What Stories Can You Never Get Enough Of?

Contains not very recent spoilers for Sherlock, Supernatural, Harry Potter, and uh, It’s a Wonderful Life. And the Bible.

The U.S. author Willa Cather once wrote, “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” I think there are more than two or three, but it’s a limited number, definitely.

Some plots and themes get me every time. Combine more than one of them in a story, and you’ve got a serious fan. Here are a few of them.

The Secret Superhero Identity.

As seen in most superhero movies, Thor and Iron Man excepted. It’s pretty easy to understand the appeal. I don’t get to do anything awesome and heroic, and it’s fun to imagine an alternate life in which I do.

The Imposter.

Here’s a slightly different story about identity. I love spy stories like Alias and MI5 (Spooks) partly because they often involve people pretending to be someone they’re not. In Titanic, Jack Dawson manages to blend at a dinner with rich people. Maybe the reason I and other people enjoy the imposter story is because we’re often struggling to fit in or be viewed in a certain way, and so it’s encouraging to see someone pull off a deception with panache.

From Sidekick to Ass Kicker.

Pictures of Neville Longbottom, Rory Pond, Samwise Gamgee, and John Watson, captioned "The wonderful moment when the sidekick turns out to be the most badass motherfucker who ever lived."
As you can see above, this one was illustrated nicely by somebody on tumblr. It has some of the same appeal as the secret superhero identity story.

The Day No Fucks Were Given.

I don’t love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, but I dig the part where George Bailey comes back to his real life and he’s all “Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!” and “Isn’t it great, I’m going to jail!” Sometimes a character just chronically does not give a fuck. In the trailer for Seven Psychopaths, we see this exchange:

Man with gun: Put your hands up.
Christopher Walken’s character: No.
Man: But I’ve got a gun.
Walken: I don’t care.
Man: That doesn’t make any sense.
Walken: [Laughs.] Too bad.

I don’t know if that movie will be any good, but it makes me happy to imagine being impervious to even the scariest threats.

The Huge Act of Self-Sacrifice.

Sydney Carton going to the guillotine in Charles Darnay’s place. Buffy diving to her death to save the world. Katniss Everdeen shouting, “I volunteer!” Harry Potter. Jesus. The big sacrifice, an ultimate expression of love, may actually be my favorite story ever. It makes me think of how much I love the people around me, and hope that I would be that brave if I had to be, and then I get all emotional.

Animated gif of a man being buried under falling boxes, each of which is labelled "FEELS."

Yay, He’s Not Dead After All!

Also part of the Jesus story. This is the greatest! The guys on Supernatural do it all the time! What I love, specifically, is the “OMG you’re alive!” scene with someone who loves the resurrected person. I’m so looking forward to this in the next season of Sherlock.

I can’t get enough of any story about love between men. It can be a romance, like Captain Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones in Torchwood, or arguably David and Jonathan in the Bible. It can be love between brothers, like the enmeshed Sam and Dean Winchester, or the estranged Brendan and Tommy Conlon in The Warrior. They can be loyal friends, like Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee, or father and son, like Walter and Peter Bishop of Fringe. I love it all.

Sam and Dean Winchester, hugging

Finally, I love anything about psychic powers. Reading minds, talking to ghosts? Yes, please.

What stories get you every time? Or alternately, what are some stories you could really do without? (I’ll throw one out: alien pregnancy. Blergh.)

Published by

Bryn Donovan

Romance writer, poet, quilter, and dog cuddler.

19 thoughts on “What Stories Can You Never Get Enough Of?”

  1. Woman Warriors in Tarnished Armor:

    Yes, please. I mean, Starbuck? Ditch your precious Apollo and let’s go toaster shopping. You’re going to do the right thing even if it means bucking the system.

    You Mean I’m the Hero?

    Yet another variation on the secret superhero, except the protagonist is just as clueless and dumbstruck as everyone else. I think Robin McKinley did this masterfully in Sunshine, as did Neil Gaiman in Anansi Boys.

    Even the Stoic is Moved:

    Through some act of sheer adamantium balls or persistence, we end on the glorious note, “That’ll do, pig, that’ll do.”

    The Hero’s Journey That Doesn’t Actually Go Anywhere:

    Usually a quest or a mystery, but the “journey” is through psychological levels of perception, e.g. The Neverending Story or The Wood Wife. Any story that can take you down a path of enlightenment or solve a puzzle just by sifting through layers of perception is pretty goddamn cool.

