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Subplots in a romance..... (1 Viewer)

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fabric_letters

Senior Member
Hello everyone :)
I am working on my first novel, this is one I want to write more for myself than to be perfect and published. I have two what I believe to be strong characters who cliche as it is 'fall in love'. The two main characters have a good enough story. He is an aspiring chef from Italy, she is an aspiring writer from London, they meet in London through a friend. He invites her to Italy, she drunkenly accepts, they fall in love and she writes an article about his food which gets her noticed... blah blah blah. The only side story is she sees him with a girl and gets jealous but it turns out he has been having English lessons to tell her how he feels.

My main worry is are these simple and fairly basic subplots enough for the main characters and what about all other characters mentioned throughout the story do they need a subplot to make a neat package?

Any advice is greatly appreciated!
 

spartan928

WF Veterans
The core of any great story is conflict. Done well, it creates a roller coaster ride which is fun to ride for the reader. Romance stories are no exception, so if the two MC's falling in love "feels" like a foregone conclusion right away the story can dry up. It simply becomes a bunch of stuff that happens to people, when the reader is begging and pleading to root for the two to make it after all their troubles and sorrows. Don't make it so easy for the two to fall in love. Check this out if you haven't;

Romance; keys to conflict
 

TKent

Retired Chief Media Manager
Hey fabric letters,

I am certainly no expert here and can only share what I've been learning from reading fiction, reading books on writing, WF members, etc. You mention that you are writing a novel, so based on the size, you will likely have more characters than your hero/heroine involved. And the primary ones will each have their own character arc and will likely be involved in a subplot. I don't think there is a magic number, but in my romance novel outline, I found I needed to introduce other characters to put more obstacles in the way of my heroine getting the guy. Once introduced, I had to figure out why they were there, and why would the reader engage with them? So that made me figure out what their story was, and with it came subplots.

I've ended up with my main character, the love interest, her best friend (who is a guy whose story is that he has a thing for the heroine), an ex who comes and shakes things up a bit, and a classmate who ultimately becomes a good friend. They are each their own little story, but they all play a part of some pretty high stake scenes related to the main plot.

Whether you outline ahead of time, or figure it out as you go, you'll find yourself introducing characters to move the story ahead, and each time you do, go through that assessment of whether the character is important to the story or not, and if so, why, and the why becomes their story. Your cast of characters will likely change as you go. I had a boss who was going to be important, and my plot evolved a little and she was no longer important. So she'll be left on the writers version of the cutting room floor. One of the things I love about writing is that I'm the boss of everything (at least everything in the story). I can snap my fingers and a new character appears (now granted, I'm far enough into writing that the snap results in a bunch of re-writing sometimes...)

Also, you asked whether the story as you've currently imagined it is enough. I sure can't answer that because I'm not done with my first draft, but I do know that my original idea was very specific and it was not enough to create an entire novel. All the rest came as I outlined it and started figuring out how to get from point A, the beginning, to point B, the middle where my main characters have that ah ha moment where they decide to be proactive, to C, the end. That process was and continues to be a lot of fun, and it is very fluid for me. With regard to the basic building blocks you've mentioned, sounds like an interesting start for a romance novel and I do read them :)

Good luck, and if you ever post any of your story in a workshop, let me know, I'd love to read some of it :)
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
Everyone is different, and also books are different. If you need more subplots, you might just run into them as you write. And there's nothing wrong with getting to the middle of your book and deciding to create a new subplot.

I have trouble getting far with just one idea, so I would probably create some more issues before even starting, like making his restaurant be in Saudi Arabia.
 

Bishop

WF Veterans
Well, I'm not much into romance myself, and the only one I wrote was a little different than the usual fare. But I can tell you that subplots can really make a book, in my eyes. I find myself both distracted and enticed by a good subplot, and while they're certainly not always necessary, I think having layers to the story gratifies the reader more too. Don't shoehorn anything in where it doesn't belong, but as said before a little more conflict might help your story!
 

Jeko

WF Veterans
If you're writing for yourself, the only question you should be asking is whether you want more sub-plots or not; if it makes you happy as a writer, then go for it. But if you're looking to adhere to a certain standard, norm or audience, then you might as well be writing for publication.

