Christina J Michaels' 3 Steps to Create an Interesting Plot: Using Historical Revolutions to Write Romance
There are over 5 million ebooks published on Amazon (via Just Publishing Advice). Smashwords has printed over 16.8 billion words as of May 2018 (via Smashwords). Over 87% of Smashwords' best sellers are romance. With so many prolific writers producing great work, how does one find a unique story to tell?
History can be your greatest ally when writing fiction, especially romance. Humans love conflict. We love drama. We want to read about great accomplishments, sweeping love stories, and overcoming impossible odds. Where do all of these things come together? Revolutions.
Regardless if you are writing dystopian fiction, science fiction, or romance, historical events provide both a plot and a backdrop for stories to flourish. Authors can find an idea or story and move it from one period to another, or change settings altogether.
1. Find a story that interests you. This is the most important part of writing. What type of thing do you want living in your head for the next few months (or longer!)? Perhaps we want to write about a tom-boy who is tired of being told what to do and wants to find her future? Can that idea be narrowed? Perhaps you love to fly or know a lot about airplanes?
Knowing our interests gives us a starting point to look for great plot ideas. History provides numerous examples. For best results, I have found that my searches need to include a specific revolution or conflict. For example, my first search was for "women airplanes revolution." I found a fantastic bit of history about women under Stalin and how they rebelled within the art and fashion industry. (via The Short Life of the Equal Women) This doesn't help me if I want to write about airplanes and tomboys, though.
I narrowed my search by picking WWI. A google search for "world war I women pilots" comes back rich in ideas.
"During the First World War, Marie disguised herself as a man, something that she had to do because woman were not taken seriously when they tried to sign up. Helped by a French Infantry Lieutenant, she served at the Front as a Soldier, 2nd Class in the French 42nd Battalion of Foot Soldiers. She was discovered and sent home." (via Inspirational Women of WWI) 2. Choose your period or world
Marie's story - and plot - is fascinating. Now we export this real-life plot to your preferred fictional setting. There is no need to keep this story in WWI, nor even Earth. She can be the inspiration for a successful steampunk airship technician, a modern commercial airline pilot, or a space captain. Imagination is not confined to the place where your daydreaming began. Take existing history and bend it!
3. Add the romance beats. Now we've found a solid inspiration for our plot with Marie's story and are dreaming about our setting. Next, we bring in the romance. Romance novels come with expectations from the readers and promises from the authors, often called the romance beats. At this stage, the author teases out the love story and turns a comedy, suspense, or war story into a romantic comedy, romantic suspense, or military romance.
The Romance Beats/Plots & Promises: Two main characters meet, they fall in love, things go badly, they fight for love, happily ever after occurs. Love conquers all.
Finally, if all else fails, I recommend the tried and true solution of Plotto. Published in 1928, Plotto allows an author to pick the first inciting incident and suggests multiple midpoint and climax elements. It is complicated to use, but a 'choose your own adventure' type of resource can be invaluable for anyone stuck with on creating a dynamic and compelling plot.
PS: Do the statistics about the high number of books make you feel like there is no hope to become a successful indie author? Fortunately, that is not true. The 2018 Author Earnings report finds that "a lot of today’s top-selling indies are relatively new names. We didn’t recognize a lot of them. And a lot of yesteryear’s pioneering indie superstars no longer even make the Top 50." (via January 2018 Report: US online ebook sales, Q2-Q4 2017) Go forth and write!
1772. London. Scandal. Suspense. Sex.
With her perfect breeding, flawless beauty, and proper manners, Alison Brooke never expected to be smeared by the cruel brush of scandal. Robert Anderson, Viscount Charmaine, is focused on his tumbling finances and dying father. When villainy leaves the ravishing (and ravished) Alison thrown at his feet, Robert is pulled from his self-recrimination and into the heart of the Season's hottest gossip.
Marquis Anthony Farrington is one of Alison's many rejected suitors and Robert's best friend. Secretly, Anthony risks the gallows for his ongoing support of the populist movements. When Robert is given charge of the investigation against Anthony, friendships, loyalty, and ideals come into question. Alison's constant companion, the wallflower Brenda Boswell, timidly watches romance unfold. Yet, in the end, unfashionable Brenda shows herself to be a spitfire capable of saving them all.
Caught in the act, caught by scandal, caught by honor, and caught by duty, the four friends are ultimately caught by the most powerful thing of all - love.
Christina J Michaels is an award-winning professor of political science and women's studies. Her debut book, Caught, is a historical romance in 1772 London and is on sale until June 8th, 2018.