  2. I’m a sucker for the arc of the struggle and self-sacrifice (I mean but always coming out top). I unfortunately identify a wee bit too heavy with that and have definitely caught myself rationalizing more than once that if “X person from TV can do it, so can I!”

     

  3.  

    The U.S. author Willa Cather once wrote, “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” I think there are more than two or three, but it’s a limited number, definitely.

    How interesting. I remember our English teacher telling us there were six stories.

    As for stories that get me, having just read A Monster Calls, I would have to say it’s the stories where a difficult truth is acknowledged. (And I can think of no other way to word that!) Also, thinking of The Road (not sure why it’s just come to mind), I would say stories about trying and simply enduring.

  4. I’m with Miranda a bit in that I love dark horse characters. I am also a sucker for the sympathetic villain because it signals to me that a character is more nuanced than the sweeping archetypes writers sometimes use.

    And I just love a good underdog/triumph of human spirit types stories.

  5. Gee Whiz, That Sure is Neat Rocket Ship Mr. Scientist! and other variations of optimistic pulp sci-fi. I love a good story where science is your friend and there is a great big exciting universe to explore. Give me my Star Trek TOS dvds and a bowl of popcorn or my copy of I, Robot (The book, not the movie. Never the movie) and some hot coco and I am well set up.

    Movies about baseball. All the movies about baseball. Pretty much all the movies about hockey too. There’s something about a group of people all pulling together for a goal that is, in terms of the big picture, a little silly, but still so important. WIN THE GAME GUYS! There’s something that is just sorta pure and innocent about loving a sport, even if the players are a pack of jaded old hands. Also they tend to bread a certain quirky humor that I cannot get enough of.

    http://youtu.be/Fo88LaJIt5E

  6. I’m with you on the psychic powers and love between men. I also like epic love stories that take a while for the two people to get together (Allie and Noah in The Notebook, Snow and Charming on Once Upon a Time, Ned and Chuck on Pushing Daisies (kinda), basically every couple on Grey’s Anatomy.

    I have nothing more to add because now I’m thinking about how much Sam and Dean Winchester love each other and would do anything for each other and they are freaking soulmates (platonic-ly speaking. Wincest freaks me out a bit) and just deserve a little bit of happiness but noooo all they get is pain and despair and have to watch each other die a million times!

     

    1. Every season finale, with the kansas song that sums up the Road So Far, I tear up a little. Boyfriend laughs at me but holy moses, they’ve been through so much, they DO deserve to lay their weary heads to rest and not cry anymore dammit!!
      This wait all summer has been killing me. So ready for tonight

  7. I guess I’m a sucker for the darkhorse characters. Not quite sidekicks, but they’re the people on the periphery who take a chance to step into the main story, be as awesome as you suspected they would, suprise people around them and step out again.

    There’s  always been some cathartic for me in a good revenge story. As a child, there was a lot of satisfaction watching Harriet the Spy going through all her well planned pranks on her bullying classmates –even i I did think she was a little nasty to begin with. But I like the bully gets their come-uppance stories either way.

    I have to be in the mood for it, but Kill Bill 1 can be fun for all the precise, calculated revenges (the Bride with her little Kill List and her motivation mantras!). The series Revenge was good campy fun, almost like The Count of Monte Cristo meets Dynasty.  One of my favourite story threads in the Song of Fire and Ice trilogy is Arya’s drawn out revenge plot. It’s a slow time coming, but promises is much awesome.

  8. A girl (or boy, but in the stories I read, it’s usually a girl) and her non-human friend.  This can be a non-verbal friendship (her dog, griffin, horse, whatever) or verbal (her dragon, pegasus, whatever) friendship, but something about an interspecies friendship just kills me.  This may explain part of my love for Robin McKinley, who writes a lot of these, and definitely explains my lingering affection for Pern books.

    I’m also a big fan of the standing up to the bully/defending those in trouble storyline, as appears in approximately every Tamora Pierce book.  Often overlaps with the Proving Oneself story, which I’m also fond of.

    There’s more (definitely some of yours above, like the sacrifice story) but the strong interspecies platonic friendship and the standing up to the bully are two that pretty much never fail to suck me in.

     

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