Straight talk from the sisters about blood, sweat and ink
Masterplots Theater: S is for Sacrifice
Welcome to Masterplots Theater.
Do you crave brave and selfless acts in your stories? The Sacrifice Masterplot requires these, because this hero is facing gut-wrenching decisions. This is a master plot for powerful emotional tales, ones that might leave your keyboard soggy and your readers emotionally devastated, but that’s just another part of the sacrifice.
Sacrifice Plot Notes:
This plot is all about the ending. The powerful, tear-stained ending, when a beloved character dies or gives up their freedom or fortunes to save another character. It’s best attempted by writers who are planners, because every step of the way the character making the sacrifice must develop into the kind of character (we believe) would give up their own life and livelihood for another person.
This is not a very popular masterplot, but it is an old one. Sacrifice was often at the core of classic Greek tragedies. It is still a huge theme in many stories about religious faith (Joan of Arc) and nationalistic pride (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN).
The most common tagline for stories with this masterplot is the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. However, one-to-one sacrifice is also common, especially within a family situation. The most common form is a parent sacrificing themselves for the good of their child. However, partners often make extreme sacrifices too. A less devastating example of partner sacrifice is O. Henry’s THE GIFT OF THE MAGI.
Currently, the Sacrifice shows up mostly in Sci-fi and dystopia. It’s also used as a common subplot to help increase the ending story stakes. The death of Obi Wan in STAR WARS IV is a good example.
This masterplot is often a heartbreaker. The characters are trapped in no-win situations and even with a major sacrifice by one of the characters; the story can still end on a bittersweet note.
Example to Study:
A great example is CATCHING FIRE the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Here’s why:
· GREATER GOOD: Several of the Hunger Games participants decide in advance of the games to sacrifice themselves so that Katniss might live to lead the rebellion.
· IT”S BELIEVABLE: It takes the example of several lone characters willing to stand up and to die early on to create the perfect situation for us to understand why so many characters would work together to save Katniss.
· REOCCURRING THEME: From day one in book one, sacrifice is a theme. Peeta was repeatedly willing to sacrifice himself for Katniss, just as Katniss was willing to sacrifice herself for her sister. The theme is just taken it to the next level as the stakes are raised in books two and three.
· ENDS ON A BITTERSWEET NOTE: Although some of the ending issues are resolved in book three, it’s not a happy ending by any means. We have lost characters and others are in the hands of the The Capitol.
It’s hard to find books or movies with a pure Sacrifice Masterplot; most have variations of the theme. Some reads with a clear sacrifice message are: A TALE OF TWO CITIES, THE ROAD, or look for more Self-Sacrifice themed books on Goodreads.
Hollywood loves a good Sacrifice plot. Some films to watch are: NORMA RAE, ARMAGEDDON, IRON GIANT, TITANIC, MY SISTER’S KEEPER and SILKWOOD.
Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed S is for Sacrifice and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, T is for Thriller.
For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:
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.
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