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Masterplots Theater: R is for Rite of Passage

R Masterplots Theater-5Welcome back to Masterplots Theater! When people hear “Rite of Passage plot” they often think it’s another term for “coming-of-age story.” While youthful tales involving loss of innocence and puberty most definitely fit the Rite of Passage mold, not all ROP stories are about teenagers. Allow me to explain…

Rite of Passage Plot Notes: 

The defining element of the Rite of Passage masterplot is a life problem. It can be adolescence, mid-life, death of a loved one, addiction, or divorce. See? Puberty isn’t the only awkward, painful stage we humans go through.

The main conflict in this masterplot is internal conflict because the root of the hero’s problem is not a villain or other outside force, though the hero will spend much of the story denying this and blaming the world for their problem.

The hero will inevitably pursue the wrong solution to the problem, which is generally a diversion from confronting it head on, but for those of us who have lived through any of life’s painful stages, we know avoidance is never the answer.

Avoiding pain, recoiling from the hot flame, is natural, even logical — yet only the counterintuitive move of embracing pain will help.

Blake Snyder, Save the Cat!® Goes to the Movies, pg 111.

Rite of Passage stories are ultimately about surviving bad times and getting one’s life on track. The only solution to the hero’s problem is acceptance of a hard truth that the hero has been fighting (for example, he finally admits he’s an addict, or he accepts that his brother’s death isn’t his fault). With that acceptance comes the knowledge that he must change, not the world around him, in order to get through this painful time in his life.

Example to Study:

10, an old movie from 1979, is an excellent example of the Rite of Passage masterplot.10 movie

· LIFE PROBLEM: Hero turns 40 and begins a classic mid-life crisis.

· WRONG SOLUTION: Pursue a young, beautiful, newly married woman, aka a “perfect 10”.

· INTERNAL CONFLICT: Is he good enough? Is he a failure? Is this all there is to life?

· ACCEPTANCE: Hero accepts that he is middle-aged and stops trying to act like he’s twentysomething, and finds happiness in his life.

Future Research:


Books: PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King, LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL by Jo Knowles, IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky, LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel.

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed R is for Rite of Passage and invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater.

For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:

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
O is for Out of the Bottle 

P is for Pursuit
Q is for Quest

And please share your favorite Rite of Passage stories in the comments below.

About the 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

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/masterplots-theater-r-is-for-rite-of-passage/


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  1. Marna Reed

    I love the ROP. It’s why I’m always watching those teen comedy movies (…that and they DO some stupid, laughable stunts). Thanks for the breakdown!

    I think the most recent movie I watched that had some elements of this was How To Be Single.

    1. Heather Jackson

      I haven’t seen that yet, but I suspect from the trailer that it would be an ROP story. Thanks for the comment, Marna!

  2. jazzfeathers

    Mhm… this sounds a lot like my story’s plot. It may be that this is the my masterplot 🙂

    Besides, I really like the rite of Passage masterplot. I like soul-searching stories in general, and I think this is one masterplot that allows a lot of it.

    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz

    1. Heather Jackson

      This is definitely the soul-searching plot! If you ever have a story where the protagonist’s ultimate problem ends up being herself, it’s probably a Rite of Passage masterplot.

  3. tracikenworth

    Love this series!!

    1. Heather Jackson

      Thanks, Traci!

  4. alinakfield

    This is a really cool A to Z idea!

    1. Heather Jackson

      Thank you!

  5. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

    I like stories where people learn about themselves. I recommend Flight Behavior by Alice Hoffman for this one, Hoffman being one of my favorite authors, this particular book being outstanding.

    1. Heather Jackson

      Thanks so much for the recommendation! I’ll check it out.

  6. SpookyMrsGreen

    I took a particular interest in Rites of Passage plots while studying at university! In fact, my debut novel, Love Hurts (A Redcliffe Novel) is very much a rite of passage for our heroine Jessica Stone… 😉


    1. Heather Jackson

      Neat! I, however, wrote a lot of ROP stories in my twenties, but scrapped them all. I think I was using them to figure myself out, which isn’t necessarily the best impetus for creating a novel. 😉

  7. celticmama36

    …Or, she finally accepts that he is gone and she is now where he once was. That is the reality of her life now. Somehow, she will carry on even though he is gone and there’s a hole the size of Texas, but shaped like South Carolina, in her heart.

    This was my life in the late fall of 2012. There was no one to blame but God, if blame is the right word for it, and myself for making a seemingly safe decision several years prior. Sometimes bad decisions come disguised as safe decisions.

    Now, if I could just remove myself from the emotion long enough to actually write the story, that would be great!

    1. Heather Jackson

      Sounds like you’ve definitely lived through a Rite of Passage!

      1. celticmama36

        Thank you. Quite a few of them, actually, in my 50 years. That one is just the most recent and one of the most painful. Have a blessed day!

  8. Gulara

    Utterly impressed at how much you two know about plots!!!

    1. Heather Jackson

      Thanks, Gulara! Though I have to admit we’ve done a lot of research — we didn’t know this much about masterplots until doing this series. 😉

We love comments and questions.

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