Tag Archive: Masterplots

Using the Forbidden Love Masterplot

Last year we ran a whole series of posts called Masterplots Theater from A to Z. Because we had some plots that started with the same letters, we had to cut several fantastic masterplots. ‘Forbidden Love’ was one of our unhappy victims as Heather wrote about the Fool Triumphant Masterplot instead. We did cover several other love-related plots in the series, Buddy Love, Happily-Ever- After Love, Unrequited Love, Love Story, but today Forbidden Love gets its own special post.

Do you like to write romance? The all-consuming kind, where the relationship quickly blossoms only to falter and struggle under the heavy burden of insurmountable external tension? A romance that leaves the reader in constant doubt, never knowing if the lovers will find a happy ending? If you said yes, Forbidden Love might be the perfect masterplot for your next story.

Classic Forbidden Love Plot Notes:

This is a character driven plot. The narrative is inside the heads and hearts of the main characters most of, if not all of, the time. This masterplot is often told by alternating two first person POVs. However, it can work in close 3rd person POV too.

The lovers share a nearly instantaneous attraction. The characters know they have met their soulmate, someone unlike anyone they have met before. This love cannot be denied! The power of this love is too strong for the characters to fight.

Within moments of meeting (either before or after) the lovers are confronted with the knowledge the relationship is taboo in their society. Common taboo themes are: adultery, class differences, economic factors, geographic boundaries, religious restrictions, race-related tensions, family feuds, May-December romances and same-sex relationships.

This masterplot often features a closed society. One of the lovers typically comes from a group that maintains a long-standing ideology of Us vs Them. This plot also works using two closed societies that overlap in an uneasy truce, a truce the lovers will fracture with devastating consequences.

A third major character (or group of characters) usually represents the antagonistic force, but not always in the traditional sense. This character works as the mouthpiece for the rules, all the reasons the lovers shouldn’t be together. It is often a friend or authority figure in the lover’s family.

Because of the social issues, the lovers are parted and reunited several times during the course of the story. The lovers take dangerous chances to be together, and they look for allies to help them hide the relationship. The lovers are always in fear of discovery, and the cycle of separation and reuniting give this masterplot high emotional tension.

One of the lovers is usually the dominant personality, the one that wants to disregard the risks. The other character is often more concerned with repercussions. This leads to tension within the relationship.

This masterplot always has one of two endings: the lovers find a way to stay together, often by fleeing their homeland, or the story ends in tragedy as the lovers are separated.

This masterplot is a fantastic subplot, and was used very successfully in the film BLADE RUNNER where it gave a bittersweet edge to the story’s ending.

Future Research:

There are many sources for this masterplot, most notable is ROMEO AND JULIET. Elements are also found in WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/forbidden-love-masterplot/

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: 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/