20 Master Plots

To find out more, read “20 Master Plots and How to Build Them” by Ronald Tobias.

Master Plot #1: The Question

the protagonist’s search for a person, place or thing, tangible or intangible
plot is character driven
examples: “The Grapes of Wrath”

Master Plot #2: Adventure

the protagonist is in search of fortune and adventure
plot is action driven
not important that the protagonist change in any way
examples: “Gulliver’s Travels”, “Robinson Crusoe”

Master Plot #3: Pursuit

one person chases another person
examples: “The Hunt for Red October”, “Terminator”

Master Plot #4: Rescue

protagonist goes into the world in search of something
three main characters: hero, victim, antagonist

Master Plot #5: Escape

protagonist is confined against his/her will and tries to escape

Master Plot #6: Revenge

an injustice occurs and must be made right
example: “Hamlet”

Master Plot #7: the Riddle

a mystery must be solved
example: any murder mystery

Master Plot #8: Rivalry

two people have the same goal and must compete against each other

Master Plot #9: Underdog

like rivalry, two people have the same goal and are in competition
protagonist is at a disadvantage and is faced with overwhelming odds
example, “Rocky,” “Cinderella”

Master Plot #10: Temptation

story showing the frailty of human nature
character is tempted
Master Plot #11: Metamorphosis

character is changed, maybe physically, maybe emotionally, maybe spiritually
has a magical element

Master Plot #12: Transformation

protagonist changes as he/she journeys through life
more reality based than Metamorphosis

Master Plot #13: Maturation

growing up; lessons to learn
coming of age; going from childhood to adulthood
example: “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Master Plot #14: Love

boy meets girl, they fall in love, there are obstacles, they overcome the obstacles, they don’t overcome the obstacles
example: “Wuthering Heights”

Master Plot #15: Forbidden Love

boy meets girl, they fall in love, they are forbidden to love
example: “Romeo and Juliet”

Master Plot #16: Sacrifice

character is motivated by a higher purpose, acts nobly
example: “Titanic”

Master Plot #17: Discovery

completely character driven; protagonist on quest to discover who he/she is

Master Plot #18: Wretched Excess

protagonist experiences extremes in life
example: “Wolf of Wall Street,” “Othello”

Master Plot #19: Ascension

Master Plot #20: Descension


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