Tag Archive: April A2Z 2016

Masterplots Theater: Z is for Zoomorphic

Z Masterplots Theater-6Welcome back to Masterplots Theater on this the very last day of the A-Z Challenge! Yippee! We made it! And as happens every year, we get to Z and go, “What the heck are we going to write for this letter?” Of course, now that I think of it, we could have picked zombies, but I already talked enough about zombies in X is for X Meets Y. So the word of the day is *drum roll* ZOOMORPHIC!

What the heck does that mean?

Zoomorphic: “Having the form of an animal.” — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Great! I get to talk about all my favorite animated movies where the characters are animals. And then I read this:

Zoomorphism: “Art that imagines humans as non-human animals.” — Wikipedia

Oh wait, that’s the opposite of this:

Anthropomorphism: “The attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities.” — Wikipedia

Right. So that means most animated animal films, such as FINDING NEMO, ICE AGE, THE LION KING and RATATOUILLE are actually anthropomorphic. Darn.

So I went back to the drawing board, aka Google, to research stories where humans take the form of animals, but then remembered that Robin already wrote about the Metamorphosis masterplot. So you know what? We’re just going to go with the basic definition of zoomorphic (“having the form of an animal”) and talk about movies with animal characters that act so much like humans that we can pretend they’re humans in animal form. Okay? Because Z is a difficult letter and we can cheat a little.

Zoomorphic Plot Notes: 

The defining element of this somewhat made-up masterplot is that the characters are animals that act human, so much so that they talk like us, walk on two legs, and wear clothing. In this way, FINDING NEMO does not fit in this category, but FANTASTIC MR. FOX does.

The setting resembles human civilization, with the animal characters living in houses and cities, getting married, having jobs, and even establishing organized leadership such as royalty or government.

Probably the most significant characteristic of this plot is the moral issues it addresses. The animal society mirrors human society, including all the problems and -isms (racism, sexism, classism) that we deal with.

Common masterplots that zoomorphic stories fit into are Rite of Passage, Quest, Adventure, and The Fool Triumphant.

Example to Study:

ZOOTOPIA! Because it’s my new favourite film and a perfect fit for this masterplot:

Zootopia-Poster· CHARACTERS: They are all animals who talk, have human-style relationships, and work people jobs. They also wear clothes, and there is a hilarious scene in a nudist yoga centre that makes light of this.

· SETTING: Zootopia is a modern city with houses, businesses, roads, transit, technology and government. Heck, the bunny protagonist even has a smart phone that she uses to call, text, listen to music and take photos. It doesn’t get more human than that! 

· MORAL ISSUE: Racism. Because what better way to send a “we should all live in harmony, no matter our differences and our history” than to put a bunch of very divergent animals together in the same city, some of whom used to be “prey” to the others.

· MASTERPLOT: Zootopia falls under the Fool Triumphant category because 1) the protagonist (Judy Hopps) is a bunny that nobody expects to succeed because bunnies aren’t supposed to be police officers, 2) she’s up against the Establishment (police force) who discriminates against bunnies, 3) she gets a name change when she passes cop training and becomes Officer Hopps, 4) the film sheds light on a serious moral issue through comedy, and 5) the disregarded protagonist exposes the establishment as the true fool, and everyone lives happily ever after. 

Future Research:

Stories that fit my Zoomorphic Masterplot criteria: FANTASTIC MR. FOX, MICKEY MOUSE and DONALD DUCK films, THE SECRET OF N.I.H.M., and REDWALL.

And that’s it! The April Blogging A-Z Challenge is finished! Thanks for being part of Masterplots Theater. We sincerely hope you enjoyed the show.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/a-z-challenge/masterplots-theater-z-is-for-zoomorphic/

Masterplots Theater: X is for X Meets Y (Genre Mashups)

X meets Y Mashups Masterplots TheaterWelcome back to Masterplots Theater! All month we’ve been talking about writing individual masterplots, but what if you’re deliberately writing a story in two genres? What the heck is that? Well, I’d call that a “mashup”, or for the purposes of the A-Z Challenge, an “X Meets Y” masterplot.

But the real question is: should you write a mashup? Or should you stick to one genre? After all, mashups are either breakout hits or dismal failures. Done wrong and they can mess with your whole story and make you wonder why you ever committed to such a frankenstein-like project. However, done right and you’ll wow the masses. 

