Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Construction Zone - 5. Plot

I wasn't going to talk about plot at all, but I will touch on it briefly since it will tie in to my next topic, which is going to be BEGINNINGS.

For Harlequin Romance, (and I emphasize this because as I stated before, other types of writing demand heavier plots)this is my rule: External conflict: BAAAAAD. Internal conflict: GOOOOOD. The book I sent them BEFORE Hired By The Cowboy sold, came back as relying to heavily on external elements. It's what I guess you'd call "contrived situations". Don't throw external monkey wrenches in and have your characters react. Let the conflict come from within.

Of course, not all external conflict is bad. You DO need to have a plot. But you know, plot is minimal. In thinking of the Bella Brides series, each book has the underlying plot of the Valentine restaurants "directing" things. And each book has its own hook that gets the ball rolling. But is that the focus of the book? Nuh uh. First and foremost, as always, the characters and their internal conflict drive the book.

Even is there is an external element, it all comes down to the STORY being about how the characters deal with it. For example, in Hired By THe Cowboy, Connor is about to lose the family ranch. The reason why is external. How he deals with that information, though, forms the crux of his conflict. Alex is pregnant and alone. She is running out of options. External. But how she chooses to deal with that, the way her character thinks and feels as she goes on her own journey through the book, is what carries her character.

I think I'll summarize my thoughts on plot with this...WHAT happens in the book is simply a platform for the characters to fall in love, to grow, to get to their HEA.


  1. I find the whoe internal/external conflict thing quite tricky - yeah, because its so integrated with plot - no character, no plot; no plot, nothing to showcase character... its v interesting. I agree HQ books are very character driven - but I do like throwing things to really test those characters out!

  2. I find it so difficult to sort out how much external plot a story needs to keep it interesting. Sometimes I can't finish a romance novels I've started reading because it's all internal journey and I've lost interest after the first few chapters.

    I think finding the right balance is one of the most difficult things for a writer to get right. Experienced CPs can be a boon in stearing you in the right direction.

    Spotting unneccessary plot contrivances is quite difficult. Any thoughts on what questions we could ask about the event to help us decide if it's a contrivance or not?

  3. I meant steering, not stearing! LOL! Should have done a preview first