Masterplots Theater: B is for Buddy Love

Small C Masterplots Theater(5)

Hope you’re back in your comfy chair and ready for another episode of Masterplots Theater! Perhaps you’ve been contemplating a story idea that has two compelling lead characters and can’t decide which is the true hero. Well, I have good news for you — maybe you don’t have to choose! Today we study a masterplot that has two heroes: Buddy Love.

“What “Buddy Love” movies are really all about: My life changed for having met another.” — Blake Snyder, Save the Cat!® Goes to the Movies, pg 134.

Buddy Love Plot Notes: 

The essential element of this master plot is the two protagonists or co-heroes. Basically, this pair must meet for the story to happen, regardless of all the other things taking place in the plot. The Buddy Love plot can be funny, romantic, action-packed, suspenseful, you name it, as long as the point of the story is the two main characters’ relationship.

It’s crucial that these co-heroes are incomplete without each other. They may not know it yet, but it’s true. This is not one person’s journey, or a coming-of-age tale aided by a mentor character, this is a story about two people who change each other’s lives. And because they each change (aka have a character arc), both are protagonists/heroes.

Co-hero character arcs operate in tandem, though they are separate. What I mean by this is that each character has inner conflicts independent of the other character, but the act of coming together to tackle external conflicts helps both deal with their issues. 

Because of all this, co-heroes carry equal narrative weight in the story. In a movie, both characters get the same amount of scenes; one does not have more screen time than the other. In books, this means that POV time is split equally between each character.

Regardless of the genre (cop drama, comedy, action adventure), every Buddy Love plot arc is a gradual realization that the buddies are not as good apart as they are together.

And finally, the big central question of the Buddy Love masterplot is: Will the buddies overcome the obstacle and be together in the end?

Example to Study:

Snyder studies LETHAL WEAPON in his Save The Cat series. This movie is an excellent example of Buddy Love, and one of the most common  film tropes – cops who start as enemies end as best buds. Other film examples of Buddy Love are THELMA & LOUISE, WAYNE’S WORLD and RAIN MAN. However, I’m going to chose to examine the one novel I’ve read that I believe fits into this masterplot, albeit a little differently:

Book Cover - Code Name VerityCODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein

· CO-HEROES: Two young women meet by chance and, though they’re very different, develop a friendship that changes each of their lives’ paths. This story is told from Verity and Maddie’s POVs, though it’s not the usual alternating scenes split – the first half is Verity’s telling, and the second half is Maddie’s. If you’ve read the book you’ll know why this is.

· PLOT: At first glance, this book is about WWII and two women’s roles in it, but by the end it’s clear this is ultimately a story of a friendship so deep it can only be classified as Buddy Love.

· CHARACTER ARC: Both heroines have their own story, told completely separately in fact, but the influence of the other character is clear in every scene. As the story unfolds, the reader sees how these two young women transformed into different and better people because of their friendship.

· CENTRAL QUESTION: Without giving much away, I’ll just state that I believe that Verity and Maddie do overcome the obstacles, though not in a traditional happily-ever-after way. But they did it, and because of their efforts, the good guys win. As for the together forever part? Their friendship does last forever, even if [spoiler alert] one of their lives doesn’t.

Future Research:

I recommend reading Blake Synder’s Save the Cat!® Goes to the Movies for all kinds of examples of Buddy Love. He even breaks it down into Pet Love (films like FREE WILLY, BLACK BEAUTY), Rom-Com Love (WHEN HARRY MET SALLY), Epic Love (TITANIC), and Forbidden Love (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN). *NOTE: Romances can be Buddy Love, but only if the characters are co-heroes. If the story is told mainly from one character’s POV, then it’s a classic romance.

Thank you for joining us today! We hope you enjoyed B is for Buddy Love and we invite you back Monday for our next installment of Masterplots Theater: C is for The Chosen One.

Please share your own favorite Buddy Love stories or tips in the comments below. I know there must be many novels out there that fit into this masterplot (I just haven’t had time to read them yet).

Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a cartoon screenwriter, YA novelist, small town fugitive, and late-blooming gymnast. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

58 thoughts on “Masterplots Theater: B is for Buddy Love”

  1. Ah-ha! I’ve been looking for what this plot was called for a long time! This is exactly the story I’m writing now and its been so hard finding the right plot advice for it because I didn’t know what it was called…so glad I stopped by your blog today! And thanks for your unintentional help 🙂

  2. Fabulous post. Love exploring heroes and anti-heroes but never gave much thought to co-heroes. Of course, they’re everywhere know that I think about it. (Interesting book, too…)

    1. Thanks, Michelle! I love the title of you blog. Perhaps because I’m tired of the old trope “writer’s journey.” Gah! I’m just going to tell everyone I’m “in transit” now. 😉

  3. Thanks for the lesson. I’m currently working on a story where I have 2 characters who are attracted, but the way I wrote it isn’t quite buddy love and I’m trying to figure out how I should approach it. Another blog post I read today had me questioning if I had to follow the rules or if I should break them and let the story be a little different.

