NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—write a 50K word novel during November) starts today, and while I plan to continue blogging throughout NaNo, I wanted to make sure I gave you something good to keep you happy during my crazy month. *smile*
Of course, whether or not you’d define today’s post as anything good might depend on if you write romance or have romantic elements and love interests in your stories. For those who do, this post is a gift to you.
Last week, I ran a workshop called “Lost Your Pants? An Impatient Writer’s Guide to Plotting a Story.” I jokingly referred to it as my “plotting for pantsers” class, but it was really more about how to plan our stories at a high level to keep both our freaking-out inner editor and our diva muse happy.
The class was a great success, and I want to thank all my guinea pigs, er, students. The feedback I received from attendees made it sound like it was useful:
“Jami Gold is not only the master of structure and plotting spreadsheets, she’s also the master at taking all those books on craft and rolling them into a single, easy, cohesive plan.” — Melinda Collins
“I’ve taken a couple of webinars from Writer’s Digest previously, and this class compares favorably with them. In fact, I’d say that this one is my favorite of all the web-classes I’ve taken.” — Teresa Robeson
Wow. I’m rather speechless at all that. I’m already getting questions from others interested in taking this workshop too, so I have an informal “let me know when you’re offering this class again” sign up page.
But even as I was developing all the custom “pantser-friendly” tools for the class, I kept wanting to share my work with all of you. Ack! How could I provide something special to my students to make the class worthwhile and also do something for my readers. I like being helpful…on a near pathological level. *snicker*
Never Underestimate Romance Stories
So today I’m sharing one of the many tools I created for the class, and this one is especially for romance writers. Romance writers tend not to get as much respect as other authors. But developing a romance story is more complex than most recognize.
Romances are a different animal from other genres because their plotting and emotional interactions are complicated by two protagonists, such as a hero and heroine. (And let’s not even get into some of the variations, with multiple partners and whatnot.)
In a romance, we have the external (plot) arc, an internal (character) arc for each protagonist (such as a hero and heroine), and the Romance Arc—the growth of the relationship over the course of the story. That’s a lot of arcs and plot points to juggle on a standard beat sheet.
Introducing the Romance Planning Beat Sheet!
Ta-da! The Romance Planning Beat Sheet separates out the Romance Arc but follows the same structure as a normal beat sheet. It combines some of the beats from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering and mixes in all the internal character arc stuff from Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure as well as his teachings about using Identity and Essence for great love stories.
By focusing strictly on the romance arc, and how the relationship develops between the characters, we can see our romance stories on a deeper level. As with the other beat sheets I’ve developed, if you input your approximate word count in the top section, all page count and word count marks will automatically update for each beat. Nifty-keeno, right?
UPDATE: Want help figuring out how to use this worksheet? My Between the Sheets workshop explains all the terminology, beat sheets 101, what should happen in our story with each of those boxes, and how we can use this Romance Beat Sheet to strengthen our story and deepen the romance arc.
Beat Sheet 101
If you’re not familiar with some of the terms, Larry Brooks has a great explanation of an Inciting Incident, and he also introduced the concept of Pinch Points. The Inciting Incident (called Catalyst by Blake Snyder) is a life-changing/game-changing event that places the character on the path of the story. Pinch Points, one before the Midpoint and one after, are where the character sees additional evidence of the antagonistic forces. I love using Pinch Points to avoid “sagging middles.” *smile*
- End of the Beginning is also known as Break Into [Act] Two or the First Plot Point. This is when the character makes a “point of no return” choice, establishing goals, stakes, and obstacles for the story.
- The Midpoint marks another “point of no return” moment to raise the stakes. It can be a reversal (success to failure or vice versa), a false reversal (what seems to be a success is actually a failure), or a restatement/recommitment to the goals.
- The Crisis is also known as the Black Moment, All Is Lost, or Second Plot Point. This is where the character loses everything and symbolically dies.
- The Climax is also known as Finale. This is where the character is symbolically reborn and summons the courage and growth to overcome the obstacles and antagonistic forces.
But all of those descriptions are very plot oriented. They don’t bring in Michael Hauge’s concept of a character’s inner journey much less anything to do with the romance arc. If you’re not familiar with his concepts of Identity and Essence, check out this post for tips on how to show our characters’ internal journeys.
That’s why I wanted to create a companion beat sheet that would help us show how those plot points affect the protagonists in respect to their relationship. Do the obstacles bring them together? Break them apart? Provide an opportunity to work as a team?
Now we can tie that romance arc into the overall plot of the story and show the growth of each of the characters as individuals and as a couple. Romance writing isn’t for the weak. *grin*
Do you write romance or stories with romantic elements? How do you make sure the romance arc develops over the course of the story? Have you ever used a romance beat sheet before? Will this Romance Planning Beat Sheet be helpful to you? Do you have any suggestions for how to improve it?
P.S. Are you new to beat sheets? Check out my Beat Sheets 101 post, learn more about beats, and check out all my worksheets for writers here. And don’t miss my in-depth workshop focusing on how we can use this Romance Beat Sheet to strengthen our story and deepen our romance arc.
P.P.S. Write romance and use Scrivener? Don’t miss my Romance Scrivener template!Pin It