Plot 101: Let’s Talk About Plot

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How do you give your romance novel intensity and keep the reader turning the pages? Editorial Assistant Farah Chowdhury breaks down the basics of plot.

Farah Chowdhury @seefaraway

Farah Chowdhury @seefaraway

What is a plot? Plot in its most basic form is a series of linked events that take place – it is the stuff that stories are made of.  Without it your story would just be one very long, uneventful exercise. But don’t be fooled – simply having a story consisting of linked events isn’t enough – there are so many other things to think about. Here are our top three things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about how to make the most of your plot!

 

 

1. Conflict will help us learn about your hero and heroine. First and foremost, conflict is vital – it’s what makes your characters three-dimensional and gives them a clear journey to go on over the course of the story. What obstacles do your hero and heroine need to overcome before they can be with each other? What events will allow you to show their growth? Including scenes that allow characters to explore and confront their internal conflicts will allow readers to be a part of the hero and heroine’s journey, add depth to your plot and help readers to invest and believe in the characters you have created.

2. Drama, drama, drama – keep us on the edge of our seats! So you’ve got the conflict sorted out in your plot which is great, but we love to keep readers guessing about what might happen next. A fantastic way to do this is by checking that with each scene in your story, something changes for your characters and for the romance between them. We want to see that with every interaction, the stakes have been raised somehow. These developments don’t have to be life-changing and dramatic every time – but they should all lead up to, yes, the dreaded . . . black moment! This is where the hero and heroine’s conflicts culminate in a sensational, heart-stopping scene that causes the reader to question how on earth the couple will make it to the other side – together and stronger than ever! You want your story to pack a punch and keep readers excited and a dramatic black moment will do just that! Think of the big confrontation in How to Lose a Guy in 10 days between Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey

You're so vain scene

when they both realise they were being used!

1 Black moment how to lose a guy in ten days

It makes the hero and heroine question whether any of the moments they shared together were true, and has us wishing and hoping they’ll both come to their senses before Kate leaves!

3. No soggy middles—pace yourself! Keep in mind that you want the conflict and drama of your story to sustain the length of your plot. There’s nothing worse than having an incredible opening, only for the excitement to plateau or worse—no soggy middles please!  This is why it is so important to pace yourself. When you’re thinking about your plot think less “reaching the top of the hill” and more “riding a roller coaster.”

Rollercoaster

Your plot should take the reader on a journey of highs and lows, through a multitude of scenarios, revelations and emotions. The road to your hero and heroine’s happy ending should never be straightforward. If your story is full of intense and unique experiences you’ll give the reader a golden ticket to your story’s romance roller coaster, and you’ll provide them with a plot which keeps them turning the pages, trying to guess what could happen next and falling in love with the world you’ve created.

Think of the plot as the heartbeat of your story. Sometimes it skips a beat, at times it might flutter. There’ll be times when it feels like it might explode and others when it’s going at a hundred miles an hour. Or it might just be there, rhythmically beating away, getting faster and faster, then slowing down again. Whatever your plot is doing, make sure it keeps going. It’s what keeps your story alive and makes us believe in your hero and heroine and the romance they share! Happy writing!

Further reading:
Promise-of-rain   Surgeon-Cowgirl   

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Comments

  1. Melinda

    Thank you, Farah. Good tips – I especially like this part under DRAMA!

    “A fantastic way to do this is by checking that with each scene in your story, something changes for your characters and for the romance between them.”

  2. karen Christopherson

    This was fabulous and so useful to me. I recently read this really great writing book, but I think I’ve been overthinking things and forgetting what’s really important in a romance. I’ve been having trouble with my story, but I think this may help. I need to relax and ride the rollercoaster!! Thanks!

  3. Karen Christopherson

    I loved this movie. There was a harlequin a long time ago that I have never forgotten. It was about a girl on a ski vacation who was dared to make this guy fall in love with her by her girlfriends. So they all got together and manipulated and schemed. She even dyed her hair to the colour he liked. Even though it was quite manipulative for the time, I followed this book like a rollercoaster and I couldn’t believe the writer came up with this. I’ve never forgotten it.

  4. Trisha G.

    “A fantastic way to do this is by checking that with each scene in your story, something changes for your characters and for the romance between them” This single sentence may be the best piece of writing advice ever. Thank you Farah!

  5. Liz Isaacson

    I love this line: “A fantastic way to do this is by checking that with each scene in your story, something changes for your characters and for the romance between them.”

    I think that’s the key that I’ve been missing! I need to analyze every scene and see if something is CHANGING for the characters AND the romance between them. Great article!

  6. I love it when the couple has their black moment and then afterward come together–only to be pulled apart again, by some misunderstanding or one of them being unwilling to forgive, etc. That added mini-black moment gives another nice dramatic layer.

  7. Farah Chowdhury

    So glad you all found this post useful! Hope you all enjoyed the SYTYCW bootcamp yesterday and that you picked up lots of tips and advice to help you with your next romance. Happy writing 🙂