CH 29 LM: Plotting the journey

(Feel free to comment in this chapter)

What does a romance entail? The answer to the question, will our protagonist(s) get what she or he wants? At what cost, price, sacrifice or shame? A romance involves a lot of pull and push back, seduction, steam, sultry possibility, rejection, conflict, want, want not, being sidetracked, a competitor, an antagonist or two, a few crucial incidents, that brings about significant change and charge to the story, a climax moment, and then the resolution (or lack of same).

Rick and Sally felt inspired by NanoWrMo, the idea of Paris and liking the idea of going on adventure with a stranger, the challenge of writing a book in a month. So there’s a challenge. There’s two strangers meeting in Paris committing to this act. What and whom to blame if they don’t? The goal or WANT of writing a romance in a month doesn’t seem like a very ‘heated’ or risky or life-death motivation for a whole novel, the idea of two strangers meeting in Paris does add a little more juice, but still, it’s cliche and seen before. I feel there’s gotta to be more to the story, more at risk, more underlying tension, more secrets. Or, two innocent young people playing in life gets thrown into some real batshit madness, terrorist attack, kidnapping, getting lost, drugged, something that ups the stakes and gets them out of comfort zone and having to transform to get out of the situation. So what and where’s the life and death in this encounter? The victory or defeat? The character illumination?

One option, the most likely one, would be to play up the Meta-Story? (Why do I think Woody Allan?) The Lone / Bradley behind the scenes story of two midlife writers, who are fumbling into this unknown territory of co-writing a romance, and challenged by the project and each other. I still feel there’s some possibility here that could make the story very unique, but we’ve not found the confessional, confused, humorous combat tone yet. And I still have a vague feeling you resist going deep into this, getting naked with your own story with love, sex, relationship at this age and time in your life. It’s easier to write about character, plot and Sally and Rick. But what if the real juice is in the Bradley Lone story? Us confronting ourselves and each other about love, romance, writing, living our dreams, making money, and being in midlife. This would be more eye-level, gut-shaking honest for readers our age asking similar questions but many not daring face them.

Another option, to completely get rid of ‘us’ and only focus on Rick and Sally, but then, we need a significant jolt of dramatic action and conflict, that will test those two to the core, some serious duende to up the game.

As I said in a former chapter – unless we give it our all, get naked, put real skin in the game, this will get boring and end up being a nice exercise in co-writing a hybrid type book. What does this remark stir in you? I’m sincerely curious.

I found two super rough story outline and plot sketch, let’s use it to play with ideas and story-evolution?

(I do believe in surprising each other, with each character’s moves to provoke response in the other, but I think it means we really gotta understanding the inner workings and wants and idiosyncrasies of our characters to make it cohesive, honest, authentic – meaning, we have to have better psychological and mental depth to write the unconscious and conscious ‘strategy’ that then translates from one’s want to action and response … !)

Here are the 9 questions to create a novel:

1.) Why did you choose this particular protagonist? (What’s so special that it HAD to be this person for this story?)

2.) What is the protagonist doing right now?  (Enter the story as late as possible, as Kurt Vonnegut said. Don’t start with the back story, you’ll filter that in later.)

3.) What external stressor is applied to the protagonist? (What outside force changes everything for the protagonist?)

4.) What is the protagonist’s goal? (You must be clear on this. Honest.)

5.) What are the obstacles along the way? (Some structures say there should be 3.  Remember, things must get worse after every obstacle.)

6.) What qualities of the protagonist helps or hinder him/her to overcome these obstacles (Your protagonist must operate at the best of their abilities, or the reader will call them idiot and bail. Are the obstacles truly hard enough to show your character’s best?)

7.) How will the protagonist change over the course of the story? (That is, after all, the story.)

8.) What are you trying to say? Why are you writing this particular story?

9.) What sacrifice levels the playing field? Remember, this journey is hard and the protagonist must demonstrate she/he is worthy to win. (Remember to show the protagonist’s reaction to the sacrifice. This is the moment of black despair– drag it out for all it is worth. Bigger the disaster, the longer you can extend it.)

Plotting cheat sheet:

Working title:




Part One

Inciting Incident:

Internal Initial Conflict (call to action):

External Initial Conflict (call to action):

Woven-in Backstory, Vital Information:

Part Two

Internal Conflict (obstacles):

External Conflict (obstacles):

Internal Higher Conflict (obstacles heighten):

External Higher Conflict (obstacles heighten):

Internal Highest Conflict (obstacles intensify):

External Highest Conflict (obstacles intensify):

Internal Point of No Return (stakes):

External Point of No Return (stakes):

Darkest Hour:

Turning Point:

Part Three

Internal Climax:

    > (preferably simultaneous)

External Climax:

Resolution (external):

Character Growth (internal):

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Wow, this is very helpful.
    Have you ever read Kane & Abel? It’s the story of two men who were born on the same day and then eventually meet and their lives are intertwined. They’re enemies, they fight, they hurt each other, etc.

    Maybe Rick & Sally have some “thread” that connects them. Maybe they both want the same thing and they’re going to fight for it (successful romance novel?) until they realize that they would do it better together.

    But I agree, no matter how compelling the Rick & Sally story is, the Bradley & Lone story has to bring it all up a notch. We have to dig deep and “get naked” (as you like so much to say) and let people into what our challenges are now and not just those of our fictional characters.

    But maybe that’s a part of it. Maybe our current challenges and crises can be woven into theirs? Maybe it can be a, ahem, self-help book for romance for 20-somethings to help prepare them for 20 years later.

    Obviously, I’m digging and poking and prodding here.

    But I hear you: the challenge, the fear, the problem, the dilemma. It’s more than writing a book together in Paris. It’s a nice scene for the story to start, but it’s the scene, not the story.

    What’s the story then?

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