Welcome back to my ramblings! This week we’re going to talk about plot, specifically as it applies to romance novels. As I mentioned last week, romance novels tend to have the same general plot: people (usually two, often-but-not-always one male and one female) meet, fall in love, face some great barrier to staying in love, conquer that barrier, and end up in love. Therefore, the challenge in plotting a romance novel is to make that basic plan seem fresh. That challenge is even greater when one is writing a series of romances–say, for example, a series of nine short, hot contemporary romance novels, like my Diamond Brides series. I’ll use the first volume, Perfect Pitch, as an example.
Here’s the back-of-the-book-blurb for Perfect Pitch:
Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant’s rules—no smoking, drinking, or “cavorting” in public. That’s fine, until D.J. Thomas—God’s gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam’s no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.’s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss.
Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam’s music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.’s son begs to trade in Little League for music class. Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?
That’s pretty much the plot. And look. This is a romance. There’s no such thing as a spoiler when it comes to a romance — Sam and D.J. end up together at the end of the book.
So, how do I make the plot of Perfect Pitch different, interesting, exciting?
First, I tie the key plot elements into the characters. D.J. isn’t just a pitcher, and Sam isn’t just a beauty queen — those professions are the very reason they meet. More than anything else, Sam wants to launch a music program for kids and more than anything else, D.J. wants his son to be a baseball star — those desires cause conflict when D.J.’s son wants music more than baseball.
Second, I make the external plot (D.J. fights for his best season record ever; Samantha fights for her after-school music program) mirror the internal plot (D.J. and Sam fall in love, face conflict, overcome the conflict, stay in love). At the moments when the external plot is rolling along — D.J. is pitching the best innings of his life; Sam is making the strongest business contacts of her career — the internal plot is going well (D.J. and Sam are meeting, flirting, and falling in love.) When the external plot reaches its climax (will D.J. pitch the game of his life the night his father is watching? Will Sam succeed with her music program before her reign ends), the internal plot also reaches its peak (the “Black Moment” of a romance novel — when all goes wrong and the relationship appears to be irrevocably destroyed.) When the external plot resolves (okay, I won’t tell you exactly what happens), the internal plot resolves.
This pairing of internal and external gives a proper scaffolding to the story. The novel works because all of the stresses — internal and external — are pulling in the same direction at the same time. Tension is maintained, and readers turn pages.
Of course, the best plot in the world won’t help an author if she can’t sit down and get the words on the screen or page. Next week, we’ll continue our discussion, focusing on the nuts and bolts of the writing life. But for now, you can tell me which plots you’ve enjoyed, where the characters’ very nature drives the plot? What about plots where the internal conflict and the external conflict proceed hand-in-glove?
You can buy Perfect Pitch here.
Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere in the world through stories. She never forgot that advice. Mindy’s travels took her through multiple careers – from litigator to librarian to full-time writer. Mindy’s travels have also taken her through various literary genres for readers of all ages – from traditional fantasy to paranormal chick-lit to category romance, from middle-grade to young adult to adult. In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her endless to-be-read shelf. Her husband and cats do their best to fill the left-over minutes.
Many thanks for stopping by!