X Meets Y Plot Notes: 

The defining element of an X Meets Y masterplot is that it not only uses but embraces two or more genres equally. This means that each genre gets the same level of screen time and importance. For example, adding a bit of comedy to your horror flick doesn’t make it a mashup. That’s just a horror film with some funny lines. Same with a romantic comedy. If it’s a romance with a couple funny situations, it’s still just a romance. But if it’s a fully flushed out Love Story with comic throughlines and laughs throughout the entire tale, that’s what we now call a Rom-Com — a mashup so popular and prevalent it has become it’s own genre.

Because of this dual-genre thing, two plots are generally required for an X Meets Y story. It’s important to note that these plots could be told separately, but together they make mashup magic! The plots will intertwine either from the get-go (like in SHAUN OF THE DEAD) or gradually (like the episodic murder mysteries and season-long zombie plague story arc of iZOMBIE).

Some masterplots are heavy on the character arc (like Rite of Passage or Love Story) and some are not (like Adventure or Horror). Likewise, some masterplots require lots of action (like Pursuit and Escape) but others don’t (like Institutionalized or Buddy Love). Armed with this knowledge, aim to combine plots with opposing characteristics. I feel this is one reason why SHAUN OF THE DEAD works so well — the action-packed zombie horror juxtaposes perfectly against the heartwarming romance.

Finally, the brilliance of the X Meets Y masterplot is its wide audience appeal. For example, people who don’t generally like horror flicks enjoy SHAUN OF THE DEAD because it’s also a romantic comedy. So if done well, this masterplot can be a hit!

Example to Study:

SHAUN OF THE DEAD is so obviously a perfect example of this masterplot (as I explained in the above section), therefore I’m choosing something different for the official example: the television show iZOMBIEiZombie

· 2 GENRES: Cop procedural (Mystery) meets zombie horror (Thriller). No wonder I love this show so much — it is literally my favourite genres and masterplots together, with a dash of Comedy (but not enough to make this a triple mashup).

· 2 PLOTS: In every episode there is the murder-of-the-week mystery and also a zombie plot. The murder plot and the zombie plot often seem unrelated at the beginning, but reveal themselves to be connected by the end of the episode. However, it would be absolutely possible to tell the story from one perspective (cop-Mystery) or the other (zombie-Thriller), but they’re more fun together.

· OPPOSING PLOT CHARACTERISTICS: Mystery plots are less action-heavy than Thrillers, and we see this in how the iZombie detective scenes are more brain-teasers (the audience trying to solve the mystery along with Liv and Clive) and the paranormal scenes are more brain-eaters (thrills and chills). *Sorry for the lame zombie joke; I couldn’t resist.

· WIDE AUDIENCE APPEAL: I can only speculate about this since I haven’t done an in-depth survey on the show’s viewers, but I do know that my boyfriend and I both love iZombie despite our different tastes in TV shows. Plus, it was just renewed for a 3rd season, so its ratings must be good! 

Future Research:

Books: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER by Seth Grahame-Smith (historical + paranormal), THE LUNDAR CHRONICLES (fairy tale romance + dystopian quest), OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon (historical romance + sci-fi / fantasy), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Seth Grahame-Smith (classic lit + horror).

Films: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (horror + romantic comedy, aka a rom-com-zom flick), THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (pseudo-documentary horror), THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (sic-fi-horror-comedy-musical), CRIME AND MISDEMEANORS (romantic comedy + murder mystery), NEAR DARK (vampire-western), KUNG FU HUSTLE (action-musical), WESTWORLD (western + sci-fi), OUTLANDER (historical + sci-fi), JERRY MAGUIRE (sports flick + rom com),

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed X is for X Meets Y and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, Y is for Yarn.

So… have you ever tried to write a mash-up?

For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After
I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal
K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story
M is for Metamorphosis 

N is for Nemesis
O is for Out of the Bottle
P is for Pursuit
Q is for Quest
R is for Rite of Passage
S is for Sacrifice
T is for Thriller
U is for Unrequited Love
V is for Vengeance
W is for Wretched Excess

 

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-x-is-for-x-meets-y-genre-mashups/

Masterplots Theater: W is for Wretched Excess

W is for Wretched Excess

Welcome to Masterplots Theater.

Does your main character start out fine? The have a fulfilling job, a loving partner, and a family life any one would be envious of? But writing a character with everything is pretty dull. You throw in a few bad events, and during this new stressful time, your hero falls under the spell of an old vice. Your character turns to drinking, drugs or maybe a sex addiction to ease the strain. Soon it’s all gone, they have no job, no home, or most importantly no family. If your character is in this type of downward spiral, you may be writing the Wretched Excess Masterplot.

