Last week I talked about character studies and interviews and how important I think it is to get to know my characters before coming to the page. Now that I’ve learned these characters so well that it’s like slipping on a soft, well-worn t-shirt, how do I actually start writing the book?
Yes, I know it’s a dirty word and it might even strike fear in the heart of some of you pansters, but I LOVE PLOTTING and today I’m going to show you the beginning stages of that. A sort of skeleton that I build on in the second stage of plotting.
There are several different ways to plot, but you really can’t decide how to plot the story without know what type of plot structure is common for your genre. There are really only four different types of plot structure:
- Dramatic or progressive–This is a chronological structure which first establishes the setting and conflict, then follows the rising action through to a climax (the peak of the action and turning point), and concludes with a denouement (a wrapping up of loose ends).
- Episodic–This is also a chronological structure, but it consists of a series of loosely related incidents, usually of chapter length, tied together by a common theme and/or characters. Episodic plots work best when the writer wishes to explore the personalities of the characters, the nature of their existence, and the flavor of an era.
- Parallel–The writer weaves two or more dramatic plots that are usually linked by a common character and a similar theme.
- Flashback–This structure conveys information about events that occurred earlier. It permits authors to begin the story in the midst of the action but later fill in the backstory
I’ve used all of these in some way at some point in time, but the one I’ve used most often when crafting a romance or love story is the dramatic plot.
YASSSS!!! BRING ALL THE DRAMA.
The five parts of a dramatic plot are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. So in romance language–boy meets girl, LOTS OF SEXUAL TENSION, DO THE DAMN DIRTY, misunderstanding, make up and do the dirty again and HAPPILY EVER AFTER (HEA), or the endings I prefer to write, I LIKE YOU AND I’D LIKE TO KEEP FUCKING YOU FOR A WHILE, also known as, Happy For Now (HFN). Now a good romance repeats this structure in all three acts with the intensity building with each climax, but let’s keep it simple for the moment and again I’ll give you my In Her Closet notes as an example.
Heads up: There’s gonna be spoilers, but I mean…WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ IN HER CLOSET YET?
So exposition: the part of a play or work of fiction in which the background to the main conflict is introduced.
- Yves Santiago wakes up in Julian Webster’s bed. Establish her wanton and willing sexual indulgence with their interaction. Internal dialogue her oneness and no desire to be in a relationship.
- Yves listens to a voicemail from the Elijah Weinstein (Hero) as she gets dressed. Introduce her elderly neighbor Mrs. McKinney, a hearty Irish woman that she shares a cigarette with every morning. Establish the setting (Philadelphia as another character).
- Meet her best friend Ava and her relationship with her boss and coworkers. Have her boss hand her a phone message from Elijah. She returns his call and discovers that he wants to talk to her about writing a book. They schedule a date.
- Introduce her family and establish their closeness with an emphasis on her relationship with her mother who seems dead set on reuniting with her ex-fiance, Cesar Soares. She is upset by the exchange between her and her mother and heads home alone.
- Yves has a second job at a bookstore and this is where she and Elijah meet. They have an instant attraction and share a kiss at the end of the night, but they both agree that they should keep things professional if she is going to write the book for him. The night ends on a melancholy note when she receives a phone call from her ex.
The above bullets are basically a rough synopsis of the first two chapters. Was that painful? You introduce the characters, establish their importance and interaction with the main character, ground the reader in the setting and establish a conflict that will keep the heroine from meeting her goal.
Now do the same thing for rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. When you’re done you will have a bare bones outline. Truthfully, you can use this to begin writing your story or you can go more in depth. I will show you just how deep I go (heh!) in the next installment of #ThisIsHowINovel.