Monday, June 13, 2011

Plot: Love, part two

Last week in part one of  Love, the plot; we looked at sentimentality and sentiment. Today we are going to look at happy and unhappy endings. Any romance author will tell you that happily ever after is a must in this genre. The readers expect it and the publishers require it. But not all romance novels are happy.

Let's take a look at some happy endings. Hollywood loves happy endings. When I think of romance I think of When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, While You Where Sleeping and many more. These movies are all about when boy meets girl, throw in some silly obstacles, and overcome them to create a fabulous marriage, at least we assume they get married. In When Harry Met Sally, he drove her nuts and vice versa. It wasn't until they each had been deeply hurt that they discovered the things in each other that were positive and supportive. In Sleepless in Seattle it was the distance from each other. In While You Where Sleeping it was the false engagement to one brother while the two characters struggled to understand their feelings. You could also qualify that as a lie.

I love happy endings too. Life can be fraught with loneliness, disappointment, despair and many other negative things. It is so cheerful to go to a movie, relax, have a laugh and remember when love touched your heart.

However, some stories have tragic endings. I brought up Romeo and Juliet last week. Both committed suicide when they were unable to figure out how to be together. In real life, there are stories of how married couples or college sweethearts fall out of love with each other. Perhaps the obstacles in life destroyed their love instead of bringing them closer together. Perhaps one of the characters has an obsessive personality and is abusive. The world is filled with tragic endings. All you need for inspiration is the latest newspaper. Horror films sometimes delve into this sort of relationship or a Suspense Novel might do so. There's a list of films that come to mind for this group too, like Psycho, Virginia Wolf, and many more.

Regardless of which love story you want to tell, a good plot is developed in 3 acts.

Act 1:
We are introduced to two main characters that either meet for the first time or have known each other. They may have been married for years, especially in the sad love story. It is important that you avoid clichés here. It is so easy to rely on a cliché since the love story is as old as man.

Act 2:
The lovers split. Something happens to drive them apart either by design or by the loss of love. One character may go off to a new location for a job or school. A villain may interfere by kidnapping one of the characters or presenting a challenge that the character is drawn into. Perhaps an accident occurs that either cripples one of the characters or causes their death. In the case of love lost, it is the on going story of why the characters no longer love each other and may even hate each other.

Act 3:
The lovers are reunited in the happy ending and in the unhappy ending they have completed the split. If the lovers have overcome an obstacle to be together, then you must demonstrate that their love is stronger than before. If they have made the final split then you must show how that split has affected the lovers. Did one of them die, or did they divorce. Is one of them going to declare, "Free at last…?"

To recap:
The love plot is a character driven plot. You will either write it with a sentiment or sentimentality view. The first is more original than the last which relies on well established types. 90% of love stories have a happy ending. If this is for the romance genre a happy ending is required by both the publishers and the readers. About 10% of love stories are written about how the characters fell out of love with each other, which can take a very dark twist.

There you have it. Next week the master plot is, Underdog. No, we are not talking about a cartoon character. LOL

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 love story? What type of story is it? Do you love to read love stories? Which type is your favorite?

(Winner of one of Edie Ramer's books if  L. Diane Wolf. Congratulations Diane.)

Have a good week.


Joanne said...

When I read this, I thought of An Affair to Remember. It's a movie, not a book, but still, it is a story. So much simmered beneath the love storyline, miscommunication, and an accident, and timing, that it's one of my favorite love stories.

N. R. Williams said...

That's a good one Joanne.

Anonymous said...

Although my book is action driven, there is a love story between the MC and his lady. The grow together and overcome obstacles, even putting their lives in the line of fire to save each other. This feeds the character arc and also helps keep the story moving forward.

N. R. Williams said...

Love is a great subplot. I have this in my book too.

Sylvia Ney said...

You've done a wonderful job with this post! I recently purchased both "20 Master Plots" and "45 Master Characters". I'm a big fan of Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler. I hope these books can help add to what I've already learned from them.

