell a story, I don’t have to worry about the plot arcs in my oeuver seeming obvious or derivative.

Sidebar: Math + Literature hooking up is as compelling as a Capulet falling for a Montague. Except, you know, with happier results.




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