Wretched Excess Plot Notes:

This plot centers on those seven deadly sins. The main character has a flaw, and it’s one that leads them to indulge in a vice. Soon they take this vice to a dangerous or even a deadly level. This descent into old behaviors does shocking things to the character, both physiologically and physically.

The character’s fall impacts everyone around them, and it creates sympathy for either the self-destructive character or their disappointed family depending on who the protagonist is. Sometimes both sides deserve sympathy. The story might have no clear villains. The character’s chosen vice just has a pull too strong for them to resist.

This masterplot often requires showing the addicted character in three distinct phases.

1. The before phase: The story opens with either the old addiction being defeated, or a snapshot of a current happy life. Near the beginning of the story we will see that things are going okay. The character is either enjoying the fruits of their labor, or they’re poised to receive something better.

2. The undoing phase: Life throws some unplanned for problems into the character’s life; once this issue is introduced, things change. The stress factor can be anything: ill-health, loss of a loved one, disillusionment with their former happy life, job changes, etc. The character start yielding to their old addictions. As they slip deeper under the old vice’s control, things fall apart fast. Losing the things they cherish most eventually creates a tipping point.

3. The resolution phase: The character either falls victim to their problems and often dies, or they find a way to overcome their addiction and reclaim aspects of their old cherished life.

Example to Study:

Mr. and Mrs. SmithI’m picking an odd one for this example, MR. & MRS. SMITH, because this film is one of the most creative uses of the Wretched Excess Masterplot I have ever seen. And here’s why:

· BEFORE SNAPSHOT: Mr. and Mrs. Smith were happy assassins before marriage. They did their jobs, which required never trusting anyone, enjoyed the rush of being paid killers and moved on. But something was missing. Once they marry, they attempt to hide their occupations and create the home life and intimacy they both crave.

· CATALYST: The marriage starts to fall apart, the strain of lying about their issues and trying to be the perfect couple is taking a toll. Then each character receives instructions to kill the other. This reveals the house of lies the marriage is based on and each character is devastated.

· FALLING FOR OLD VICE: The pair revert back to their old assassin’s code. They stop trusting each other and start trying to kill each other. They destroy their home, friendships with co-workers and reputations in the process. The adrenaline rush of being assassins is too strong to fight. For a while it looks like they will kill each other rather than give up their old patterns of behavior.

RESOLUTION: They decide the marriage is more important to them than the thrill of being assassins. They will trust each other and work as a team to dig out from the hole indulging in their old behavior has created.

Future Research:

Some examples are: LOST WEEKEND, CASINO, WALL STREET, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, OTHELLO and DEATH OF A SALESMAN.

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed W is for Wretched Excess and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, X is for X meets Y – Genre Mashups.

For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After
I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal
K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story
M is for Metamorphosis 

N is for Nemesis
O is for Out of the Bottle
P is for Pursuit
Q is for Quest
R is for Rite of Passage
S is for Sacrifice
T is for Thriller
U is for Unrequited Love
V is for Vengeance

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-w-is-for-wretched-excess/

Masterplots Theater: T is for Thriller

T Masterplots Theater-4Welcome back to Masterplots Theater! Is your story about a someone on a mission to stop a murderer? Great! But do you know whether it’s a thriller or a mystery? If you’re like me, you might have answered, “It’s both — a mystery thriller!” Thing is, I’ve discovered that mysteries and thrillers are not the same, and though each can have elements of the other, it’s helpful to understand the difference. So today’s episode won’t simply be a study of one masterplot, but rather a comparison of two.

Thriller vs Mystery Plot Notes: 

The first main difference between thrillers and mysteries is something I’ve dubbed crime timing: In a mystery, the main crime has already been committed (or happens right at the beginning of the story). In a thriller, the crime (at least the main one) hasn’t yet been committed and isn’t scheduled to take place until the climax of the story, and that creates the impending feeling of doom and intense suspense that comes with the Thriller masterplot.

The second crucial difference is the hero’s goal: in a mystery, the hero (and reader) aims to figure out who committed the crime; in a thriller, the hero strives to stop the villain from committing the crime. And if the hero doesn’t yet know who the villain is, he will at least have an idea of who it could be.

In a thriller, the pacing is fast. Stuff happens in an almost relentless seesaw of suspense and scares that yank the audience’s emotions back and forth and keeps them on the edge of their seats. However, mysteries are more of a controlled slow build as the clues pile up.

The level of danger also differs. In a mystery the hero is not in imminent danger, though the danger increases as the hero gets closer to discovering the identity of the criminal. But in a thriller, the hero is in danger from the beginning.

