Print this Post

Masterplots Theater: E is for Escape

E Masterplots Theater-4

Welcome to Masterplots Theater. In case you’re just joining us for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, here are the Masterplots we’ve covered so far this month:
A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia

The Escape masterplot is just the way it sounds. The hero is trapped and can’t get free. This masterplot works great for any age reader and in any genre. This story thrives on twists and reversals, making it a perfect fit for structure-friendly writers who like to make their readers gasp and sob. If writing high emotional drama is your thing, keep reading.

Escape Plot Notes:

The Escape masterplot shares elements with the Rescue masterplot, however in the Escape plot the hero is the victim and rescues him or herself. In Rescue the hero is the one saving the victim.

The hero is confined within the setting. If the main character isn’t escaping from a place, then it’s a closed and oppressive environment. The confinement is always real, not just a creation of the character’s mind.

Escapes are character-driven stories. At the start of the hero feels controlled and possibly powerless to change their fate, but as the story evolves so does with the character. A strong character arc is a mainstay of this plot.

The hero can be imprisoned from the start of the story, or a newcomer to the situation who because of new ideas, becomes a catalyst for change. Either way, the hero builds enemies and allies during the escape planning. Characters may try to talk the hero out of escaping often to avoid group punishment, or the hero will find helper characters who may or may not want to accompany them to freedom.

After two or three failed attempts the hero is usually successful, but not without casualties. The Escape often results in bittersweet victory. The element of risk can bring injury or emotional loses. One or more characters might even die so that other characters may escape.

Example to Study:

Maze Runner I’m picking Maze Runner – book or film will do. Here’s why:

· CONFINED SETTING: The Glade, where someone imprisons the hero (Thomas), is fully enclosed. It’s covered by a dome and encircled by a deadly maze. There is one door that leads into the maze. It opens each morning and slams shut every night. The people who enter the maze often don’t come back out.

· CHARACTERS: Some of the characters have grown complacent with life in the glade; however Thomas the newcomer is not. Thomas meets with helper characters who educate him on the glade and maze. He also butts heads with people who don’t want things changed, hopes raised, or more lives lost to the maze.

· ARC: The strong character arc of Thomas is less apparent in the movie, but well-formed in the book. Thomas starts as a shaky outsider, but by the end he is clearly the leader of the pack.

· BITTERSWEET VICTORY: Sorry for the spoiler, but not everyone will escape the glade or the maze alive. Nor will this first escape signal the end of Thomas’ ordeal.

Future Research:

The escape masterplot is one of literature’s first plots; it’s at the core of many fairy tales like HANSEL AND GRETEL. You could also watch CUBE, at little known gem of an escape film, or THE GREAT ESCAPE. Book selections include THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO a book that teams a fabulous escape masterplot in the first half and a revenge masterplot for the second half. Or THE WIZARD OF OZ. Technically Dorothy’s ordeal is all in her mind, but we don’t learn that until the end, and the rest of the story fits.

Thank you for joining us today! We hope you enjoyed E is for Escape and invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater: F is for the Fool Triumphant .

Please share your favorite Escape titles in the comments.

About the author

Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, an educator and historical consultant. She writes dark young adult fiction, with diverse characters. She's currently querying a novel, and working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813) or on Twitter @robinrwrites. However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

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


Skip to comment form

  1. Melissa Sugar- Gold (@msugar13)

    I never really considered escape as a full fledged plot. I always thought of it as a subplot or just a few scenes in a story like maybe one of the major scenes such as a pinch point or the climax. You’ve shown me that entire books and movies are built around this plot. The Maze Runner is a perfect example. I read the book with my son last year when it was his class assigned reading. The Great Escape is one of my favorite movies. There it is, right there in the film’s tittle.

    Melissa Sugar

  2. Patricia Lynne (@plynne_writes)

    I’m trying to think. I’m not sure I’ve ever done an escape. Rescue, yes, but can’t recall any escapes. There might be one or two in one of my stories, but I have way too many to remember. LOL

    ~Ninja Minion Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

    1. Robin Rivera

      I considered looking at the rescue masterplot, but the escape plot is more unusual. Almost no one has heard of that one.

  3. rosemawrites

    Maze Runner is indeed a perfect example of Escape! 🙂 Thank you for another bit of useful information! 😀

    @rosemawrites from
    A Reading Writer

    1. Robin Rivera

      Maze Runner was one of the easy ones to pick. Writing these posts made me realize I need to read in more genres. I’m in a bit of a YA rut. Thanks for stopping by.

