As I mentioned in the previous post in this series Plot Aspects For Blending The Physical & The Emotional In Romance Novels there are many aspects of the plot that must be present in order to achieve the perfect blending of the physical and emotional intimacy that is the hallmark of the happy ever after romance novel ending. In this post I want to talk a bit more about plot and then talk briefly about some other elements that should come into play when crafting the romance novel ending.
The way I like to think of the plot in writing is that plot is the thing which helps you manage the characters’ progressions from point A to point Z in the story. It can also be seen as a way of managing the reader’s experiences and expectations in the sense that you use a plot to outline what experiences you want the reader to have at each point in the story.
In the previous post I talked about the basic turning points in the romance novel. Examining the turning points in the relationship is one way of looking at and interacting with plot. Another way of looking at and interacting with plot is to consider what it is you want the reader to be concerned about at each scene break, or at each plot point. Realize that readers are capable folks. They can manage multiple concerns at the same time. A reader might be concerned about what the clue the heroine just discovered means and also be concerned about what the hero’s response is going to be when the heroine spills the big secret she’s just decided to tell him.
One way of looking at and working with plot is to look at the plot as more of an organizational binder for the story rather than as a simple chart of events or a string of turning points within the story. While the events and when they happen are important what is more important is how each scene impacts the story. Does it bring the characters together? If the heroine shares something that makes her feel vulnerable, how does the hero react? How does his reaction impact the relationship? Does his reaction make her feel more emotionally connected or does it push them apart and make them feel emotionally disconnected? If they share a kiss, a hug, or make love, does that event and the individual parts of that event bring them together or does it push them apart? Does it leave them feeling more emotionally connected? More physically connected, or does it leave them feeling disconnected?
A plot is for helping you see the connections between events in the story and it is for helping you to plot the course through the story. But once you know what is going to happen and why it is going to happen and what the outcome of it happening is, then you need the words to convey what is actually happening…as it unfolds…sentence by sentence…paragraph by paragraph…scene by scene.
It’s possible to have a great idea, great characters, and all the ingredients for a great scene and still have the scene fall apart. This is because when we write stories we aren’t just telling the reader what happened first, second, third, and fourth. We are instead creating a virtual experience that allows the reader to experience the scenes, details, and events of the novel along with the characters.
Though there are a lot of aspects of deep point of view (which I cover in my classes) one of the big practical aspects is the idea that deep point of view is basically about creating the character’s reality from a vantage point INSIDE that character. There are four types of experience which we all have, and which our characters should have as well.
The character’s physical reality which includes where the character is in geographical space, and all the things that the character experiences through his or her senses. This includes the things that the character feels physically inside his or her body.
The character’s emotional reality which includes those things that the character feels emotionally. Emotions however are tricky things in that emotions have a physical component as well as an emotional one. Feeling sad feels physically different than feeling angry or feeling joyous, so to convey the character’s emotional reality requires not just labeling their feelings but describing what the feelings feel like physically as well as emotionally.
The character’s mental reality includes those things the character thinks. Characters often have emotional and physical reactions to the things that they think as well.
The character’s spiritual reality is another aspect of their reality which comes into play in some books more than in others. Spiritual reality is typically conveyed through combinations of the other realities described with words which are related to the spiritual realm…like soul, deep, sense, belief, etc.
The key to deep point of view is combining all of the parts of the character’s reality within the scene that is being created so that the reader knows what that character’s physical reality is, what their emotional reality is, what their mental reality is and what their spiritual reality is throughout the story.
The trick is to be like a bird building a nest. Birds do not work with big clumps of building material. They ferret out the choicest bits. A perfect piece of hay here, a perfect twig there, a piece of grass there, a piece of twine or yarn there.
Notice I used the word perfect in describing the building materials the bird uses to build her nest? This is because the bird doesn’t throw in everything but the kitchen sink when building her nest. She chooses the most select bits and pieces and incorporates them into her design in very small quantity, and this is exactly what the author should do as well.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that deep point of view (or its cousin showing vs. telling) means paragraphs of introspection and description of thoughts and feelings. In reality however, deep point of view can be accomplished much more strongly and without slowing the pace of the story by using just the choicest tidbits to anchor the reader in the various parts of the character’s reality.
When we’re talking about moving our characters through our stories what we really need to be focused on is showing THE EXPERIENCES that the characters have so that we aren’t TELLING the reader that the heroine is beginning to trust the hero. Instead, we’re showing a heroine who FEELS trust inside…she thinks, feels, acts, behaves as someone who is beginning to trust. This is something that should be shown evolving gradually, over a number of scenes.
Writing this way involves dissecting your scenes and your character’s experiences within those scenes so that you can bring their experiences to life. So…you have the plot points that chart the course for your characters to move toward each other…to develop the physical and emotional intimacy but you must show it by delving deep into the character. Writing it is about becoming aware of the character’s EXPERIENCE and how the EXPERIENCE itself changes for the character as the character moves through subsequent scenes.
Blending the physical intimacy with the emotional intimacy is about first of all having the plot that carries the character through all of the turning point scenes that the character needs to have in order to build the physical and emotional intimacy…in other words…there need to be scenes in which the characters feel close emotionally and physically. There need to be scenes where their degree of emotional and physical closeness grows. Within these scenes you need to go deeper to DESCRIBE what the EXPERIENCE of feeling this level of physical or emotional closeness is like. Subsequent scenes should either grow the intimacy or should cause the characters to take a step back.
When you reach the end then the characters finally achieve everything they need to be happy. If the words I love you were missing before, they are spoken. If commitment was missing before commitment is made. In this phase you show the character/characters EXPERIENCING this experience. What does it feel like to have this level of commitment, love, security, attraction? Describe the experience including mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual aspects.
Does this make sense to you? Do you see how the plot provides a guidewire that helps lead you through the story while deep point of view techniques help you convey what your characters are thinking, feeling and experiencing physically?