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I so badly wanted to pick about a dozen different answers for this topic, but I will follow the rules and stick to one.
My all-time favourite plot line is rebirth. That is to say, the audience is introduced to a morally ambiguous character (or even a downright jerk) who learns the error of his or her ways and eventually make a genuine and permanent change in their behaviour for the better.
The keywords there are genuine and permanent. If a character is truly a terribly human being when we first meet them, I’m going to need to see a lot more time dedicated to showing how they realized they were causing harm to others and how hard they worked to correct their faults than if they were someone whose might have only been moderately irritating instead.
This is not an easy feat for storytellers to accomplish by any means, but when it’s done correctly it gives me so much hope for the future of humanity. Another cool thing about this plot line is that it shows up in every single genre one can imagine which makes it even more exciting to discover. Whether you love reading romance, mysteries, horror, science fiction, fantasy, or some other genre entirely, you stand an excellent chance of stumbling across a character who follows this pattern sooner rather than later.
Here are some examples of films, tv shows, and books that make good use of this plot line:
- A Christmas Carol
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Despicable Me
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
- Star Wars
Traditionally, characters needed to be rescued by someone else when this plot line showed up, but contemporary takes on the topic often show characters who are much more assertive about realizing there’s a problem with how they behave and working to on their own to correct it.
I’m happy with either approach to the subject.