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Old 02-12-2013, 07:52 PM   #1
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Fashionably late, The Following, and more...

Okay, so I'm showing up more than a little fashionably late after finally figuring out (quite a while back and with the help of AWers, I might add) that I may have been a closet romance writer for quite a while now. I'm still very much in love with SFF, but I like a good, strong romantic element, too, and I was fighting it like the Dickens.

So here I am, and...

Fox's The Following has me all fired up and excited about the menage HEA I've been fussing over for so damned long! I love the Paul, Jacob, and Emma dynamic so much and it just reminded me of how much I want to see Ray, Gryph, and Evy together as a *treble.

Thus far, I've figured out what it is that needs to happen to get certain spokes of this wheel to fall for others as in Ray for Evy, Evy for Gryph, and Gryph for Ray, and they each have different hang-ups and doubts about these latter connections.

Ray, almost immediately after meeting Gryph, feels a connection with the other man, Evy's been crushing on Ray for a while before our story starts, and Gryph is absolutely enamored with Evy from the get-go, so those feelings are already there, either pre-story or very early on in the story, so it's the relationships in the paragraph before this one that need to gel within the story's time frame.

At the story's beginning, it's like a great big wheel of unrequited love and I love that for some reason.

Anyway, moving on - how do you come up with external goals for your characters? For me, that moment when one of my characters realizes they're in love with the other is the most compelling part and sometimes I focus so heavily on the dynamics of the relationship that I forget there needs to be an actual story goal, you know? Something by which to measure the story's progress.

At one time I rather rudely (and ignorantly) thought that it was some kind of shortcoming on the writer's part if they couldn't write solely about the relationship dynamics without "tacking on" a story-size external goal. I now understand the importance of having an external goal, but coming up with one is sometimes difficult. I have one for Evelyn and it could reasonably become the goal for my guys as well since they're both tangled up with her in their own way, so that may be all I need, but sometimes I have trouble coming up with external stuff, that's all.

How about y'all? Do you find it easy to figure out the dynamics of the characters involved in the HEA and to figure out just what it is that needs to happen for them to fall for one another and then flail around endlessly for an external goal to wrap all of it up together? Or does the latter come easily to you? If so, what's your secret? I beg you!

Talk to y'all later. For now, happy dance over my newfound excitement in regards to my WIP, as I've been down about it (and my life in general) for a while now. Go, Snoopy, go!!!

*Cheesy or cute? I just wanted a word like "couple" to describe them and sometimes "threesome" or "menage" seems to me to only describe the sexual acts, not to describe the relationship as a whole - what do you think? The alternative I thought of was "threebie" but I like "treble" a bit better.
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:32 PM   #2
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Congrats on figuring out the relationship dynamics of your wip! Feels good, doesn't it?

As for external conflict, mine seems to develop from the story itself. Sometimes I don't exactly know what direction it will take until I'm into the story. For instance, in one of my stories I knew there were bad guys after my FMC, but I didn't know she was going to be kidnapped until the bad guys showed up on her doorstep.

If your FMC is already involved in an external conflict, its not a leap to assume her love interests are going to do everything in their power to untangle her from it. Expanding on that pre-existing conflict to give the men bigger roles would seem natural, IMO.

Occassionally, I do struggle with what form the external conflict will take. In those instances, I still look to the characters for inspiration. Are they involved in a profession that would tend to make enemies or competition? Has someone felt slighted by actions they took in the past? Do the characters possess powers that might be envied and used for someone's purposes? Are they on the run from something or someone?

The main thing to watch out for when developing external conflict is to avoid a contrived situation. If your characters just happen to stumble into a situation, with no background or motivation, it could seem too convenient and turn readers off.
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:39 PM   #3
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I also tend to find internal conflicts more interesting than external ones and I usually start with the character dynamics as well and sometimes run into a wall when trying to come up with the rest of the plot.

Here's my approach:
I think, what's satisfying about a good romance is not just the HEA, but also its transformative power. A love that moves you deeply, changes you - often for better and sometimes for worse and sometimes for both (but let's focus on the better). The external goals should be tied into that change.

Well-rounded as they surely are, each of your characters will probably have a defining flaw. The romance should move them towards overcoming it (or at least recognizing it and starting to move in the right direction).

Eg. Someone is a doormat, too hungry for harmony and therefore often a seething ball of passive-agression. Then they fall for the bad-boy/bad-girl, suddenly recognize their own repressed rage mirrored in the Other and find the balls/ovaries to finally stand up to those who used to boss them around. Now you only have to give your MC a bully to stand up to, and a reason to take a stand, and voilą - perfectly organical external goal back-engineered from the character dynamics. (Just don't have MC coax their bad boy/girl into standing up to the bully on their behalf, because that kinda defeats the point).

Or: Someone is very self-absorbed, lacking a clear sense of purpose and languishing in the insufferable ennui of an over-privileged existence without any meaningful challenges. Then they fall for the idealist crusader-type, trying to fix the world. First they only adopt their cause to impress their love interest, but as they gradually open themselves up more and more - not just to the LI but also to the world around them - they start to intrinsically care about it. They demonstrate this by keeping on fighting the good fight, even when the relationship with the LI is temporarily on the rocks. Here's it's important that they start to make sacrifices, not just as a favour to the LI, but because they genuinely start to believe in the cause.