POV is also quite distinct between these two masterplots. In mysteries, the audience/reader is only privy to what the hero knows. This makes for a lot of close 3rd person POVs in mystery novels. In thrillers, the audience/reader often knows more than the hero. This makes omniscient 3rd person or multiple POVs (including the criminal’s) the perspective of choice for thrillers.

As you may have guessed, different POVs affect plotting significantly. In thrillers, the audience often knows more than the hero and is waiting on pins and needles for bad things to happen to the less-informed hero. Knowing something is going to happen but not when is the key to suspense, which is the thriller’s calling card. Whereas in a mystery, the audience will not know more than the detective and is uncovering the clues as the hero does. That’s not to say that mysteries can’t be suspenseful, but that suspense won’t ramp up until the hero and reader have amassed enough clues to get an idea of what dangers could befall them.

Example to Study:

BookCover-i-hunt-killersI HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga is appropriately classified a mystery-thriller, because it’s a little bit of both genres. I used to think it was more thriller, because it’s fast-paced and a difficult book to put down. However, now I would argue it’s more mystery than thriller, and here is why…

· CRIME TIMING: Mystery. Before the first line of the book, a murder has been committed and the main character, Jazz, is watching the police inspect the scene. More murders will happen before the story is over, but there isn’t an imminent big crime that the killer is working towards, at least not to the hero’s knowledge.

· HERO’S GOAL: Mystery. Jazz aims to find out who this new serial killer is before the town starts suspecting him, the son of an incarcerated murderer.

· PACING: Ooo, this is a tough one. Though this book starts off with mystery pacing, it enters thriller pace in the last half. But if I read my own paragraph on pacing, I guess that still means this is a mystery that simply ramps up as the hero gets closer to unmasking the murderer.

· DANGER: Mystery for sure. Jazz is in no personal danger at the beginning of this story. He doesn’t even fit the victim profile! Not until his investigation brings him close to identifying the killer is his life on the line.

· POV: Mystery & Thriller. Like a mystery, Jazz’s POV is close 3rd person and we don’t know anything he doesn’t… until we encounter the killer’s POV. Though the killer doesn’t identify himself (leaving that tidbit for the end mystery solve), having insight into the killer’s mind brings this novel into the thriller realm because we learn what nefarious things the killer is up to and that creates suspense and concern around the fate of the other characters in the book.

Future Research:

When trying to think of examples, I realize I’m most familiar with Mystery-Thriller Hybrids. You can apply the Plot Notes yourself to the following films, because they all lie more on one side than the other, to see how the masterplots fuse together: SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE DEPARTED, and SEVEN.

For a more pure look at the Thriller masterplot, Alfred Hitchcock is your man. He’s famous for illuminating how suspense means that the audience knows more than the hero. Start with the film THE 39 STEPS.

Also helpful to note is that other masterplots, especially Pursuit and Horror, fit into the Thriller genre too.

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed T is for Thriller and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, U is for Unrequited Love.

Now for a show of hands: Have you ever struggled to decide whether you were writing a mystery or a thriller?

For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After
I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal
K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story
M is for Metamorphosis 

N is for Nemesis
O is for Out of the Bottle
P is for Pursuit
Q is for Quest
R is for Rite of Passage
S is for Sacrifice

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-t-is-for-thriller/

Masterplots Theater: S is for Sacrifice

S is for SacrificeWelcome to Masterplots Theater.

Do you crave brave and selfless acts in your stories? The Sacrifice Masterplot requires these, because this hero is facing gut-wrenching decisions. This is a master plot for powerful emotional tales, ones that might leave your keyboard soggy and your readers emotionally devastated, but that’s just another part of the sacrifice.

Sacrifice Plot Notes:

This plot is all about the ending. The powerful, tear-stained ending, when a beloved character dies or gives up their freedom or fortunes to save another character. It’s best attempted by writers who are planners, because every step of the way the character making the sacrifice must develop into the kind of character (we believe) would give up their own life and livelihood for another person.

This is not a very popular masterplot, but it is an old one. Sacrifice was often at the core of classic Greek tragedies. It is still a huge theme in many stories about religious faith (Joan of Arc) and nationalistic pride (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN).

The most common tagline for stories with this masterplot is the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. However, one-to-one sacrifice is also common, especially within a family situation. The most common form is a parent sacrificing themselves for the good of their child. However, partners often make extreme sacrifices too. A less devastating example of partner sacrifice is O. Henry’s THE GIFT OF THE MAGI.

Currently, the Sacrifice shows up mostly in Sci-fi and dystopia. It’s also used as a common subplot to help increase the ending story stakes. The death of Obi Wan in STAR WARS IV is a good example.

