Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Romance Writing Still Needs A Plot

When we talk about romance novels, we always emphasize how a the central story arc needs to be
about the relationship. The goal is to follow this romance from the beginning through all of the ups and downs as well as the complications, to that final happily ever after. While this is very true, I do think many authors have taken this to such an extreme that we now end up with stories lacking really any plot and substance. 

I know that I am constantly pushing and screaming here on the blog about keeping things simple, but please people! When we say simple, it doesn't mean to strip it of any significant plot. You have to give me something.

I am reading a book right now (yes this is one that is already published) where I am seeing just this happening. In chapter 1 the hero and heroine meet (they bump into each other at a restaurant). Somehow, they are both immediately attracted to each other and by the end of chapter 1, the readers already know where this is going. At some level, I am not overly concerned here. But then it falls apart. The rest of the novel is about them going on dates, and then, at the end of a date saying they can't have a relationship (for no real reason).

Come on! Give me something here!

We're talking about Creative Writing 101 here. We do need to see in a story a significant plot with a conflict that has a potential impact on preventing that happily ever after from happening. As we see in the chart above (which you have all seen before), the idea of the rising action means the story is building toward something. It doesn't just plateau and do nothing. 

I do think authors have taken the advice of toning down the story a bit too much lately. Yes, it is true that we do not want a story that is so convoluted the characters have no chance of getting to that happily ever after. We don't want stories that have so many back stories that it takes a flow chart just to keep track of things. But, we do need something.

When I work with authors, one of the first things we focus on is whether or not the story comes down to a "yes or no" answer. In other words, if the whole problem could be fixed with someone just saying, "Sure, let's have a relationship" and there is nothing standing in the way, then we have nothing to work for.

I will also say a huge side-effect of this lack of plot thing is the repetition the story will now encounter. Since you have no where to go, but there is a word count issue you struggle with, the story now starts to just do the same thing over and over again. This is what we always see in soap operas. It isn't that they are limited to plot lines. The issue is the supposed conflict of the plot of some of those characters is so easy to fix, we end up watching a week or more of the characters just doing the same things over and over again. 

Let's see if we can swing that pendulum back the other way. Let's find that happy medium between too much and too little!

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