I only put sub-plots in if they help the main plot in some way; never just because I feel there's a space to fill. It's must easier to get rid of characters causing that space than it is to muscle in a disconnected narrative about them.
 

fabric_letters

Senior Member
Thank you all so much for your advice, especially TKent. I think I have such a specific idea in mind and maybe trying to create an entire novel from it is not the way to go. I will have a little rethink, use my idea as a base and add more to the story. I was going to begin with her arriving in Italy to meet him and use memories and flashbacks to explain how they met, why they are their...ect. But maybe I need to start the story earlier (either when they first met or introduce and ex who wants her back) to give time to add in the other characters and subplots. I have at least 5 other characters who help the plot along so I think I need to go back and outline a story for each of them.

Thanks again for the help and I am now looking forward to developing this idea further.
 

TKent

Retired Chief Media Manager
Hey again FL,

You may be starting your story at exactly the right place for the reader as is. In fact, I am taking a creative writing class for fun right now and she talked about two stories, one is the story you know as the writer (which is everything from the beginning to the end including historical) and then the readers story (which often starts close to the inciting event). So even if you figure out the whole story, doesn't mean you don't start it right where you thought you would.

Also, like others have said in this post (who are probably far more experienced and knowledgable than I am), let the story drive the characters and sub-plot.

And just to make sure you are really confused, I've also read not to have too many characters (but I'm a big Game of Thrones fan so go figure...)

Haha, so anyway, most of the fun for me is in figuring out the story! Don't get too hung up on any of it, be creative, let your mind and pen flow, it will sort itself out as yo ugo along. (yeah, I also read that somewhere...if I wrote as much as I read, I'd have a finished manuscript by now).

One thing I'm sure of, I look forward to you sharing some of your writing with us :)
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Hi Fab,
I find I am more interested in the character of the characters. Grumpy old git gets heart melted by pole dancing minx. Misfit soldier runs off with short order cook.

Conflict does make it easier to display the inner workings of what an individual is like.
 

Kyle R

WF Veterans
I am working on my first novel, this is one I want to write more for myself than to be perfect and published. I have two what I believe to be strong characters who cliche as it is 'fall in love'. The two main characters have a good enough story. He is an aspiring chef from Italy, she is an aspiring writer from London, they meet in London through a friend. He invites her to Italy, she drunkenly accepts, they fall in love and she writes an article about his food which gets her noticed... blah blah blah. The only side story is she sees him with a girl and gets jealous but it turns out he has been having English lessons to tell her how he feels.

My main worry is are these simple and fairly basic subplots enough for the main characters and what about all other characters mentioned throughout the story do they need a subplot to make a neat package?

Any advice is greatly appreciated!

You have a promising premise! Two characters from different walks of life meet and fall in love. It's a setup with many possibilities.

Though, it's hard to give advice on whether or not a subplot is needed without knowing what happens during this "blah blah blah" portion of the story.

Might I suggest this be where you make one (or both) of their aspiring careers threaten the relationship? It's how I would handle it.

The standard romance formula (or rom-com, at least) is: Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Wins Girl Back.

So far you've describe "Boy Meets Girl." Now figure out how he could lose her. Then find a way for him to win her back. (Reverse the genders if it's from her perspective.)

Just a few suggestions! :encouragement:
 

Greimour

WF Veterans
The standard romance formula (or rom-com, at least) is: Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Wins Girl Back.

So far you've describe "Boy Meets Girl." Now figure out how he could lose her. Then find a way for him to win her back. (Reverse the genders if it's from her perspective.)

Exactly why I hate all rom-coms. And I mean all.

The best romances for me includes Romeo and Juliet. Not because Shakespeare was a genius....but because the story is so shocking. One of those "Didn't see that coming!" type stories. I love those, especially in romance.


Think you've had all the advice you need Fab, but if you ever complete it, make sure you share your celebrations with everyone here. :D



~Kev.
 

Greimour

WF Veterans
The formula you described. I see the "this is the part you lose him/her" coming a mile away. Or to speak more literally, I reach a line in a book and think "Ah, the bad starts here." It could be something obscure, like he was in a restaurant on a business meeting and there is a woman there and I think "Ah, he is going to end up alone with the woman and get spotted." And then it happens! Or something just as pathetic.

