Tag Archive: #AtoZChallenge

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: Y is for Yarn

Y is for YarnWelcome to my last Masterplots Theater post. As is so often the case with the last letters of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge (X, Y and Z are so hard), I need to take a few artistic liberties with this post. There are simply no great masterplots for the letter Y.

There are, however, Yarns.

Do you like to create your own story structure, something not grounded by strict traditional forms of three acts and rising action? Do you like to engage the reader in the process by using a narrator or breaking the fourth wall? If you do, the Yarn might be what you need to tell your next story to perfection.

Yarn Plot Notes:

A Yarn is a method of storytelling with loosely defined rules, but a style all its own. The Yarn frequently appears unstructured or under-structured; this is from the tendency to use non-linear or organic storytelling approaches.

Narration and narrators are usually the focal point of the Yarn. Creating a fame for the story is one of the ways this is exhibited. The narrator often breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader directly. Or a specific character might work as a stand-in for the audience’s perspective.

The Yarn traditionally is a slower to read. It’s described in metaphors of weaving or a spider spinning a web. The reader needs to want to fall under the spell of the Yarn and get trapped by the narration. If the reader is not engaged the story might read as dated, dull or too prose heavy. Lyrical and highly visual prose is always included in a great Yarn.

A Yarn is often highly fanciful and filled with childlike wonder. The core of many Yarns are fairy tales expanded and given new twists. Outlandish story complications and a high level of suspension of disbelief are normal to this form. Character development is often given a back seat to having a large number of quirky characters, or to using stock characters which produce obvious good and evil contrasts. The hallmark of Yarns is a wide or family level of appeal.

Yarns favor folk or vernacular language. Dialects and other techniques give flavor to the characters and feeling of another time and place. However, extreme language quirks are not expressly needed to create a compelling Yarn.

Setting is often a main character for a Yarn. Removing the characters from the setting diminishes the story. Mark Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN is a classic example. Removing the Mississippi River would diminish the story. Being able to picture ourselves within the setting is the best part of a Yarn.

The Yarn loves to leave story threads hanging. Since Yarns come out of oral storytelling traditions, those threads would be the seeds of new stories for another day. The Yarn is not about answers; it’s about questions and possibilities. That means the plot is often open to more than one interpretation.

Example to Study:

TheNightCircusI’m picking THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern and here’s why:

· SETTING: Contrary to the book’s blurb, the story is really about the circus. The setting is the venue for the most important action and (sorry for the spoilers) also proves the main catalyst for the climax. The circus is magical, and it receives more attention in terms of development and page time than anything else in the book. Being in love with the setting is really all that’s required of the reader. With a level of affection for this setting, the reader is free to wander. Perhaps creating even more interesting adventures than the ones they find presented on the pages.

· CHARACTERS: Almost all these characters (young and old) are quirky, in part that is to feed the circus vibe, but it’s a step beyond that. Since magic is the norm in this world, almost all the major characters have talents that are extraordinary. The magic is imperfectly defined, but limited by each character’s special abilities. Motivations are sometimes unclear, but there is a black and white sense of good and bad, and we don’t need to wonder who we should like or trust with only one notable exception.

· STRUCTURE: The structure in this book is all over the place: we flip from timeline to timeline, year to year, and back, building pieces of a puzzle.

· BONUS: The story can appeal to the whole family. Yarns were for everyone young and old to partake in. Aside from one very mild sex scene, there is nothing within this story an advance middle grade reader couldn’t handle.

Future Research:

Read Mark Twain and read it all! From TOM SAWYER to THE CELEBRATED FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY. No one can spin a yarn like Twain.

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

If you love Yarns or tried to write one, please share your experience in the comments.

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
X is for X Meets Y, Genre Mashups

 

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

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: Q is for Quest

Q Masterplots Theater-5Welcome back to Masterplots Theater!

I often see authors describing their stories as quests in their book blurbs. Sadly, many of these books are not quests and that leads to reader disappointment. The Quest might be the most misunderstood of all the masterplots. Just because a story is High / Epic Fantasy, or follows Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey formula does not make it automatically a Quest Masterplot. So today we clarify what makes a Quest.

Quest Plot Notes:

The quest involves a main character going in search of something, and they have a basic notion of what they seek at the start of the story. They can search for almost anything. It can be person, like a lost parent or child. It can be a thing, like the Holy Grail. Or it can be a place, like Shangri-La. It can even be something intangible. Don Quixote sets out on a quest to right all of society’s wrongs.