This masterplot is often a heartbreaker. The characters are trapped in no-win situations and even with a major sacrifice by one of the characters; the story can still end on a bittersweet note.

Example to Study:

Catching_fireA great example is CATCHING FIRE the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Here’s why:

· GREATER GOOD: Several of the Hunger Games participants decide in advance of the games to sacrifice themselves so that Katniss might live to lead the rebellion.

· IT”S BELIEVABLE: It takes the example of several lone characters willing to stand up and to die early on to create the perfect situation for us to understand why so many characters would work together to save Katniss.

· REOCCURRING THEME: From day one in book one, sacrifice is a theme. Peeta was repeatedly willing to sacrifice himself for Katniss, just as Katniss was willing to sacrifice herself for her sister. The theme is just taken it to the next level as the stakes are raised in books two and three.

· ENDS ON A BITTERSWEET NOTE: Although some of the ending issues are resolved in book three, it’s not a happy ending by any means. We have lost characters and others are in the hands of the The Capitol.

Future Research:

It’s hard to find books or movies with a pure Sacrifice Masterplot; most have variations of the theme. Some reads with a clear sacrifice message are: A TALE OF TWO CITIES, THE ROAD, or look for more Self-Sacrifice themed books on Goodreads.

Hollywood loves a good Sacrifice plot. Some films to watch are: NORMA RAE, ARMAGEDDON, IRON GIANT, TITANIC, MY SISTER’S KEEPER and SILKWOOD.

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed S is for Sacrifice and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, T is for Thriller.

For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After

I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal
K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story
M is for Metamorphosis
N is for Nemesis
O is for Out of the Bottle 

P is for Pursuit
Q is for Quest

R is for Rite of Passage

And please share your favorite sacrifice stories in the comments below.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-s-is-for-sacrifice/

Masterplots Theater: R is for Rite of Passage

R Masterplots Theater-5Welcome back to Masterplots Theater! When people hear “Rite of Passage plot” they often think it’s another term for “coming-of-age story.” While youthful tales involving loss of innocence and puberty most definitely fit the Rite of Passage mold, not all ROP stories are about teenagers. Allow me to explain…

Rite of Passage Plot Notes: 

The defining element of the Rite of Passage masterplot is a life problem. It can be adolescence, mid-life, death of a loved one, addiction, or divorce. See? Puberty isn’t the only awkward, painful stage we humans go through.

The main conflict in this masterplot is internal conflict because the root of the hero’s problem is not a villain or other outside force, though the hero will spend much of the story denying this and blaming the world for their problem.

The hero will inevitably pursue the wrong solution to the problem, which is generally a diversion from confronting it head on, but for those of us who have lived through any of life’s painful stages, we know avoidance is never the answer.

Avoiding pain, recoiling from the hot flame, is natural, even logical — yet only the counterintuitive move of embracing pain will help.

Blake Snyder, Save the Cat!® Goes to the Movies, pg 111.

Rite of Passage stories are ultimately about surviving bad times and getting one’s life on track. The only solution to the hero’s problem is acceptance of a hard truth that the hero has been fighting (for example, he finally admits he’s an addict, or he accepts that his brother’s death isn’t his fault). With that acceptance comes the knowledge that he must change, not the world around him, in order to get through this painful time in his life.

Example to Study:

10, an old movie from 1979, is an excellent example of the Rite of Passage masterplot.10 movie

· LIFE PROBLEM: Hero turns 40 and begins a classic mid-life crisis.

· WRONG SOLUTION: Pursue a young, beautiful, newly married woman, aka a “perfect 10”.

· INTERNAL CONFLICT: Is he good enough? Is he a failure? Is this all there is to life?

· ACCEPTANCE: Hero accepts that he is middle-aged and stops trying to act like he’s twentysomething, and finds happiness in his life.

Future Research:

Films: LOST IN TRANSLATION, THE BREAK-UP, THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, KRAMER VS KRAMER, ORDINARY PEOPLE, 28 DAYS, TRAINSPOTTING, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, RISKY BUSINESS, SIXTEEN CANDLES, AMERICAN PIE, DAZED AND CONFUSED, and many more. Movies love this masterplot.

Books: PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King, LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL by Jo Knowles, IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky, LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel.

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed R is for Rite of Passage and invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater.

