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Masterplots Theater: R is for Rite of Passage
Welcome 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.
· 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.
Films: LOST IN TRANSLATION, THE BREAK-UP, THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, KRAMER VS KRAMER, ORDINARY PEOPLE, 28 DAYS, TRAINSPOTTING, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, RISKY BUSINESS, SIXTEEN CANDLES, AMERICAN PIE, DAZED AND CONFUSED, and many more. Movies love this masterplot.
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.
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And please share your favorite Rite of Passage stories in the comments below.
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