Rescue plots involve three main characters: the protagonist, the antagonist and the victim, and three main parts, the first, second and third acts.
In the first act, possibly when life seems happy and serene for the protagonist and the fated victim, the two characters are separated from their peaceful existence by the antagonist and plunged into a nightmare.
The second act is all about the protagonist's attempted rescue of the victim which is thwarted over and over again by the antagonist until the segue into the third act.
In the third act the forces of good and evil are at odds in the showdown between the protagonist and antagonist. In the end, the hero defeats the villain and saves the victim.
As is true with any good love story, in a rescue story the reader knows from the beginning how the book will end. Just as the man will win the woman's affections in the end of a love story, the protagonist will defeat the antagonist in a rescue story and restore the victim to her peaceful situation.
Since Readers are expecting a happily ever after ending, the most important part of a rescue story is the attempt the protagonist makes toward succeeding with his quest. The more unexpected and dangerous the obstacles he must overcome, the better. The more ingenious the protagonist must be to thwart the roadblocks placed in his way by the antagonist, the more entertained the Reader will be.
Four things to remember with a rescue plot in addition to the above are:
1. The antagonist acts as he does to get something from the protagonist he believes rightfully belongs to him.
2. The antagonist uses the victim to get what he wants from the protagonist.
3. There must be a close connection between the protagonist and the victim, not necessarily a personal relationship, though. For example, let's say two men were navy seals, and, while on a mission, they pocketed a dozen diamonds, incidental to their mission, and kept them, turned them in, or did whatever was the right thing to do. One of them, who happened to have a daughter, died. The antagonist, who believed the diamonds belonged to him, might kidnap the daughter, whom the surviving seal had never met, and demand he bring him the diamonds or the victim would be killed. In this instance, there is a close connection between the protagonist and victim, even though the two of them have never met.
4. Morally speaking, there is no question the hero is in the right, and the villain is in the wrong.
A rescue story can provide wonderful entertainment for a Reader if the challenges the hero faces are engaging enough to keep her turning the pages. Thus, it is the struggle taking place in the second and third acts which is the most challenging part of writing a rescue story and the most enjoyable part of reading one.
Next week my series on various plots continues.
Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
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