I always see the "this is the part where he loses her" or vice versa, coming from a mile away. It bores the crap out of me. Then it's a question of 'how do they make up again?' which keeps me reading. Then I see the answer coming from a mile away too and I am like: "Really? Can't you be any more original?"

I read them because they have interesting factors and it is good research material. But the formula Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Wins Girl Back. (and reverse) bores the living crap out of me. And that's why I hate rom-coms.


^_^
 

TKent

Retired Chief Media Manager
Hey Grei,

But what's so different in this and a million other forumulas?

X wants Y, X loses Y (over and over), X gets Y (and learns some life-changing lessons in the process)

You can replace X with Boy, Worker, Fighter, Runner, Person, etc. and replace Y with Girl, Job, Fight, Race, Hope, and all kinds of other things. Done well, I like any of these.

Don't get me wrong, I also like the ones I don't see coming, but I like a little predictability in my life too :)
 

Greimour

WF Veterans
Bazz, Something about Mary was saved by Jim Carey. It was worth watching... but only once. I am not a great fan of that corny crap either. ^_^

TK, I don't like that formula in any genre, but I especially hate it in rom-coms.

Most stories follow some form of standard formula and ALL stories do follow a generic one. The entire story leading to one climatic scene, followed by conclusion and then fall out. The arc of a story can be like a bridge, smooth and perfectly arced...or it an be like a mountain cliff; a slow climb to the peak and then a drop off the edge. That's partly where stories vary. They also vary in the telling and most have unique qualities of interest.

But Rom-Coms. ~Sigh~

I've said before that I have moved around a lot. Different places, different people, different days, different weather, different friends, different enemies... Same crap!

That's 99% of Rom-Coms to me.



~Kev.
 

TKent

Retired Chief Media Manager
I've yet to convert even one WF'er to the romance genre but it doesn't stop me from trying....mmmmmwhahahahaaha. Actually I'm a bigger fan of darker/edgy romances myself. I like formula books and movies best when you're so enthralled with the story that you don't really notice the formula.

TK, I don't like that formula in any genre, but I especially hate it in rom-coms.
 

Greimour

WF Veterans
I've yet to convert even one WF'er to the romance genre but it doesn't stop me from trying....mmmmmwhahahahaaha. Actually I'm a bigger fan of darker/edgy romances myself. I like formula books and movies best when you're so enthralled with the story that you don't really notice the formula.

I love that in books. There are Romance Novels I have read and enjoyed. But they were 'Romance' not Romantic Comdies and with each, I was enjoying reading the story to the point that I didn't notice the formula whilst reading the story. There are always exceptions to likes and hates anyway. Just because I say I hate all Rom-Coms, there will be some I like - probably.

Example of Romance I liked; I heart New York by Lindsey Kelk
Example of Romance I didn't hate; Over You by Lucy Diamond (not to be confused with the Emma Mclaughlin/Nicolas Kraus one by the same name)
 

fabric_letters

Senior Member
without knowing what happens during this "blah blah blah" portion of the story.

Might I suggest this be where you make one (or both) of their aspiring careers threaten the relationship? It's how I would handle it.

The standard romance formula (or rom-com, at least) is: Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Wins Girl Back.

So far you've describe "Boy Meets Girl." Now figure out how he could lose her. Then find a way for him to win her back. (Reverse the genders if it's from her perspective.)

Thanks for all the advice, I have had a little think about it and expanded my idea slightly. As for what happens during the 'blah blah blah' bit, I had planned conflict in the form of another girl who the MC thinks likes him. I am also thinking to maybe begin the story right from the start and have Girl with Fiance, meets this guy in London, He goes back to Italy for the summer and in that time Girl becomes single. So theres some conflict from the beginning, then through a series of events he invites her to Italy........and continue my idea from there. I think I had a set scene in mind (the arriving at the airport to meet him) for the start of the book and had been trying to outline from there.

I wanted to try and break away from the standard romance formula's, as I reader I can find the predictable and boring. I feel it can be predictable but written well it can still be a great read.
 
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