I’ve always wondered about the seven basic plots. John Leary lists and describes them here:
1. Man v (Wo)man
2. Man v Nature
3. Man v Environment
4. Man v Machine
5. Man v The Supernatural
6. Man v Self
7. Man v God
The distinction between “nature” and “environment” may not be clear, and their descriptions give a taste of his approach:
Man v Nature:
Wash the car and it rains. Go outside without an umbrella and it rains. Try to have a little vegetable garden in that fenced-off part of the backyard, and the plants get attacked by snails and crows, and then it never rains. Pissed off, you open the refrigerator and a Bengal tiger jumps out. You wrestle it to the death and have a beer. A homebrew you made from plants you gathered around the neighborhood.
Man v Environment:
A man eats too much fast food and the growth hormones the hamburger-cattle eat cause him to grow enormous breasts. He wants to open a dry cleaning business in his backyard but the neighbors prevent him because he can’t figure out how to dispose of the cleaning chemicals without infecting the ecosystem. He tries to grow a lawn and his neighbors all offer conflicting advice, so he ends up with the only front yard on the street covered in brown stains. He paints the trim on his garage a brick-red color and one of his neighbors comments that the color looks “like a monkey’s ass.” One of the neighbor’s kids, a five year old boy, stands in his front yard in his underwear holding his ears, jumping up and down and screaming, for several hours a day. No one seems to complain. Zoning laws can be so arbitrary, so fickle. The man applies for a permit to open a muffler repair shop and the permit board turns him down. Some days, he just wants to cry. This story never has a happy ending. Either the man goes mad and hops up and down on his front lawn holding his ears and screaming, or he becomes just like the neighbors. Exactly like them, down to their fatty white teeth.
I picked this up from Maud Newton.