Posted in General

Romance and Subplots

It’s Valentine’s Day, a celebration of all things love and romantic. Which is why I’m taking the opportunity to touch on a topic that we all know: Romance as a plot. More specifically, romance as a subplot.

Romance itself is a fantastic plot and it’s a popular one. That’s largely because it follows a fairly simple path. Couple meets. Couple’s relationship is threatened. Couple gets a happy ending. The exact how, and why and where varies from story to story. That however, makes it a beautiful subplot, especially for character development. Why? Because the biggest part of a romance plot is character development.

So what makes a successful romance?

Balance is a huge thing. Whether it’s your main plot or a subplot, romance is based on the characters and how they work together. That means they both have to bring something to the relationship–maybe he’s calm where she’s hot-headed. Maybe she’s cheerful where her girlfriend is gloomy. They both bring something that the other one needs to the table.

They also, however, need something in common. Maybe their family values are the same, maybe they both want the same things in life. Commonality makes it easier for your couple to start looking at each other with any sort of affection.

Obstacles can make or break the romance. There has to be some reason why your characters don’t just get together right from the first meeting. If there wasn’t something in the way, there wouldn’t be a story there. They’d just be together. The reason they’re not getting together can be varied. Anything from forbidden love, to emotional trauma to prior circumstances is fair game.

A notation here: your obstacle needs to make sense. If it’s simply a case of misunderstanding that could be resolved in two lines of dialogue, it’s not making sense, it’s a poor plot device. If however, your misunderstanding is caused by one or both deliberately being lied to and kept from one another by outside parties, that makes sense. It might be painfully obvious that they deserve and belong together, but until that obstacle is resolved, they’re barred from each other, thus it needs to be able to hold weight on its own.

Change is the final element here. I mentioned that the biggest part of a romance plot is the character development, and this is where that comes in. Your obstacle should keep them from getting together right away, but it should also force them to change, and more importantly, to change in a way that makes the obstacle null and void. That often means one or both characters is willing to make a sacrifice to be with the other: Romeo and Juliet is an extreme example, but it is one: both of them were willing to run away from their families to be together.

Together, the balance, the obstacles and the change make a romance plot engaging, and because the core element of it is the change they make, it makes a fantastic subplot because it plays into character arcs. Because that obstacle keeps them apart initially, you can also use that obstacle as a complication for your main plot goal–or, alternatively, make the main goal part of the obstacle keeping them apart.

That doesn’t, however, mean your heroine automatically fits with the antagonist’s daughter just because they both have the same goal of taking down the antagonist and the antagonist will do anything to keep his daughter away from the heroine. It could very easily mean that your heroine’s plucky sidekick who gets both the antagonist’s daughter and the heroine to work together is the one that belongs with the antagonist’s daughter because she’s come from a similar background with a super-villain for a parent.

As a subplot, it helps to remember that the external conflicts your couple faces together will force them together. That might mean some of the complications they face in resolving the main plot are only properly resolved when the two of them have spent some time together on the solution.

Posted in General, writing

Deciding On a Rewrite

Writing a first draft is well-known to be rough. That’s one of the reasons why it’s also called the rough draft. Doing an entire rewrite is only moderately easier. If you’re a panster/discovery writer, doing a rewrite can completely spark an all new interest in the story. But, how do you decide on doing a complete rewrite?

For me, that start with the intent to polish a very rough draft. As with everything else I edit, I started by making a list of things that needed attention. This only covered the big arcs of character and plot, and scene-level issues like placement problems and incorrect facts. That ended up being a two-page list of large issues.

From there, I started looking at the major structural problems I was having. The big one was plot. Although it’s got a good base on it, it’s rushed and there are parts of it that feel a little contrived. That was a good note however, I know in my early drafts the plot can be a little wobbly, but the fact I had a decent base meant I also had a good chance of salvaging something.

Characters were also another really big problem. Their motivations either weren’t clear or were utterly nonexistent. The three biggest characters also only differed from each other in very small ways: none of them stood out as a character on their own.  I also had some problems with side characters, who I admit, only seemed to exist to fill in a role in the story.

