7 types of stories: Rebirth

A field of wildflowers, symbolising rebirth.

The "Rebirth" plot is one of the classic story archetypes identified by British author Christopher Booker in his book "The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories." In "Rebirth" narratives, the protagonist experiences a massive transformation, often spurred by a realization or event that changes their perspective or lifestyle.

Rebirth stories can be found across a wide array of genres, from fantasy and science fiction to drama and romance. They resonate deeply with audiences because they reflect our own experiences with personal growth, change, and the human capacity for renewal.

Common tropes and elements

  1. Dark Night of the Soul: A moment of intense despair for the protagonist, typically the lowest point in the story, where it seems that all is lost.
  2. Transformation: The central theme of a rebirth plot is the transformation of the protagonist. This change is often both internal and external, impacting their outlook, behavior, and even their circumstances.
  3. Redemption: A key aspect of many rebirth narratives is the idea of redemption, where the protagonist is forgiven for past wrongdoings or absolved of guilt through their transformation.
  4. Atonement: The protagonist often has to atone for their faults or the errors of their past ways as part of their transformation process.
  5. Death and Rebirth: Symbolic death doesn't always mean the physical death of the character, but rather the death of an old self, belief system, or way of life, followed by the birth of the new.
  6. Guiding Mentor: Often, the protagonist encounters a mentor figure who guides them towards their transformation. This could be a literal guide or a metaphorical one, such as a book or a set of experiences.
  7. Inner Reflection: The protagonist undergoes a period of introspection which sparks the change in their character or situation.
  8. Crisis Leading to Growth: The rebirth is usually precipitated by a crisis or a series of trials that challenge the protagonist to grow and adapt.
  9. Seasonal Imagery: Rebirth plots may be accompanied by seasonal imagery, such as the death of winter giving way to the life of spring, symbolizing the protagonist’s transformation.
  10. Second Chance: The narrative often involves the protagonist receiving a second chance to make things right or to live in accordance with their new understanding or identity.
  11. Revelation: A significant revelation or epiphany that changes the protagonist's understanding of themselves and their world, leading to transformation.
  12. New Identity: The protagonist often emerges from the transformation with a new identity or role in their society or life.
  13. Return to the World: After the transformation, the protagonist returns to their community or to a familiar setting, but they interact with it in a completely new way due to their change.
  14. Reconciliation: The story often includes the reconciliation of estranged friends or family members, or the protagonist finding peace with themselves.
  15. Contrast Between Old and New: The narrative will highlight the contrast between the protagonist's old self and their reborn self to emphasize the change.

Example stories to draw inspiration from

This plot type often appears in drama and fantasy genres.

  1. "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens: Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed from a miserly old man into a generous and kind-hearted individual after being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
  2. "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Mary Lennox, a sickly and unloved child, blossoms into a caring person as she restores a neglected garden, which also helps to heal her cousin Colin.
  3. "Beauty and the Beast" (fairy tale): The Beast, isolated and cursed because of his inability to love, is reborn as a compassionate character through his relationship with Belle, which ultimately breaks the spell.
  4. "Groundhog Day" (film): Phil Connors, an arrogant TV weatherman, finds himself reliving the same day over and over until he learns to change his selfish ways, leading to a personal rebirth.
  5. "The Lion King" (film): Simba, who runs away from his past and responsibilities, eventually comes to terms with his identity and returns to claim his place as the rightful king.
  6. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë: After enduring a troubled childhood and an emotionally destructive relationship, Jane Eyre eventually finds true love and a sense of self-worth.
  7. "Iron Man" (film): Tony Stark, a wealthy industrialist and weapons manufacturer, has a change of heart after being kidnapped and uses his genius to become the superhero Iron Man, fighting for good.
  8. "The Shawshank Redemption" (film): Andy Dufresne, sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for a crime he didn't commit, maintains hope and integrity over the years, which eventually leads to his escape and a new life.