Masterplots Theater: O is for Out of the Bottle

OOB Masterplots Theater-3Welcome back to Masterplots Theater. Do you dream of writing stories with flying carpets, or wishing wells? Or maybe you want to write a story where the bad guy gets taken down by a witch with a sense of humor. Great, because this masterplot takes us to a land of all plots magical.

Out Of The Bottle Plot Notes:

This is a tricky masterplot to work with because it hinges on an inciting incident (aka story catalyst) that involves magic, mostly wishes and curses. The release of something magical into the world can lead to a good or bad experience depending on the circumstances. This plot works equality well for comedy as it does for drama.

The stakes are almost always small and personal, and the stories are character driven. The cast of main characters is frequently on the smaller side. The protagonist will typically share the secret with only one other character.

The protagonist always receives something that changes their life. It’s usually something unexpected, but that they secretly desire. The remainder of the story is about the joys and complications created by their out of the bottle encounter. This masterplot often teaches valuable life lessons.

There are many types of Out of the Bottle story catalysts; finding a wish-granting magic lamp is just one of them. Many of them are much more subtle, or sent by a unseen power.

As in the cases of many wish fulfillment stories, the wish frequently goes wrong and the story evolves into a “be careful what you wish for” for message. However, there are many happily ever after endings too.

Examples to Study:

Because wishes and curses come in many forms, I’m changing the format a bit and giving you some groups of stories and moves that fit the main types of Out Of The Bottle plot devices.

BODY SWAPPING: Characters learn a valuable life lesson by walking in another person’s shoes. This is not the same as the Metamorphosis Masterplot; this character remains human, just many decades older or younger then before the magical encounter. It can also include the Freaky Friday style body swap. Examples are BIG, 17 AGAIN and FREAKY FRIDAY.

MAGIC ITEMS: This one includes encountering something with no clear motive or origin that creates magic without wishes. This item usually has only one magical operation. Examples are: THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD or movies like THE MASK and TOMORROW LAND.

DIVINE INTERVENTION: They may or may not ask for it, they may not want it, but it arrives anyway. And it’s just what they needed to make their life better. Examples are films MEET JOE BLACK and NANNY McPHEE.

CURSES: When the protagonist has a nasty character flaw, magic steps in. There must be some good in this character’s core for us to root for them to survive the curse. Examples are movies: SHALLOW HAL and GROUNDHOG DAY.

Future Research:

Since the Out Of The Bottle masterplot comes from Aladdin lore, reading one of the many versions of that tale would be a great place to start. There is also MARY POPPINS, FIVE CHILDREN AND IT, or read one of the many body swapping stories listed at Goodreads.

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
M is for Metamorphosis
N is for Nemesis

We hope you enjoyed O is for Out Of The Bottle and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, P is for Pursuit.

What do you think of the Out Of The Bottle masterplot? Please share your thoughts 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.

16 thoughts on “Masterplots Theater: O is for Out of the Bottle”

  1. I’m constantly amazed at the sheer number of master plots you are able to come up with. I mean, obviously they all exsist, but so many of them never entered my mind until I read about them here. Then as soon as you begin describing the plot, I immediately recognize it in so many popular films. The first two movies that popped into my head were Meet Joe Black, which you covered and Big, with Tom Hanks. Would that fall into this master plot as well?

    Melissa Sugar @
    Melissa Sugar Writes

  2. Another very versatile masterplot, I’d say. I once wrote a story with a body swap, together with a friend of mine. It was a very strang eexperience. I don’t normally use this kind of plot… though honestly, who doesn’t love a good curse? 😉

    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz

  3. I like how you always give us examples. At first, I was most puzzled by the “out of the bottle” story idea and had trouble picturing it outside of the Aladdin type plots, but your great examples clarified it. Thanks!

  4. I like good stories of this nature. I’m not into fantastical fantasy as I prefer stories fairly well-grounded. One of my favorite genres is time travel, but if gets too magical it better be done very well to hold me in the story.

    In the end it’s mainly how good the writing is.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    1. Hi Arlee,
      The writing always needs to be good, it doesn’t matter what type of plot it is. This masterplot is better for writers and readers with a high threshold for suspension of disbelief. That’s why it’s popular for children’s stories and comedy.

    1. Hi Sheila, You’re right, Disney loves this plot. They use it a lot. Since they can mix up the magical catalyst in so many ways, I’m betting few people catch the fact that it’s the same basic story every time.

    1. Hi Sue, It’s not about superpowers, it’s about wishes. The magic teaches the protagonist something important and goes away.

    1. There is unlimited potential with this one. Any writer could sit down for an hour and think of at least two different ways to create an Out of the Bottle story, if not many more. After writing this post I dreamed the full plot of a new story. : )

    1. Hi Sharon, My sons loved the story too, but it did create some mature conversations about Native Americans.

We love comments and questions.

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