    1. I wouldn’t consider story structure and masterplots “rules”; they’re more a study of storytelling. I like to spot the patterns and explore why certain stories resonate with people, and seeing those similarities helps me figure that out and often leads to me coming up with a way to strengthen my own story. So masterplots are less of a blueprint and more of a guideline. The important thing is to understand WHY the masterplot appeals to people, and when you make your story a little different, make sure it hasn’t lost that appeal. For example, CODE NAME VERITY doesn’t follow the typical structure of going back and forth between the co-heroes; instead it tells one character’s story for the first half, and the other character’s story for the second half. This was a the author’s choice and done for a very specific reason that doesn’t detract from the story or co-heroes’ relationship. To sum things up, you can totally go off-guideline as long as it makes sense.

      Finally, not every relationship story has to be Buddy Love. Lots are told from just one protagonist’s POV.

      With that, I’m off to get more caffeine. 😉 Thanks for the early morning brain think! Your comments are always awesome and appreciated, Patricia!

  4. Hi there!

    I’m stopping by from the #AtoZChallenge. Love the theme of your challenge and love this post!

    I have two blogs in this challenge…my author blog at THE STORY CATCHER (www.donnalmartin.com) and my KICKS Kids Club blog (www.kickskidsclub.blogspot.com) . If you get a chance, check them out and good luck with the challenge!

    Donna L Martin

    1. Wow, two blogs in the challenge? I can barely keep up with half of one! But now I know Bat Rays have a six foot wing span. My goodness, life under the sea is wild. Thanks for the comment, Donna!

  5. Double thumbs up! Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak – would that qualify as Buddy Love? Story about Rumi and Shams Tabrizi, influenced profoundly by one another. Particularly liked the comment above too about characters ‘floating in literary vacuums.’ Excellent theme and posts, as well as the comments. Much to take away from all. Thanks.

    Nilanjana
    Madly-in-Verse

    1. Perhaps! I just looked up the book and started reading the first few pages, but I can’t tell yet. But if two lead characters are influenced profoundly by each other, then it’s probably Buddy Love! Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. What an excellent and helpful theme you have chosen for the Challenge. I recently read a very pacy, short book Cloaked in Secrecy by T.F.Walsh where her two Buddy Love characters told their side of the story taking each chapter in turn which worked really well and showed their equal importance in the story and its conclusion.
    Pempi
    A Stormy’s Sidekick
    Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

  7. Love the idea of buddy love and how it works. They are separate but tandem, with different internal conflicts but working together on an external one, equally weighted. Given me lots to think about. I think I started heading in this direction, blending in a hero from another story since I left his story unfinished. Hmm. Maybe I am the right track.

    I read Code Verity a while ago. I need to go back and reread with this in mind. Thank you!

    1. Maybe you are! Good luck with your story. And CODE NAME VERITY is always worth a re-read. I’ve read it twice, something I rarely ever do with books, no matter how much I love them.

  8. As I was reading your post, Lethal Weapon and Thelma and Louise immediately jumped into my mind and then wham bam, you named them. I’m going to love visitng your blog daily. The book you mentioned Code Name Verity, I have it on my TBR list. I couldn’t remember why, but now I think I do. Are these two narrators from the “Buddy Love Plot,” are they possibly unreliable narrators?

    What’s in store for letter C?

    Melissa Sugar
    http://melissasugarwrites.com

    1. CODE NAME VERITY is one of my favourite books ever! And to answer your question… a little bit of both. Thanks so much for reading. And for Letter C, Robin is doing “The Chosen One”

  9. Really like this post, because I really like this masterplot. The most intersting part of a story, for me, is always the character’s journey, especially when it brings to discovry one’s true self.
    I believe my trilogy falls into this masterplot. My shorter story? Uhm… not sure.
    What else do you offer? 🙂

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz

    1. Well, coming up this month we have The Chosen One, Dystopia, The Fool Triumphant, Institutionalized, Love Story, Monster In The House… a whole bunch of masterplots! Hopefully we’ll figure out what your shorter story is. 🙂

  10. As my writing has grown, so has my appreciation for characters who exist within relationships vs. floating in their own literary vacuum where their lives would be the same regardless of how other people interact with them. This seems the micro version of this concept. Great topic!

    1. Thanks, Colleen! Such an interesting observation: “floating in a literary vacuum…” When this happens in books, I always stop reading. I began my career in television, where ALL stories are about relationships between characters, so perhaps that’s why I have a low tolerance for protagonists who aren’t changed by those around them.

    1. Thanks, Sheila! Buddy Love is one of my favourite masterplots, so it was fun to start with this one. Some of the other letters in the challenge, though, are feeling like a bit of a stretch. Guess we’ll see how “H” and “X” go. ;-/

    1. True. I think the Buddy Love plot is seen more often in movies. I’m writing a story with two POV characters, but it’s not Buddy Love because they’re already friends. But maybe my next story… 🙂

  11. Thanks for this wonderful post. I am in the middle of writing a book which could do with more slanting this way, to show that they are better together. He is a medieval prince and she is a modern-day girl. He comes forward in time to find her; she throws him back in time in dislike; then she is filled with remorse and searches for him in genealogical records – then goes back in time to find him…ends with a Happy Ever After.

    1. Giving both love interests equal weight in a story is always interesting, I believe. Good luck with your story! And funnily enough, Happily-Ever-After is the masterplot we’re doing for the Letter H. Stay tuned! 🙂

  12. I like that they’re called co-heroes and not sidekicks. In general, I’m less enthusiastic about pairings where it seems that one character is there mainly to serve and assist the other. So I like your point about how co-heroes should have inner conflicts separate from the other person.

We love comments and questions.