The search for a MacGuffin object does not count. And herein rests one of the biggest issues with most incorrectly labeled stories. The object being sought must be a game changer for the central character. It must define them as a character and the Quest must impact the rest of that character’s life in a meaningful way. If they can go back to their old life happy, healthy and unscathed, they have not been on a quest.

Th Quest is a physical journey; the hero leaves the safety of their home for this search. The story is often told in a linear timeline. The Quest is similar to an Adventure Masterplot in chronology and structure, but the Quest is spiritual, packed with inner conflict and character growth, and that’s something the adventure story seldom is.

The main hero needs buddy characters for their dangerous endeavor. For example, Jason has his Argonauts on the quest for the Golden Fleece. Obsession can cloud the quest character’s judgement and betrayals are common. Quest teams often turn on each other, and create human obstacle for the hero to overcome.

The Quest also works as a subplot in a bigger story. For example, the quest of Inigo Montoya for the man who killed his father in THE PRINCESS BRIDE.

Even if the quest prize is never reached, ultimately the story is about gathering inner wisdom. Each obstacle on the quester’s path teaches something valuable. The ending result of the journey is often not what the hero expected at the start.

Example to Study:

Lord of the Rings coverI was planning to avoid using THE LORD OF THE RINGS this month, because as quests go it has some wonky bits. But it is a favorite plot of so many people, and I decided to relent. I’m looking at the three books as one overarching plot for the sake of this example.

· PHYSICAL JOURNEY/SEARCH:  Clearly this quest leaves the Shire far behind. By the end of the story there are few corners of Middle Earth that the guest party didn’t step foot on.

· BUDDY CHARACTERS: Sam and Frodo stick together, but all the characters are working in support of the quest, even when some of them are separated from Frodo.

· OBSESSION/BETRAYAL: The ring is by nature an item that breeds obsession, so it’s not surprising that many characters covet it. Or that some are willing to betray alliances and their inner moral code to try to acquire it.

· EFFECTS OF THE QUEST: All of he quest characters are changed at least in part by the quest, but some more than others. Frodo is never the same, while Sam seems the least changed of anyone.

Future Research:

Because Quests plots are often mislabeled, I think it’s best to go back to the basics and read JASMON AND THE ARGONAUTS, THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH and DON QUIXOTE. Many mysteries, particularly those where a protagonist police officer hunts a criminal with single-minded determination, are also loosely based on the Quest masterplot. It can also be helpful to read any story labeled a quest to find evidence for why it is or isn’t one. For example, would THE WIZARD OF OZ be a quest? I say no. I consider it closer to an Escape Masterplot. But others disagree. In truth it’s a gray area because it fits aspects of both masterplots.

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

Do you have any Quest stories you love? Please share them in the comments!

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

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

Masterplots Theater: P is for Pursuit

P is for Masterplots Theater-1Welcome back to Masterplots Theater! Today we’re going on a wild ride with the Pursuit masterplot, which is more commonly known as the Chase plot. But hey, this is the A-Z Challenge where coming up with a suitable synonym so one has a post for a tricky letter is fair game. 😉

Pursuit Plot Notes: 

The defining element of this masterplot is that the hero is being chased for the bulk of the story by the antagonist, not the other way around. 

In a Pursuit masterplot, usually the characters are badass. After all, if a hero doesn’t kick butt, he or she would be caught within minutes by the scary, smart, capable and determined antagonist in pursuit.

In order for a good pursuit to take place, there needs to be an end in sight, typically a safe place the protagonist is trying to reach. It must be established that though the antagonist will never give up, this chase still can’t last forever.

The chase must be high stakes. Often the stakes are as high as death. A close second is the threat of being arrested or being enslaved. The hero must be running for a damn good reason. On the flip side, the antagonist has equally strong reasons for pursuing the hero.

Pursuit masterplots are heavy on the physical action. There’s not tons of time for conversation when the hero is running for their life!

Finally, the pursued and pursuer must interact throughout the story, not just at the climatic final showdown. The villain may capture the hero, then the hero escapes, thus the chase continues. One long chase scene with no interactions would be pretty boring.

Example to Study:

MAD-MAX-FURY-RD-death poster-verticalMAD MAX FURY ROAD is a freaking perfect example of the Pursuit masterplot.

