Cracked.com’s article, 5 Ways You Don’t Realize Movies are Controlling Your Brain has a lot to say about the power of story, as demonstrated by modern pop culture. It raises some interesting questions, and has lots of links with interesting related material, like this one.
The piece also mentions the work of Joseph Campbell. Campbell’s book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, explores the theory of the monomyth, the one story underlying all others. Christopher Vogler developed and simplified this in his handbook for screenwriters, The Writer’s Journey. Vogler describes common character archetypes and looks at how the monomyth is used in modern writing. The content is equally applicable to novels, and it’s one of my favourite books on writing (see our resources page).