I bought a fascinating book this weekend at the Foyles late night store on the South Bank: The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. It's a bit of a monster, at somewhere over 700 pages, but could prove invaluable to me as a fledgling writer. It's a mammoth piece of literary criticism and a deconstruction of storytelling technique that shows how all fiction basically follows one (or a combination) of seven basic plots: Overcoming The Monster, The Quest, Voyager And Return, Rags To Riches, Comedy, Tragedy and Rebirth; it then goes on explain why these plot archetypes recur throughout the entire history of storytelling, from the classical Greek mythologies to modern film.
The book, astoundingly, took THIRTY-FOUR YEARS to write, and it shows. It's clearly a labour of love and impeccably researched. I recommend having a flick through it (at the very least) next time you reach a decent bookstore to see if it takes your fancy.