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