Summer Ross said...

congrats to the winner, and I am writing a love story but have not finished it yet so I'm not sure what kind LOL

N. R. Williams said...

I have those books Sylvia, you will really enjoy them. Also, Vogler's A Writer's Journey is great.

Hi Summer, nice to see you. Now I must know more.

Thank you both for dropping by.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

All five of my fiction books have involved a love story. With a happy ending, because I wouldn't have it any other way.

When Harry Met Sally is the best romantic comedy!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think I added a twist - guy doesn't want to admit he likes girl.

The Golden Eagle said...

This series on love plots has made me want to try my hand at it at some point--I'd just have to figure out if would end happily or unhappily!

Looking forward to next week's post.

The Yard Bard said...

I write about gardens, so I guess there's a love story going on between me and the tomatoes.

"Oh, Roma! I'm gonna paste you one!"


The Yard Bard said...

Oh, and I have something for you on my blog!

N. R. Williams said...

all five books about love, very cool Diane.

That isn't knew Alex. But I'm sure it's intense.

Sometimes the characters decide for you Golden.

Funny Yard...I will come over and see what it is too.

Thanks everyone for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Meagan Spooner said...

My favorite stories are those with bittersweet endings. Perhaps it's that the character got what they thought they wanted, but it ended up not being ALL they wanted--or maybe they don't get what they want but discover they didn't really want it in the first place. I like happy endings with a sting of melancholy.

Nas Dean said...

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for sharing such a great post. Love and it's subplots, and how to make it character driven.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Meagan, you make some excellent points with your comment.

You're welcome Nas.

Thank you both for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love happy endings in my romance stories! I'm a total sap and enjoy all kinds of romance.

If I know the book isn't a romance, it's okay for the book to have those bittersweet & ambiguous endings. Straight out sad I don't deal well with!

Kittie Howard said...

Great info, Nancy. Thanks for sharing. I adore "An Affair to Remember" - and have you read The Wolf and the Dove?

Marne Ann said...

Great post. Personally, I'm a sap for the HEA. In fact, I cannot read Nicholas Sparks or watch the movies based on his stories, because I have to have that HEA. I get rather angry when I've invested so much emotion into the hero's story, only to have him die or lose out on that HEA.
There's enough bittersweet in real-life for me.
But, that's why I write romance.
Now, something that I go into with the expectation it won't have a HEA (and it isn't supposed to), is fine.
I love a good suspense, sci-fi, fantasy, or even occasional horror...

N. R. Williams said...

Jemi, we should have a banner. Saps unite. LOL

Hi Kittie, no I haven't read that book. Another one to add to my TBR list.

High Marne, oh yes, I love the happy endings too. Of course, there are times that things go all wrong for our hero but it's hard to make them suffer a bad ending when they have suffered all through the book.

Thanks for coming by.

Laurie said...

I found your plot post interesting, Nancy, with some really good points highlighted. As a reader I like plots that are neither too simple or too convoluted. Thanks! Laurie
Laurie's Thoughts & Reviews

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Laurie, thanks for stopping by and sharing.

Donna Hole said...

Hmm, I liked this post. It describes the formula that I find distressing about the romance genre. That happy ending thing.

But, I also believe a happy ending is different for every "couple". My cynism is showing.

Yet, I find it hard to read a novel that doesn't have a certain amount of romance imbedded in the story line. I've watched and enjoyed all three movies you listed (When Harry Met Sally my all time fav romance, I think) yet I have problems reading category romance novels. Watch it, yes; read it, no.

I can't read Michael Critchton or Robin Cook novels either, but I never miss a movie production.

Do you have genre's you can watch, but not read?


N. R. Williams said...

Hi Donna.
I don't read many romance novels either. But I do have romance in my epic fantasy. I think everyone who is an adult, has experienced romance to some degree, so to write a story that excludes it altogether seems a little false. That said, my short story has no romance, but it's not required. So I just broke my own observation. Hehe.