Rebuilding The Story: Nine Years Away, Part 3 (Plot)

If there’s anything that I’d learned in the last three months, it’s the understanding that plotting a romance manuscript is different from plotting novels in different genres. I’d spent months reading story structure books to see how I could build up the romance based on the relationship between two people, and still I feel like I have a lot to learn about story structure.

That said, I did stumble on something that helped me build up the plot based on the characterization that I’d worked on for my stories. Yes, it sounds a little predictable, but believe me when I say that it has helped me organize my writing in a logical way. Here are a few highlights of my plotting process: 
– Start the hook at the first scene. My book starts with the Main Character literally crashing into the Love Interest outside a busy restaurant, which triggers memories of the last time they saw each other. Because their relationship is the main foundation of the story, I had to make sure that I don’t waste time drawing out their introduction. This means I also had to establish the undeniable attraction between the two of them, which I still need to work on as I go into the next round of revisions. 
Use Act 1 to introduce conflict. This book has one of the longest Act 1s that I’ve ever written, mostly because I took my time for the setup. I had to make sure that the end of Act 1 means that my MC has to choose the journey with her LI because she can’t go back to the normal world. Gwen Hayes refers to this as “adhesion,” since the two lovers are being set up to live with each other’s presence. 
Break the second act into two. It’s easy for me to write the first and third acts because I can see how it begins and how it ends; it’s the journey from those two distinct points that tend to get me into trouble. The division line in Act 2 starts at the midpoint; before that is fun and games building up to greater intimacy–in this case, a sex scene–and after that is the false high, where everything appears hunky-dory until fear sets in and everything comes crashing down. 
Plot points don’t need to be precise.  For all the number-crunching that I usually do when I plan a story, I don’t believe in starting plot points at X percent of the story. Personally I like working in ballpark estimates for each plot point; I try not to go further than a quarter for each act (if I’m working with a four-act structure), and sometimes my climactic moments are more like plateaus than peaks. For my story, the midpoint is actually split between two scenes; one where the lovers realize their undeniable attraction, and one where they finally act on it by jumping into bed and getting busy with one another. This gives me a small arc at the top of the action, which is closer to a bell curve rather than a sharp peak. 
Never lose sight of the True North. I mentioned last week that the relationship needed to be the center of all developments for the story, and this was especially true for plot. There were certain conversations that I had to change because they weren’t serving the main romantic plot, especially in the beginning and the middle. I may not have gotten everything down on the first try, but I’m learning in every step of the way.

Here’s to more writing projects ahead! 

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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