Romance novels and short stories sell. Can YOU write a romance novel? If you read them, sure you can.
Recently a reader asked whether plot or character was more important in a romance.
It’s a good question, but you can’t have one without the other. At its simplest, to write a novel you need a character to whom something happens. How the character reacts to that something is the plot.
Consider Gone With the Wind. If you haven’t read the book, you’ve seen the movie. It’s a BIG book, at over a thousand pages. Scarlett O’Hara is the main character, and the American Civil War happens to her. Judging by the title, Gone With the Wind, author Margaret Mitchell’s aim, or theme if you like, was to show how quickly an era could be swept away.
Did Margaret Mitchell start with a character? From Wikipedia: “Mitchell said she heard Civil War stories from her relatives when she was growing up.”
But perhaps she started with the idea of a character who was young (Scarlett is 16 when the novel begins), and the effect of the Civil War on her.
Plot and Character: You Can’t Separate Them
According to Google, a plot is: “the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.”
Stuff happens in your romance, whether it’s a short story, a novella, or a novel. However, unlike life, where stuff happens all the time, and most of it means nothing, in your story, everything happens for a reason, and everything means something.
Everything is interrelated — everything happens for a reason.
Fiction isn’t real life: EVERYTHING means something
For example, let’s say that you have an important meeting first thing in the morning at work. You sleep in, burn your toast, your car won’t start, and you’re late. You have a horrible morning, but so what? The meeting starts late, you give your presentation, and your day goes pretty much as it always does, and you go home.
You could use a similar situation for your story, IF you remember that everything has to mean something.
So, your heroine could sleep in, but only if there’s a good reason — she was sobbing into her pillow because she caught her (now ex) boyfriend cheating. Her toast could burn, and her car might not start… IF as a consequence, she meets the cute guy next door, who offers her a lift to work, and IF, because she’s half-awake, he thinks that she’s a dim bulb, and he’s sworn off bimbos. And so on… Nothing just happens because you thought you’d write it.
To repeat: everything in fiction MUST mean something.
If you describe your heroine’s bedroom, and reveal that there’s a letter on her bedside table, you can’t leave it at that. You need to reveal what was in the letter. If you don’t, and keep showing readers stuff which means nothing, readers get annoyed. Then they become angry, and then they toss your fiction across the room. (If you were handy, they’d toss you across the room. :-))
Plotting: Start With a Character With a Problem
You could start your plotting with a character — your protagonist “story person”. This is the character with whom your reader identifies. Your story person has an obstacle/ problem/ challenge. He also has an inner challenge.
You need to set up your story: your story person is living her or his life. The Setup comprises around 20 per cent of your complete story. We get to know him/ her, and the reader starts living in the character’s skin.
Then something happens. This is the “inciting incident” — the kickoff to the action of the story. The inciting incident starts the engine of the story.
In summary, in your novel, you can’t divorce character from plot. Just remember that you need a story person to whom something happens, and that something changes him or her.
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