Find the Right Method for Plotting Your Romance Novel
by Irene Vartanoff
What if you’re trying to write a romance and you get stuck? Maybe it’s time to consider how you’re approaching writing it.
There are two major methods for plotting a romance or any kind of novel, and they’re completely opposite. Which one you pick depends mainly on which method works best for you for the particular story. Usually if it works for you once, you may as well continue using it. But first you have to finish this one, don’t you? So let’s look at the pros and cons to the methods most writers use to plot a romance story.
(1) The outline method. Think out every detail beforehand, carefully write them down in an outline, then edit the outline until every bit of the proposed action makes sense.
Pros: This is an excellent way to create a strong skeleton for a story, because the method chiefly employs logic, not emotion, even though you plan to write about emotional issues. It also tends to show all the potential flaws in the story, because the outline doesn’t have the distracting turns of phrase, high drama and emotional content that will go into the actual manuscript. Prose-style issues don’t enter into an outline, either. No worries about point of view. Everything in an outline is conveyed in an even tone of voice because an outline is basically a list of facts. All to the good.
Cons: Because the emotions of the main characters will affect the flow of every proposed scene, figuring out all levels of those emotions in each scene beforehand is crucial. If you say the hero and heroine meet and instantly get angry at each other while at the same time being attracted, you have to think through why both things happen and plan to explain it in the story. And then you must plot the consequences, since people do not behave logically all the time. If you don’t, your next scene gets shaky. And the following one is even shakier, until the whole edifice crumbles. Meanwhile, sometimes during the writing of the actual manuscript, the characters you’ve created seem to take on lives of their own and try to burst out of the roles in which they have been cast. The supposed hero isn’t very heroic or interesting, and meanwhile the bad guy wants to become good. Or some particular scene that was planned simply does not jell. The outline doesn’t work at the manuscript stage. Question why this is happening, especially if it happens again and again. You might have to drastically alter that neat outline to give your characters breathing space.
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