For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After
I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal
K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story
M is for Metamorphosis
N is for Nemesis
O is for Out of the Bottle 

P is for Pursuit
Q is for Quest

And please share your favorite Rite of Passage stories in the comments below.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-r-is-for-rite-of-passage/

Masterplots Theater: N is for Nemesis

N Masterplots Theater-4Welcome back to Masterplots Theater where we examine archetypal plots in books and film. Today we’re going to study a plot often referred to as “Rivalry”, but I need an “N” post for the purpose of the #AtoZChallenge, so I’m going to call this masterplot “Nemesis.” After all, there is no rivalry if the hero doesn’t have a nemesis!

Nemesis Plot Notes: 

The defining element of this masterplot is the conflict between the hero and the nemesis. They are adversaries who know about each other. In other plots the protagonist may not know much about the antagonist, or even know the true identity of the enemy until the end of the story, but in the Nemesis masterplot the hero is well aware of who he is up against, and he usually has a personal connection to his archrival.

Often the conflict is a competition, either because the hero and his nemesis have the same goal (for example, to be the top male model, like in ZOOLANDER), or are after the same thing (like treasure with Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN), or are literally in a competition (like the boxing championship in ROCKY). And sometimes the conflict manifests because of a moral issue, such as Professor X and Magneto’s differing ideals over the mutants’ place in the world (X-MEN).

The hero and the nemesis should be equally matched. For example, Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty is just as smart as the brilliant detective. However, the adversaries’ strengths don’t need to be the same, as long as one rival has compensating strengths to match the other (like Professor X and Magneto of X-MEN).

Finally, Nemesis masterplots always lead to a huge climatic showdown between the protagonist and the antagonist.

Example to Study:

BookCover-Rot&RuinIt was easy to come up with a slew of film examples for the Nemesis masterplot (see next section below), but I had a harder time with novels. I finally decided to study ROT & RUIN by Jonathan Mayberry:

· ADVERSARIES: The nemesis in this book is Charlie Pink-Eye, a bounty hunter who tracks and kills zombies. At first the main character, Benny, looks up to Charlie and wishes his brother Tom (also a bounty hunter) was more like him, but that changes when Benny learns what kind of person Charlie really is.

· COMPETITION: Charlie and Tom are both bounty hunters who compete for business and control of trading routes in the zombie infested Rot & Ruin. They have been adversaries for a long time. Benny is new to the bounty hunter business and Charlie becomes his nemesis too.

· MORAL ISSUE: Charlie and Tom approach the job of zombie bounty hunter very differently. So different, in fact, that Tom doesn’t even like to be called a bounty hunter, and prefers the term “Closure Specialist.”

· PERSONAL CONNECTION: Charlie is responsible for doing something horrific to the woman Tom loves.

· EQUALLY MATCHED: Charlie and Tom are both very good at their jobs and extremely skilled fighters, though they use different weapons and tactics. 

· SHOWDOWN: Charlie is running a terrible place called Gameland that Tom and Benny set out to shut down, and obviously that involves a huge battle at the end of the story.

Future Research:

Films: THE OUTSIDERS (The Greasers vs The Socs), SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Sherlock vs Professor Moriarty), X-MEN (Professor X vs Magneto), BRING IT ON (Torrance vs Isis), THOR (Thor vs Loki), BRIDESMAIDS (Annie vs Helen), WEST SIDE STORY (Sharks vs Jets), MEAN GIRLS (Cady vs Regina), ZOOLANDER (Hansel vs Derek), BLACK SWAN (Nina vs Lily), DODGEBALL (Peter LaFleur vs White Goodman).

Thank you for joining us today. For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After

I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal
K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story
M is for Metamorphosis

We hope you enjoyed N is for Nemesis and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, O is for Out of the Bottle.

And please share your favorite on-screen and in-book rivalries in the comments below.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-n-is-for-nemesis/

Masterplots Theater: M is Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis Masterplots Theater-1Welcome to Masterplots Theater. Today we have Metamorphosis! This masterplot is not new. It dates back to the classic Greek writers, but it takes it’s name from a 1915 German novella by Franz Kafka. I just read the original Metamorphosis at the urging of my friend Cindy who guest posted (Writing Sci-Fi) a few weeks ago. The story is gritty and dark, very different from the more mainstream Metamorphosis stories we see today.

If you love to write supernatural, paranormal or anything with huge character changes, I’m talking the kind of change that involves fur, fangs and antenna, Metamorphosis is your masterplot.

Metamorphosis Plot Notes: 

This plot is about the transfiguration of a human into something very different! It’s a versatile plot. It can accommodate a story that is shocking and deeply macabre, or one that’s humorous and written for children. Vampires, werewolves and just about any type of morphed character works for this plot. And you can make the plot fit many genres and subgenres: romance, coming of age, parables and many others.

