Monday, June 6, 2011

Plot: Love, part one.

Today we are talking about love. I am not a romance writer though I do have romance in my epic fantasy. I also contribute to Romantic Friday Writers and below this post is my offering for that blogfest if you are curious. Love is tricky. You may think it is simple. However there are many kinds of love stories, which makes it universal and interesting.

When I started reading the master plot for love, I thought. How am I going to handle this in just a short post? I was worried and then I realized that this plot needed a part one and a part two.

Romance novels, just like mystery and many others have a formula which publishers want writers to follow. One of the key elements is a happy ending. But there are love stories that don't have a happy ending. Romeo and Juliet come to mind as does Love Story. I saw the movie and cried too. But regardless of a happy or unhappy ending there is one fact for the plot about love. It is a character driven plot. It doesn't matter if the characters are on the moon or in the middle of the ocean on earth; the back drop is secondary to the characters.

The second most important aspect of a love plot is to use sentiment or sentimentality. When I first read this I thought, say what? So to clarify for you a little more I am going to include a quote here.

Romance novels depend on sentimentality; a love story that tries to be unique depends on sentiment. What is the difference? The difference has to do with honest emotion vs. prepackaged emotion. A sincere work - a work of sentiment - generates its own power; a sentimental work borrows feelings from stock. -Ronald B. Tobias, 20 Master Plots and how to build them.

Now you may ask, what on earth does that mean? I know I did, but at the same time I understood. I just needed a little clarification. Tobias uses two poems to do this.

Sue's Got a Baby, by Edgar Guest:

Sue's got a baby now, an' she
Is like her mother used to be;
Her face seems prettier, an' her ways
More settled like. In these few days
She's changed completely, an' her smile
Has taken on the mother-style.
Her voice is sweeter, an' her words
Are clear as is the song of birds.
She still is Sue, but not the same-
She's different since the baby came

To My Daughter, by Stephen Spencer

Bright clasp of her whole hand around my finger,
My daughter, as we walk together now.
All my life I’ll feel a ring invisibly
Circle this bone with shining: when she is grown
Far from today as her eyes are far already.

Can you tell the difference? The first poem assumes that we are familiar with having a baby and because of this we know what the character is experiencing. The second one allows the reader to experience the joy of having a daughter in the moment with the character. Both are delightful poems. The goals of the writer are different. The first is sentimentality, the second is sentiment. The first is formula fiction; the second is a unique study of the characters emotion. Both talk about a character. One is third person, the other is first person.

Next week: Part 2, Master Plot, Love, will look at happy and unhappy endings.

For more on this plot and others please read, 20 Master Plots and how to build them, by Ronald B. Tobias, available from your local retailer or at an online store. Or click on the link to Amazon's site and get it there.

Are you writing a romance novel? If not, are you including romance in your novel? Or if you are a reader, do you prefer happy or unhappy endings?



Nas Dean said...

Hi Nancy,

I love reading romantic fiction. I want to see the H/H get to a HEA. Even if it is a Suspense, Thriller or Fantasy, I enjoy a story with a bit of romantic element in it.

Thanks for the links and the explainatery poems.

mooderino said...

Quite a tricky subject. To be honest I found both poems guilty of sentimentality and wouldn't know how to differentiate between the two if asked to give examples.

Hopefully I'll get a better handle on it in your next post.

Moody Writing

Siv Maria said...

Very informative post. I am writing a book that includes romance and since I have not come to that point yet I found your post very useful and I am looking forward to part two. Love is messy so happy or sad makes no difference to me as long as it feels real.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There's a romance in all five of my fiction books, and yes, I need a happy ending.

Joanne said...

I always enjoy a romance in the books I read. The endings can go either way, but the ones I like most are the ones that are not spelled out for the reader, but rather lead us right to where we need to be, to know what happens next without being told.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

There's an element of attraction in my book's sequel, but it's not romance.

N. R. Williams said...

I agree Nas.

Mood, the first one assumes that you understand the connections between a mother and her new born and is telling you rather than showing you the character's emotional state.

Hi Siv, I agree, it is messy.

L. Diane, very cool.

I agree Joanne, I want to experience with my characters how they feel.

Interesting Alex.

Thanks everyone for stopping by and leaving a comment.

mooderino said...

Sure, but aline like: All my life I’ll feel a ring invisibly...

is presumptious, how does the writer know how they'll feel in the future? It's based on sentimentality (wouldn't it be great if...) rather than genuine emotion.

Mind yo I am a bit of an old curmudgeon, so I may be viewing it through the prism of humbugness.

N. R. Williams said...

Good point mood.

Jules said...

Well of course love needs 2 parts; part one "Oh yes, yes" and part two "Go away, I have a headache."
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

N. R. Williams said...

Funny Jules.

Anonymous said...

I'm definately a happy ending kinda guy. I'm really upset if its not a happy ending. Boy has to get girl in the end.

The Golden Eagle said...

I'm thinking about including romance in my WIP--but I'm still not sure. I'm planning to wait until I get to that part of the story and see what the characters do. :)

I don't mind unhappy endings if they're realistic. What I don't like is when authors use a sudden tragedy/twist as shock factor.

N. R. Williams said...

I'm glad to here that Stephen.

I agree Golden.

Thank you both for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Nancy,

I have to agree with SIv... If the emotion is real either ending works for me.

N. R. Williams said...

I must agree with you both. As writers are characters must embody believable emotions and motivations.

Mike Ruchhoeft said...

I think Ronald is a bit of a snob. He assumes a romance novel can't be a love story.

And yet, he has written a book with a title that suggests a formula of sorts for building plots.

Hmmmm. Maybe I'm just grumpy tonight.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Mike:
He doesn't come across that way in his book. I don't have time to post the entire chapter. So I pull out what seems to be the meat and add my own comments. I've learned a lot from 20 Master Plots.

Thanks for dropping by.

L'Aussie said...

Hi Nancy. Thanks for sharing this. What is a novel without romance, but not everyone is comfortable writing it. But it doesn't have to be soppy. I like my romances to by mysterious. I love both poems.


I've entered the Spring Short Story contest with Narrative. Have you?

Margo Benson said...

Good post - many stories have romantic elements in them, even when not classed as 'Romance'. As L'Aussie points out, some people are uncomfortable writing it. I see romantic relationships as part of (most peoples') lives.

I love how RFW is full of wonderful lessons for me. My other writing group had a friendly joke about my Romance ambitions, until they tried it themselves!!

N. R. Williams said...

I agree Denise, romance is an integral part of life and is an enhanced element in our writing. I haven't entered the contest yet. I'm thinking.

I've heard other authors degrade romance as well Margo. I don't think we should pass judgment on any form of writing. It all has it's place.

Thank you both for stopping by.

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