      1. rosemawrites

        oh. YAs are great. 🙂 so don’t be too hard on yourself. 🙂

  4. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

    I think escape surfaces in many stories but as an adjunct to another situation, not as a master plot. Interesting to see escape presented this way, and it makes a perfect master plot.

  5. Silvia Writes

    Great example and post, Robin. In my thriller/mystery genre escape plays a big role. Maze Runner is an excellent one for conflict and tension. Thank you.

  6. Sheila M. Good, Author

    Thanks Robin for following. Welcome to the fence jumpers! @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

  7. noelleg44

    Robin, The Maze Runner is such a good example. I have elements of escape in all three of my books – great for tension! Great post!

    1. Robin Rivera

      Wow, you do love escapes. : )

  8. Mary B

    oooh! I can really get into this type of plot. I love a great character story.

    #AtoZChallenge E is for Elle

  9. jazzfeathers

    Mhm… so there are elements of the escape in my story, but I don’t think this fits completely. Though I was about to say there isn’t a group in my story, but thinking about it, this is not true.
    This may actually be it.

    So let me see, what else do you have? I may find one that fits even better 😉

    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz

    1. Robin Rivera

      You don’t need a group for an escape, this is just one example. But we still have a lot of post left. You may still find one that’s fits better.

  10. Stephanie Bird

    Very cool post! A nice bit of escapism in itself, and a pleasant reminder, as to why I love fairy-tales so much. Thanks Sister!
    #AtoZChallenge visitor

  11. Andrea Lundgren

    Wait…The Wizard of Oz was all in her mind? How did I miss that? Hmm…
    Thanks for writing this. It’s a very thought-provoking series, and I like how you dissect the stories to look at their overall plots.

  12. Sheila M. Good, Author

    Great post! I have a short story that I thought was based on revenge, but I think if i expand this story into a novel, it would work well as an escape plot. You have given me much to think about and thanks. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

    1. Robin Rivera

      Thanks, Sheila. That’s great to hear. The masterplots are fun. Once I starting learning about them the ideas just start popping! I feel like I have enough story ideas to take me into the next decade after doing this series.

      1. Sheila M. Good, Author

        Now, I wish I had that many story ideas! Seems as if my muse likes to travel and leave me behind more often than not. LOl. Thanks for taking part in the conversation.

  13. Crystal Collier

    I actually have a short story coming out in an anthology next month that’s an escape story. Such powerful emotions. It’s speculative fiction and deals with being trapped by a mirror world. (Parallels: Felix Was Here, The Mirror People.) I like this kind of conflict. Who hasn’t felt trapped at one point or another?

    1. Robin Rivera

      The emotional aspects are so important for escape plots. Drawing on feelings of being trapped in your real life is also a great writing tip. Being trapped in a mirror world sounds nasty, I would want to escape that too.

  14. cathleentownsend

    This is an excellent series. I hadn’t thought of escape as big enough enough to be a plot before–I’d thought of it more as an element, but I use it in my stories. Thanks so much for the post.

    1. Robin Rivera

      Combining masterplots is a common practice. Escape makes a great subplot or a perfect pairing with a number of the other masterplots.

  15. Srivi

    Escape plots are good to read! Mostly because it does not have a very depressing end to it..

    Another great post 🙂

    The Piscean Me | Twitter

    1. Robin Rivera

      Unfortunately, many escape plots are very sad. However, I do share your love of happy endings.

  16. Tasha Duncan-Drake (@beren_writes)

    Escapes are so much fun. There is tension and excitement built in and differing amounts of peril depending on the perceived audience. I remember seeing the Cube and I didn’t like it at the time, but I’ve been wondering whether a rewatch might be in order.
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  17. SpookyMrsGreen

    I do love a good escape plot! I prefer the ones where the hero or heroine can rescue themselves, although I do appreciate the value of teamwork 😉 http://spookymrsgreen.com/2016/04/06/atozchallenge-e-is-for-empath/

    1. Robin Rivera

      I’m big on books with lots of characters. Teamwork rocks! : )

  18. Seena

    Hi there,

    Coming in via a to z. I like this theme. I am interested in writing. And it may sound weird but I really meditate on the author and how he may have wrote what he wrote. I like to think about the creation of the whole thing. I really enjoy the thrill of an escape plot!

    Great post,
    #AtoZChallenge- E is for Eating for two

    1. Robin Rivera

      Hi Seena, I agree with you. Learning more about the author and what factors helped them create the book makes reading it more enjoyable.

We love comments and questions.

%d bloggers like this: