Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Romance is one of the most popular plots. It is character driven, and the basic structure is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy either recovers girl or loses her forever. The best romances have sympathetic characters, great dialogue, and unique settings. Since they are short, usually around 200 pages, character development is stressed.
In this plot, there are two major characters, the man and the woman. Since the readers are predominantly women, the point of view (POV) character should be the woman. She must be real, appealing, and in familiar situations so the reader can identify and project herself into the character. The POV must grow over the course of the story and display weaknesses as well as strengths, flaws as well as abilities, interests, dislikes, and an occupation relevant to the story. Conflict increases if the man and woman have differing views that require one of them to change.

In the beginning, where boy meets girl, often attraction exists, but there is dislike on one or both their parts. If love develops, don’t tell about it, show it. At the end of the first part, something separates them.

Boy loses girl in the story’s middle section. Usually three obstacles occur which have nothing to do with the relationship. Each attempt to resolve the situation results in more conflict and the stakes rise. Finally, an overwhelming crisis develops.

In the final section, the pair either overcomes the crisis resulting in a happy ending or the crisis pulls them apart forever. In commercial fiction, readers prefer happy endings.

Romance may appear in all genres, including adventure, mystery, suspense, science fiction, fantasy, historic, and all their sub genres. A related plot is forbidden love. Obstacles in this plot include social taboos, triangles, and differences in age, culture, or social standing. Next, we’ll look at the Rescue.—Quinn

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Next, we’ll consider the Chase. This is an action driven plot, high in tension and stimulating. Often, it’s unique and high concept, having larger than life situations, like alien invasions, pandemics, killer storms. The main character (MC) may be the pursuer or the pursued. There is always a strong reason for a chase, with duty or obsession motivating the chase itself. As always in story, there is a beginning, middle, and an end.

 In part one, the writer must establish a reason for the pursuit and determine the pursuer. The stakes must be high. Capture dangerous. If the MC is the pursued, he may be the victim of a bad situation, a mistake, or a misunderstanding. He may have done wrong for a good reason. A motivating incident presents itself by the end of this section.

 The middle contains the chase. It is filled with near captures, dangers, and physical action. Unrelenting tension builds as the pursuer repeatedly closes in on the victim, only to have him escape.

 Part three is the resolution. Here, the pursued is either caught or he escapes, relieving tension.

 The Fugitive is an example of a chase plot. In part one, Dr. Richard Kimble finds his wife murdered. The killer, a one-armed man, flees the scene. Instead of going after the real killer, the authorities arrest Kimble and try him for murder. On the way to Death Row, there’s an accident. Kimble escapes from the crash scene and decides to clear his name.

 Part two contains several narrow escapes as Deputy U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard tries to recapture Kimble. Kimble goes to a hospital to treat his wounds. Someone recognizes him, but he escapes. While Gerard has him cornered on a viaduct, Kimble leaps into raging water. He goes to a hospital to look for a list of people with prosthetic arms. Gerard is close behind. Kimble locates the one-armed man, Sykes, and discovers that his friend, Nichols, hired the murderer as a hit man.

 The resolution takes place in part three as Kimble confronts Nichols. They fight while Gerard and his men close in. Aware that the authorities now know the truth about the murder, Nichols tries to shoot Gerard. Kimble stops him, then surrenders to Gerard and is exonerated.

 Moby-Dick is an example of a Chase plot. Ahab hunts the whale. In Les Miserables, Javert tries to recapture Jean Valjean. Sherlock Holmes seeks Moriarity. And in Master and Commander, Aubrey pursues French merchant ships. Next time we will look at Romance—Quinn   

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Unlike the quest that is character driven, the adventure story is all about a journey. The character is action-driven and doesn’t have to grow in any way. The reader vicariously experiences exotic, strange, or dangerous places as the main character (MC) seeks something. As in all stories, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end.

 At the beginning of the adventure, the story world is ordinary. Then, a motivating factor comes along that encourages a change. It launches the MC into the middle. On the journey through a new story world, the MC encounters obstacles and conflicts that are almost impossible to overcome. In the end, he arrives at the goal and receives a reward.

Fairy tales are simple adventures. Let’s look at Tom Thumb. In the beginning, Tom is born into an ordinary home. Though he is only the size of a thumb, he finds ways of helping his father. Some men who would exploit him for monetary gain want to buy him. His father refuses the offer. But Tom recognizes an opportunity to see the world. He asks his father to sell him and promises to come home again.

The middle shows Tom during his journeys. Before the men reach the town where Tom will go on display, he escapes [adventure one] and hides in a mouse hole until they give up searching for him. He wakes from a night in a snail shell and overhears robbers that plot to burglarize the parson’s house. He offers to help them [adventure two], but when he is inside the house he raises a ruckus that scares the robbers away. While hiding in a hay pile, a cow eats him [adventure three]. He cries out. Thinking that the cow is possessed, the parson kills it and throws its stomach on a dung heap. A wolf comes along and gulps down the stomach in one piece [adventure four]. Tom directs the animal to a place where he can get all the food he wants.

The journey ends when Tom’s father finds the wolf in his house, kills him, and frees Tom. Tom’s reward is returning safely to his home and receiving his parent’s love.

The adventure is one of the most popular plots. Examples of this story form are: Mort d’Arthur, Around the World in Eighty Days, Robinson Crusoe, Grapes of Wrath, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Left Behind Series.—Quinn