On Stories: Journey Plots: The Rescue.

Any journey can be long enough to take weeks of travel, or short enough to be next door.  A journey plot is not dependant on the distance involved, but on the movement external or internal as the case may be.

When the rescue is mentioned, many first thoughts may be something like Rambo.  I suppose somebody had to save Private Ryan.  But consider Schindler’s List or more recently, the Blind Side.  In the Blind Side, a young man is rescued from a terrible situation and given a chance at life he could never have imagined… and the audience knows when the rescue is complete.  When he and they are a family

Consider how many fairy tales involve rescues: Snow White at the end, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast.  The beautiful thing about Beauty and the Beast is the way the story is twisted in the end (at least in the Disney version).  Gaston musters the courage to rescue Belle from the beast, but in the end we discover that all along Belle has been rescuing the beast.

The Plot 

Like the escape and pursuit plot, the plot begins with someone in need.  Escape and pursuit has someone held captive.  Rescue has someone taken captive, like Red Chief in O’Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief.  (I say someone is taken captive but to be sure it can be a dog, a cat, a whale, a snail or it may simply be someone in a terrible situation).  In any case, the protagonist is the one who must do the rescuing and often the story shows little of the one imprisoned.  Consider the cliché of the ex-husband who steals the kids and the mother who goes on a search and rescue mission.  The plot invariably focuses on the efforts of the mother.

The trigger, like in most journey plots comes quick.  It is the set-up.  Someone needs to be rescued and your protagonist is the only one for the job.

The middle is where the obstacles arise.  Again, like the escape and pursuit plot, a near miss or two can do wonders to build the tension.  Of course, if it is the Princess imprisoned by the dragon or Repunzel who for some reason has no capacity to exit the tower, there are no opportunities for near misses.  But the forest ranger might pass right by the child lost in the woods without realizing it, or the mother might get to the motel in time to see her ex drive away—the child looking out the back window and crying for her…

The end is the completion of the rescue, success or failure.  They are not all happy endings, but hey, that’s your call.  In any case, there is rarely a return pursuit.

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