In a classic Metamorphosis plot the change is always physical. The main character’s outward appearance is typically unrecognizable from their former shape. There are exceptions, such as PINOCCHIO where the change is drastic but still leaves him with the same basic human form.

The change is not necessarily permanent. Many metamorphosis stories are about the character’s journey from first change, all the way back to taking  human form again. In many cases the change often reflects the inner struggle of the character. In BEAUTY AND THE BEAST the prince who spent his pre-metamorphoisis days as an arrogant jerk needs to learn kindness in order to find someone to love him regardless of his outward appearance.

The use of a dramatic change is not the full measure of a Metamorphosis masterplot. For example in ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Alice is changed several times and it’s inconvenient, but it’s not life-altering in the same way becoming a werewolf or a zombie is.

The Metamorphosis makes a great subplot. It shows up in THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, and becomes the critical character change moment for Eustace.

The event that starts (or sometimes ends) the protagonist’s transfiguration is often related to a curse, or the course of true love. However, in many stories the protagonist may not know why they were transfigured until later in the story.

The resolution of this story is usually one of three outcomes: 1) restoration of the character’s previous form, 2) the character adapts to their new form, or 3) they die.

Example to Study:Beastly

BEASTLY by  Alex Flinn

· JOURNEY FOCUSED: From the start we know the main character Kyle is a tool. He’s also a teen with lots of problems, and that helps create a lackluster sympathy for him along with the revulsion.

· CURSE: When Kyle plays a mean joke on an outcast in his school, he crosses the wrong person. Kendra places the curse on Kyle and transforms him into the beast. Because she wants to believe there is some good inside Kyle, Kendra gives him an out: two years to break the curse.

· BONUS: I love a good retelling and this one did a great job of modernizing and making the story relevant to a new generation. However, it’s just okay in terms of giving BEAUTY AND THE BEAST a fresh spin by telling the story in the beast’s perspective.

· ENDING: Spoiler alert, true love wins, order is restored and everyone is better for having lived through the ordeal.

Future Research:

Of course you can read Kafka, or any of the many adaptions of THE FROG PRINCE or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. And there are plenty of modern takes on the wolfman and of vampire lore that fit this masterplot too.

Thank you for joining us today. Other episodes in this series include:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After

I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal 

K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story

We hope you enjoyed M is for Metamorphosis and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, N is for Nemesis.

Please share you thoughts on Metamorphosis stories in the Comments

 

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-m-is-metamorphosis/

Masterplots Theater: L is for Love Story

l Masterplots Theater-7

Welcome back to Masterplots Theater! Today we are exploring one of the most popular masterplots of all time: The Love Story. And even if you’re not writing a full-on romance, most stories have an amorous subplot which contains the same plot elements. So without further ado, let’s fall in love!

Love Story Plot Notes: 

The defining element of this masterplot is the love interest. No kidding, right? If there’s no one to fall in love with, well, you don’t have a love story. And before the protagonist can fall in love, they have to meet the object of their desire. This is commonly called a “meet cute.” I had never heard this term until Robin blogged about it, but it’s true – every love story has that scene where the future lovers meet for the first time.

But if the characters met and were like, “Awesome! Let’s start a loving relationship right now!” Well, that wouldn’t be much of a story. So there’s always a Major Obstacle keeping them apart. The obstacle can be personal (character is already married), professional (character’s job prevents them from having a relationship with the other), family-related (in a historical romance the dad doesn’t approve of the union), situational (characters live in different places), etc. 

It’s also common that the characters in a love story seem ill-suited for each other in some way: popular teen and nerd, prosecutor and defense attorney, rich kid and poor kid, criminal and do-gooder, etc. Again, because people who are obviously perfect for each other don’t make very interesting stories. Ramp up that conflict!

The lovers are tested throughout the story, both individually and together. Why? Because love must be earned. Also, this is a good tip to make sure you show that the couple is in love (through tests and challenges) and are not just telling the reader they’re in love. Actions always speak louder than words, especially when it comes to romance.

Many love stories have happy endings, but they don’t have to. What’s important is that love was found, even if it can’t last.

Example to Study:

BookCover-Eleanor&ParkELEANOR & PARK  by Rainbow Rowell

· MEET CUTE: Eleanor and Park meet when none of the other kids will let Eleanor sit with them on the bus. Park takes pity on her and moves his backpack so she can sit beside him.

· MAJOR OBSTACLE: Eleanor’s step-dad is a creepy dude who does not allow her to date or do much of anything.

· ILL-SUITED: Eleanor is a weird, poor kid from a broken family; Park is a half-Asian misfit who’s actually a tiny bit cool. No one expects them to get together, not even themselves.