My setting was good, though it can still use some fleshing out. It offered plenty of place for conflict and both resources and obstacles for my characters. The problem was my plot almost completely ignored those opportunities. Between that and the glaring problems with my characters, the structure of the story itself wasn’t sound.

It was pretty obvious right away that there wasn’t much hope for polish. As it was, the story needed too much structural work. Although there’s a few lines I’m hoping will survive, a handful of sentences out of some fifty-thousand words isn’t a lot.

Starting the rewrite however, first requires going back and building a little more groundwork. To that extent I’m doing some worldbuilding and a few character-development exercises.

Posted in General

January Recap

It feels a bit like January has taken forever to move by. Just a couple of weeks ago I was writing a launch post for Crimson and Gold. I was also looking at my projects and trying to decide what to work on next.

A lot has happened this month, both in writing and in other life matters. I’ve sadly, had to start looking at getting a new computer as my current one is showing its age. Along with some slowness, it’s no longer handling some of the programs I use regularly thanks to reduced memory and updates to those programs. I’ve also noted that my keyboard is having some trouble with one side of my space bar and the n key. In some ways I’m looking forward to that as it gives me a chance to clean out my desk when I replace my computer (I’m also looking for ways I can recycle it.)

Alongside the launch, I also built a tracker to see how much I’m actually writing throughout the year. For January, that ended up being just over seventy-thousand. I’m really surprised at how much I ended up writing even without a focused project.

Building the tracker lead me to digging through my project list. That ultimately lead me to digging out a very old story for a complete rework. I’ve spent the last couple of days doing some exercises to help flesh out and build on the existing idea and will be working on the rewrite throughout February.

CRIMSONANDGOLDREVEALCOVERThe biggest thing for January was of course, the launch for Crimson and Gold. It’s exciting to be able to say it’s available on Amazon for $0.99 (USD). There was a huge learning curve involved getting ready for launch, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.

What happened in your January?

Posted in General

Revisiting Old Ideas

If you’ve been following me, you probably already know that for most of January, I didn’t have a main project selected. I prefer having one main project a month because it helps keep me focused and not as inclined to bounce around on several different projects. Because of the launch for Crimson and Gold, I never got around to selecting one.

I did however, a couple of weeks ago, go back through and take a look at my project list. I have far too many in-progress stories.

I also have several stories that have been drafted, but haven’t been touched in quite possibly, years. The oldest of these is a story I’ve hung onto from around 2013. If I recall correctly, it was the NaNoWriMo novel I wrote for that year. At fifty-thousand words, there’s a lot wrong with it.

For starters, the plot is a stretch, even with some heavy suspension of disbelief. The characters also flat, and character arcs largely don’t exist.

There are however, good points. The concept itself is still solid. The idea at its core has some merit. It’s merely bogged down in what’s unpolished writing. I’ll also note that it’s writing from seven years ago. I’ve gained a lot of new skills since I last wrote it.

Although I haven’t looked at it in those years, I have kept it on my project list, and I think it’s about time I took it back out and revisited it.

Starting with a complete rewrite.

Posted in General

Looking at Projects

Halfway through January and I still don’t have a main project selected for the month. Part of that is because I’ve still been heavily focused on the launch for Crimson and Gold. Writing however, is not a ‘one and done’ type of thing. There’s always something else to do, be that creating new stories or editing older ones.

So, to figure out what I’m doing next, I took a look at my project list. I always have a plethora of projects and ideas, but having them written down and organized keeps me from adding to continuously to it.

It’s already a huge list with a total of fifty-two stories in various states. Some of these are in a need of a major overhaul and rework. Others are bare-bones skeletons that I haven’t looked at in a while. Two of them spun off into serials.

As there’s no actual order to the list, that was my first step. Of those fifty-two stories, fourteen are in a rough draft. Another seventeen are in a bare bones state of what is essentially, story chunks. One is technically in that story chunk state, but as that is part of rewriting the story, that’s at the top of my list, right below the two complete and published stories. One more is in the drafting state where I’m working on strengthening the story and word choice, but not quite ready to start considering how to share it with readers.

The remaining seventeen are the basis for stories. Things like short stories that have kept growing, or a detailed idea.

Because I have so many ideas that are in the earliest stages, I’m focusing on getting those out of the early stages for now.

How do you organize your projects?