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What's An Aspiring Author To Do?

This column is based on questions Margaret gets asked by those who also want to write romance novels. The answers are based on her personal experience. Every author must and should find their own way along this path; however, sometimes it helps to know how it was for an author who's reached the goal of publication.

This column's question:
Do you have any suggestions about plotting a book?

Margaret answers:
As a matter of fact, I do. *G* These are some basic tips that I've used as the basis of writing workshops.

The Beginning, Or Starting the Ball Rolling:

The Middle, Or Don't Drop the Ball

  • Use dialogue --
    Dialogue is automatically faster paced than narrative. It is literally faster to read. The way a character speaks also tells us a lot about him or her, so you're revealing character with everything they say.
  • Make your characters active --
    There are two kinds of action your characters can engage in: physical and mental. Physical action is, of course, things your characters do with their bodies, such as running, walking, eating, making love.

    Mental action is just as important, and the most important mental action your characters can take is to make decisions.

    decision = action = reaction = decision

    With every decision, the stakes should get higher, the decisions more difficult.
  • Reveal motivation and back story gradually, at different times and places.
  • Make sure things don't happen just TO your characters, but BECAUSE OF them.
  • Never end a chapter with a character going to sleep. This is a subliminal message you do not want to send!
  • Use flashbacks sparingly, if at all, because they disrupt the flow of the narrative.

The Ending, Or Scoring the Goal that Wins the Game

The ending begins with the "black moment," that point in a romance where it seems that the relationship is totally doomed. It should be based on the characters' internal conflict. The hero and heroine's toughest decisions comes at this point. For example, trust or not trust? Forgive or not?

The climax is the culmination of the external plot where, in romance novels, good triumphs and the relationship is reestablished on a basis that will allow the reader to believe it will be "for good."

The denouement is what comes after the climax, when all the loose ends of the story are tied up, such as subplots and other characters' fates.

  • Beware the "deus ex machina" ending -- something that suddenly allows everything to end nicely. For example, a rich old uncle dies and leaves the heroine all his money, which means she can marry whoever she wants now. These endings tend to be unsatisfactory.
  • Everything that has preceded the climax should work toward the resolution.

Index of Aspiring Author Columns
This material is Margaret's intellectual property. If you would like to print it out for your personal use, feel free. If you belong to a writing group and would like to reproduce it for your fellow writers, please e-mail Margaret at (no spaces). All other use is prohibited.

Copyright © 2005 by Margaret Wilkins. This material may not be copied without permission.