Across the world, the most common story is the love story. Hogan describes it in his Thesis 28 which starts like this.
Romantic tragi-comedy is the story of lovers separated by social divisions, then reunited. It involves the sustaining goals of attachment and lust (thus, in combination, romantic love).He describes all his story themes as tragi-comedies, because their outcomes come in two versions: tragic and comic. In love stories, the tragic kind of ending occurs with the lovers' deaths, perhaps with a union on another plane as in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, first published in in 1597. In comedy, the ending is the steady state of happy-ever-after.
Hogan's second most common universal story he calls heroic. He describes it in Thesis 29, which is as follows.
Heroic tragi-comedy treats an external threat to the autonomy of a society (e.g. by an invading army) and/or an internal threat to the legitimate political hierarchy of the society. It focuses on concerns of status or power and its empathic force is often a matter of in-group/out-group divisions, particularly national or proto-national divisions. It commonly recruits anger (and, to a lesser extent, fear) toward its emotional and thematic goals.Hogan's third story universal is of sacrifice, Here is his Thesis 30.
Sacrificial tragi-comedy presents us with a communal sin, punished by famine or devastating disease, which is ended only by sacrifice. It begins with the desire to eat. It too is involved with in-group/out-group divisions, sometimes ethnic or national, perhaps more often religious (when these are distinct). It commonly recruits fear toward its emotional and thematic goals.Hogan sees these three types of story as thematic prototypes. The themes are perhaps universal because they articulate a large proportion of human emotional concern with other people in society: affectionate relating, angry conflict, and fear of societal disintegration. Of course there are other stories but they are less common, and Hogan believes, I think, that they fit into the interstices between these three principal themes.
Patrick Colm Hogan (2003). The mind and its stories: Narrative universals and human emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Patrick Colm Hogan (2008). Of literary universals: Ninety-five theses. Philosophy and Literature, 32, 145-160.
William Shakespeare (1597). Romeo and Juliet. London: John Danter.