· HERO BEING CHASED: Furiosa is being chased by the War Boys because she’s taken the leader Immortan Joe’s slave wives. Though this is a Mad Max film, and Max quickly ends up in Furiosa’s rig being chased too, Furiosa is the true protagonist of this tale because she is the one with the goal and the problem and the plan.

· CHARACTERS ARE BADASS: No one can drive a war rig like Furiosa! Also, all the characters hang off the various vehicles to fix stuff or fight while moving! The stunts in this movie, which weren’t special effects but actual stunt artists performing, were incredible. 

· END IN SIGHT: Furiosa’s goal is to get the wives to safety, somewhere she calls The Green Place.

· HIGH STAKES: If the War Boys catch them, they’re dead.

· ACTION HEAVY: I don’t think I stopped gripping the armchair rests for this whole movie. Even the conversations were tense and usually amidst the action.

· INTERACTION: There are three main clashes between the War Boys and Furiosa’s gang before the big Act III showdown.

Future Research:

There are many films that use the Pursuit/Chase masterplot, though a lot are based on books, such as DRIVE by James Sallis, THE BOURNE IDENTITY by Robert Ludlum, and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN by Frank Abagnale and Stan Redding.

More Films: VANISHING POINT, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE NAKED PREY, THE TERMINATOR, and THE FUGITIVE.

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed P is for Pursuit and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, Q is for Quest.

Have any Pursuit/Chase stories you love? Share them in the comments!

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

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

Masterplots Theater: O is for Out of the Bottle

OOB Masterplots Theater-3Welcome back to Masterplots Theater. Do you dream of writing stories with flying carpets, or wishing wells? Or maybe you want to write a story where the bad guy gets taken down by a witch with a sense of humor. Great, because this masterplot takes us to a land of all plots magical.

Out Of The Bottle Plot Notes:

This is a tricky masterplot to work with because it hinges on an inciting incident (aka story catalyst) that involves magic, mostly wishes and curses. The release of something magical into the world can lead to a good or bad experience depending on the circumstances. This plot works equality well for comedy as it does for drama.

The stakes are almost always small and personal, and the stories are character driven. The cast of main characters is frequently on the smaller side. The protagonist will typically share the secret with only one other character.

The protagonist always receives something that changes their life. It’s usually something unexpected, but that they secretly desire. The remainder of the story is about the joys and complications created by their out of the bottle encounter. This masterplot often teaches valuable life lessons.

There are many types of Out of the Bottle story catalysts; finding a wish-granting magic lamp is just one of them. Many of them are much more subtle, or sent by a unseen power.

As in the cases of many wish fulfillment stories, the wish frequently goes wrong and the story evolves into a “be careful what you wish for” for message. However, there are many happily ever after endings too.

Examples to Study:

Because wishes and curses come in many forms, I’m changing the format a bit and giving you some groups of stories and moves that fit the main types of Out Of The Bottle plot devices.

BODY SWAPPING: Characters learn a valuable life lesson by walking in another person’s shoes. This is not the same as the Metamorphosis Masterplot; this character remains human, just many decades older or younger then before the magical encounter. It can also include the Freaky Friday style body swap. Examples are BIG, 17 AGAIN and FREAKY FRIDAY.

MAGIC ITEMS: This one includes encountering something with no clear motive or origin that creates magic without wishes. This item usually has only one magical operation. Examples are: THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD or movies like THE MASK and TOMORROW LAND.

DIVINE INTERVENTION: They may or may not ask for it, they may not want it, but it arrives anyway. And it’s just what they needed to make their life better. Examples are films MEET JOE BLACK and NANNY McPHEE.

CURSES: When the protagonist has a nasty character flaw, magic steps in. There must be some good in this character’s core for us to root for them to survive the curse. Examples are movies: SHALLOW HAL and GROUNDHOG DAY.

Future Research:

Since the Out Of The Bottle masterplot comes from Aladdin lore, reading one of the many versions of that tale would be a great place to start. There is also MARY POPPINS, FIVE CHILDREN AND IT, or read one of the many body swapping stories listed at Goodreads.

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
M is for Metamorphosis
N is for Nemesis

We hope you enjoyed O is for Out Of The Bottle and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, P is for Pursuit.

What do you think of the Out Of The Bottle masterplot? Please share your thoughts in the Comments!

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-o-is-for-out-of-the-bottle/

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