The external goal can also be a false one, and the character can demonstrate growth (triggered by the transformative power of love of course) by abandoning it.

Eg. Someone is very insecure and lacks a clear sense of identity. They are always trying to emulate someone else and really determined to accomplish a certain set of goals that will finally prove them worthy of love. Then they fall for someone who couldn't care less about those particular markers of success and realize that they are loveable as they are and have been chasing someone else's dream. They abandon their foolish ambitions and reorient their life towards a path more in accordance with their true personality.

Whether requited or unrequited, happy or miserable, committed or casual, permanent or transient, a romance tends to teach you interesting stuff about yourself. External goals are a way for your characters to apply those lessons.

External goals should not feel "tacked on" - ideally they are inextricably linked to the romance.
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:07 PM   #4
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Enjoy the ride ;D

As for external conflict, I agree with Beachgirl that you can probably get far just by expanding the conflict you already have into something bigger that fully involves all 3 characters. You may just be a writer who readers will love for the internal conflicts and that thrilling moment when a couple (or threble) realizes they're right for each other, and the external plot is just an excuse for that emotional fix. Which doesn't mean the external plot isn't carefully thought out and true to the characters, it just isn't the most important thing.

External plots in romance (and anywhere else) don't always have to be life-and-death either. They could be the character's adventures in business, or resolving a family trouble, or untangling a small mystery. Look at stories you enjoy and see if you can snag/adapt a plotline from one of them if you're completely blank on ideas.
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Old 02-12-2013, 10:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beachgirl View Post
Congrats on figuring out the relationship dynamics of your wip! Feels good, doesn't it?

...

If your FMC is already involved in an external conflict, its not a leap to assume her love interests are going to do everything in their power to untangle her from it. Expanding on that pre-existing conflict to give the men bigger roles would seem natural, IMO.
Yes, it does!

And yes, I *think* I can get my guys involved in her external conflict (it's basically that Evelyn - because of her background - craves justice in a world where she feels there is little, and so she is a vigilante, seeking justice on her own, not satisfied to leave it in the hands of a judge or jury, so she's caught up right now in trying to solve a case that is especially perplexing for the local police).

One of the men is already tangled up in her external conflict, just by default of who he is (Death personified) and the other guy (Gryph) gets caught up in her case as a means of spending time with her. He adores Evy but bugs her to no end. Still, she finds him funny and his adoration is something she's been craving from Death for so long - she'll take it just about anywhere she can get it now, so she agrees to let him tag along. Heh - he offers to be "Ned to her Nancy" and she's all, WTF?

Anyway, I'm hoping I can make that work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sohalt View Post
I also tend to find internal conflicts more interesting than external ones and I usually start with the character dynamics as well and sometimes run into a wall when trying to come up with the rest of the plot.

Here's my approach...
Thanks for all the examples! It really helps to see how you can derive an external plot from internal flaws and my guys/gal definitely have flaws I can work with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MumblingSage View Post
ONE OF US! ONE OF US!

External plots in romance (and anywhere else) don't always have to be life-and-death either. They could be the character's adventures in business, or resolving a family trouble, or untangling a small mystery. Look at stories you enjoy and see if you can snag/adapt a plotline from one of them if you're completely blank on ideas.
lol Yeah, mine's more or less a mystery that I'm hoping can encompass all three of my characters. Just gotta do a little more brainstorming on the mystery itself and that's the hard part.
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Old 02-14-2013, 05:59 AM   #6
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Although I consider myself a romance writer, I actually think of myself as a writer of thrillers/mysteries first. I believe the reason behind that is because that is the way I approach my stories.

When the idea for a new story pops into my head, it starts with the plot, then the characters come next. How and why the MCs fall for each other just happens naturally as the story develops. At least, this is how it is for me.

I have a dozen favorite authors that I collect in hardback and read over and over again, and although they are possibly all touted as romance writers, they may not see it that way themselves.

Take Nora Roberts for example, and look at one of her latest novels: The Witness. A thriller. In this book, the external conflict is the story, the MCs just happen to meet up and fall in love in the midst of it all.

Sandra Brown - my ultimate, favorite thriller writer - no one came do twists the way she does. And although you won't find her thrillers in the romance section at your local book store, every one of them has a romance/HEA in the story.
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Old 02-26-2013, 07:24 PM   #7
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Well, things are coming right along in my book (about 4K in so far) so yay! I've switched a few things around since I just can't seem to get excited about writing a mystery. I enjoy reading mysteries, at least in the vein of urban fantasy type stuff, but writing them just doesn't do it for me for some reason and I refuse to write something that bores me because I'm sure the reader would pick up on that.

Anyway I've swapped in a new external conflict, a dilemma that puts pressure on all three of my characters, working to bring them all together just as it tears each of them apart, forcing them to decide what they really want in life, which will of course be each other in spite of the challenges inherent in a menage relationship. And I'm very excited about it (the external conflict), so yay there, too.

I'm finding that I really enjoy writing the m/m aspect of the story. It's like a quote I once heard - "Two people are in bed and I agree with both of them," but yeah, it's fun writing my two leading men together. Some of the more tender moments I have dancing around in my head as potential scenes in the book are between them. Aww...

And yes, I'm still hooked on The Following even though things are tumultuous with the trio right now. I suppose the most important part is that seeing those three together re-energized me for my own story.
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