· TESTS: Eleanor and Park’s relationship is tested whenever they’re in public together. They’re also tested individually with their own family and friends. How they react to these challenges slowly reveals the depths of their feelings for each other. 

· ENDING: Spoiler alert, but the ending of this novel is not a happily-ever-after. Still, it’s real and raw, and the love they had was true and changed both characters.

Future Research:

Novels: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green, THE NOTEBOOK by Nicolas Sparks, GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell

Films: TITANIC, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, PRETTY WOMAN, DIRTY DANCING, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER

Thank you for joining us today. Other episodes in this series include:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After

I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal 

K is for Kinsmen

We hope you enjoyed L is for Love Story and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, M is for Metamorphosis.

What are your favourite love stories? Do you have any tips for writing romance? Please share in the Comments!

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-l-is-for-love-story/

Masterplots Theater: K is for Kinsmen

Kinsmen Masterplots TheaterWelcome back to Masterplots Theater.

You just sat down to work on your next book and it features an explosive family relationship. If it spans decades of betrayal, abandonment and emotional scarring, chances are you’re writing a Kinsmen story. The Kinsmen is the classic family drama. It’s what most people call the family saga. For our A to Z series this year F was already taken, so I opted for the older term Kinsmen to bring you this fantastic masterplot.

Kinsmen Plot Notes:

The framework of this story is conflict between family members. It’s siblings against siblings, parents against children, or husband against wife, etc. It’s a story dripping with emotion, long festering secrets and generational rivalry. It never hurts if gobs of money or the fate of the universe are at stake.

This character-driven story often features a dual narrative structure. It’s infrequently told in a linear timeline, opting instead for lots of flashbacks.

The main characters are sucked into a family conflict. This may or may not be preceded by family harmony. The trigger event is often an external conflict. War, social movements, and any race, class or gender issue is fair game. As the family internalizes the external conflict, they pick sides and this stresses the family and splits them apart. Even friends are pressured to take sides. A few characters will do their best to stay neutral or play peacemakers.

The fight may invoke clear good vs. evil divisions or be morally ambiguous, leaving value judgments to the reader.

The Kinsmen is often confused with the Institutionalized masterplot. The critical difference is the characters’ backstory. The Institutionalized characters don’t have pre-existing relationships, shared history and blood bonds. Also at the core of the Kinsmen masterplot is a twisted sense of love, honor, loyalty and commitment. One of the books that is often categorized incorrectly is THE GODFATHER. You will see it called an Institutionalized, but it’s a Kinsmen.

Most black-sheep relative and prodigal son stories are also Kinsmen plots.

This story usually resolves with a horrible casualty that leaves one or both sides morally wounded, or seeking to end the conflict for the sake of the remaining family members. However, it can end with a happily-ever-after if both sides learn to forgive.

Example to Study:StarWars

This is such a common masterplot it’s a challenge to pick just one, but someone asked me to mention when we got to the dominant masterplot for Star Wars and we have arrived. There are other plot layers to this space opera, but the theme that tugs at our hearts is 100% Kinsmen.

FATHER-SON FEUD: Looking at just the three center films, we can see Luke and Darth Vader are the key. Although separated and reunited under strange circumstances, this relationship evolves into a contest of wills between father and son. It is an echo of the contest of wills that evolved between Anakin and Obi Wan in the first three films. All six films include problems in father (or surrogate father) and son relationships.

TWISTED LOVE: The deeper layers of Anakin’s character, including his ability to love, is established in films one, two and three.  His devastating downward spiral paves the way for his reappearance as a chilling villain in film four. Yet it also plants the seeds of the family resolution of film six.

RESOLUTION: There are still two movies to go, but based on the first six we have a HEA of sorts to this Kinsmen tale. We know that Darth makes a deathbed change and a big part of that is because of his love for Luke. This reconciles the Darth and Luke father-son feud and the father-son feud between Obi Wan and Anakin.

BONUS: It’s important to remember that these six (now eventually nine) films were created as one story. The character arc of all these characters needed to sustain a long multi-generational timeline. We already know the Kinsmen aspects of Star Wars will continue, but we have no way of knowing how it will evolve. It will be interesting to watch.

Future Research:

I suspect you don’t need much help to find a Kinsmen book. THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo is a great start. Or try this Goodreads link for more.

Thank you for joining us today. Other episodes in this series include:
A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After
I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal

We hope you enjoyed K is for Kinsmen and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, L is for Love Story.

Please share your thoughts on the Kinsmen in the comments below.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-k-is-for-kinsmen/

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