Masterplots Theater: M is Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis Masterplots Theater-1Welcome to Masterplots Theater. Today we have Metamorphosis! This masterplot is not new. It dates back to the classic Greek writers, but it takes it’s name from a 1915 German novella by Franz Kafka. I just read the original Metamorphosis at the urging of my friend Cindy who guest posted (Writing Sci-Fi) a few weeks ago. The story is gritty and dark, very different from the more mainstream Metamorphosis stories we see today.

If you love to write supernatural, paranormal or anything with huge character changes, I’m talking the kind of change that involves fur, fangs and antenna, Metamorphosis is your masterplot.

Metamorphosis Plot Notes: 

This plot is about the transfiguration of a human into something very different! It’s a versatile plot. It can accommodate a story that is shocking and deeply macabre, or one that’s humorous and written for children. Vampires, werewolves and just about any type of morphed character works for this plot. And you can make the plot fit many genres and subgenres: romance, coming of age, parables and many others.

In a classic Metamorphosis plot the change is always physical. The main character’s outward appearance is typically unrecognizable from their former shape. There are exceptions, such as PINOCCHIO where the change is drastic but still leaves him with the same basic human form.

The change is not necessarily permanent. Many metamorphosis stories are about the character’s journey from first change, all the way back to taking  human form again. In many cases the change often reflects the inner struggle of the character. In BEAUTY AND THE BEAST the prince who spent his pre-metamorphoisis days as an arrogant jerk needs to learn kindness in order to find someone to love him regardless of his outward appearance.

The use of a dramatic change is not the full measure of a Metamorphosis masterplot. For example in ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Alice is changed several times and it’s inconvenient, but it’s not life-altering in the same way becoming a werewolf or a zombie is.

The Metamorphosis makes a great subplot. It shows up in THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, and becomes the critical character change moment for Eustace.

The event that starts (or sometimes ends) the protagonist’s transfiguration is often related to a curse, or the course of true love. However, in many stories the protagonist may not know why they were transfigured until later in the story.

The resolution of this story is usually one of three outcomes: 1) restoration of the character’s previous form, 2) the character adapts to their new form, or 3) they die.

Example to Study:Beastly

BEASTLY by  Alex Flinn

· JOURNEY FOCUSED: From the start we know the main character Kyle is a tool. He’s also a teen with lots of problems, and that helps create a lackluster sympathy for him along with the revulsion.

· CURSE: When Kyle plays a mean joke on an outcast in his school, he crosses the wrong person. Kendra places the curse on Kyle and transforms him into the beast. Because she wants to believe there is some good inside Kyle, Kendra gives him an out: two years to break the curse.

· BONUS: I love a good retelling and this one did a great job of modernizing and making the story relevant to a new generation. However, it’s just okay in terms of giving BEAUTY AND THE BEAST a fresh spin by telling the story in the beast’s perspective.

· ENDING: Spoiler alert, true love wins, order is restored and everyone is better for having lived through the ordeal.

Future Research:

Of course you can read Kafka, or any of the many adaptions of THE FROG PRINCE or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. And there are plenty of modern takes on the wolfman and of vampire lore that fit this masterplot too.

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

We hope you enjoyed M is for Metamorphosis and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, N is for Nemesis.

Please share you thoughts on Metamorphosis stories in the Comments


Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook( However, Pinterest ( is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

14 thoughts on “Masterplots Theater: M is Metamorphosis”

  1. I think that this was a very informative post. Beauty and the Beast was what first came to my mind as I started reading it. Rewriting the old stories with a new twist is something that I hope to do some day.

    Have a blessed day!

  2. I’ve always had a soft spot for shapeshifters of any kind, so I like this masterplot. I have written a few stories with this masterplot as base, especially back in the days when I wrote more classic fantasy.

    I’ve just read Beauty. NOw I’m very intrigued 🙂

    1. I know a few people who love this one. I think there’s a strong appeal for all things paranormal, but especially shifters and vampires. I’m with you! I am so ready for the weekend to start. It was a long week. Hang in there, Sarah. We still have a lot of the A to Z challenge left. : )

    1. Hi Sarah, I love retellings too. And they can be fun to read and to write. I started writing one a while back, but I’m letting it sit for a while while I edited another project. There never seems to be enough time for everything I want to do.

    1. Hi Kathleen, They are very satisfying. : ) You never feel left up in the air with this masterplot. And they can be very spiritual. Thanks for dropping by and adding your perspective.

    1. Thanks, Sue! Picking a theme for A to Z is never easy. This time I think we found one with a little something for everyone. : )

  3. This is a terrifying encounter for the character whose form must change in order for the kind of transformation that will reveal redemption from the stagnation or evil that may be at one’s core. I think The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker fits this masterplot and it was a masterful retelling of two classic myths.

    1. I had The Golem and the Jinni on my read list for writing this post, but I just ran out of time. I suspected it was a good fit. I’m happy to hear it is. Finding a new example of a masterplot is a helpful bonus. Thanks!

We love comments and questions.

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