John Leary breaks down the seven basic story plots:
1. Man v (Wo)man
This, the most typical story, is about the man who has an argument with his wife one night over whether she will make his lunch for him to take to work the next day. He likes a turkey sandwich and a piece of fruit. He has a job but she canâ€™t find one, so he thinks she should make his lunch. He doesnâ€™t realize that she canâ€™t find a job because she is a mean sort of person, and not many people like her. Worse, her face is covered in stains and she doesnâ€™t know how to end conversations in the office….
Leary’s take on literature’s major conflicts reminds me of a friend’s response to a letter I sent him in my early 20’s after we’d had an ill-advised night of drinking and fooling around. He summarized the letter in eight or so lines; I can only remember the last five:
Woman versus the environment
Woman versus herself
Woman versus horny guy