The 8-Point Story Arc

Steps

So, you want to write an amazing story? This is how to write amazing stories using the 8-Point Story Arc.

I have to warn you if you read this article it may spoil a lot of “fun” movies for you because you will realise that the movie industry (especially in America) follows this pattern slavishly.

The 8 steps of the 8-Point Story Arc

Unsurprisingly the 8-Point Story Arc has 8 steps. Before we look at the steps in more detail, let’s list them.

Here they are:

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3. The quest
  4. Surprise
  5. Critical choice
  6. Climax
  7. Reversal
  8. Resolution

A quite guide to the 8-Point Story Arc

The chances are you already follow a similar pattern when writing short stories, or even planning chapters. If you are familiar with “The Hero’s Journey” or the three (or five) act structure yu will see instantly how the 8-Point Story Arc fits almost exactly with these ideas.

Stasis

This is the initial setup. The “how things are” of the world. By the end of the story, this may well have changed, been threatened, or have been disrupted and then restored. Exactly what happens to the initial world setup depends on the type of story you want to tell.

Trigger

In other story theory, this is called the “inciting incident”. Really it is just the thing that causes the story to happen.

In my story, Legend, the trigger happens a few paragraphs in when Malial’s family are kidnapped. You should go read Legend, I think you would like it.

The quest

This is the thing the hero or protagonist needs to go and do to solve whatever the trigger caused to happen. In a romance, this is to win the affection of a love interest. In a classic fantasy, it might be to go and drop the magic doodah in the special fire, or something. You get the picture.

The quest embodies the thing that the characters int he story want or need to do. It is the both the goal and the journey towards that goal. Without a quest, the characters would just be sitting around drinking tea and saying mean things about each other. I actually wrote a story like that once and a quest still popped up anyway.

Surprise

Sometimes called “the twist”, the surprise is something that the character or characters of the story did not see coming. In a good story, the audience should be supprised too.

The surprise is, perhaps, the hardest bit to get right. Too unexpected and it just seems like a “hand of god” moment. Too well telegraphed and it is not at all surprising.

The website changingminds.org has a guide to the 8-Point Story Arc. It says this about the surprise:

To work within the story, it should be plausible and make sense to the reader, at least in retrospect. Surprises should add to the story, increasing the involvement and ultimate pleasure of the reader. A poor surprise makes them feel disappointed and disillusioned.

Critical choice

This often, but not always grows out of the surprise. The critical choice may be an opportunity to give up on the quest or some other profound decision that will forever change the landscape of the story.

The critical choice should lead, logically (in retrospect), to the next surprise. In this way, the story can move between surprise and choice as often as make sense to you, the writer.

Climax

The climax is where those critical choices are building. In a romantic

In a romantic comedy, this is often a sudden and quite expected argument between the lead character and their opposite number. In a buddy movie, this is where the characters finally, and quite formulaically fall out. As I said before, this pattern is slavishly followed by western movie makers.

This should, if nothing else, be the moment of high drama. Unlike movie land, this climax should have been building for a while and be a logical extension of the choices. It should not be an artificial argument between brothers for the purpose of setting up a reversal.

For a different take on what the climax is for, check out the dailywritingtips.com 8-point arc article.

Reversal

In badly written TV and movies, this is where the rather forced argument is resolved by the big gesture.

This is where everything the hero has learned is put to use. The hero integrates the changes that have been building up and undergoes their final transformation into the person they were becoming.

The bullied child stands up for themselves. The coward finally does something brave. The evil uncle embraces the power of good and does the right thing.

The reversal sets up…

Resolution

This is where the story ends. The new stasis is created, the hero can go home. The prince marries the princess. they live happily ever after, or whatever.

The tensions of the story are resolved and the quest is laid to rest.

You get to write “the end” and as a reader, you feel satisfied (assuming the writer did a good job).

How to write a great story

For those of you that like to watch videos, here is a video presentation of the 8-Point Story Arc.

Over to you

Did you find that useful? Had you heard of the 8-Point Story Arc before? Do you, perhaps, use it in your writing or do you disagree with it entirely?

Let us know your thoughts int he comments section or come and chat with me over at the Author Buzz forums.

Plotting or Pantsing: What is best for me?

And so we come to the last theme of our competition. One last hurrah and then the big vote off. Back when I was thinking up this idea I thought that ending on a reflection about if planning or discovery writing was best was a great idea for platform building. You guys have taken things in an interesting direction and I have no idea what you will do with this one.

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 29th.

Plotting or Pantsing:
What is best for me?

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

Pantsing, for those that don’t know, is where you make up the story as you go and “fly by the seat of your pants”. The opposite is plotting, where you plan the plot out in advance. I used to be a pantser but I am more of a plotter these days.

How to win

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but as you might have realised by now, we no longer have a “most comments”. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. This week, and going forward for the last few weeks, the Reddit section will be a special one created for the competition. This is also where the grand, overall, winner will be chosen by you.

Sometime after this post goes live I will be picking out winners. I hope you guys have written something great for me to read (I’ve seen some of them so I know that you have).

How Author Buzz UK is helping writers

This post is all about a new project called Author Buzz UK it can be found at authorbuzz.co.uk and is designed to help writers, bookshops, authors, publishers, and agents connect with readers.

Author Buzz UK was designed to help authors create a solid platform without any more technical skill than is required to sign up for a free account. A fully customised Author Buzz account should definitely become part of your growing author platform.

All of this goodness is offered for free to anyone and all you need to get started is an easy to set up profile. Once you are set up with your profile you will have access to the following resources. If you have a wordpress.com account then you can log right in with that and start enjoying your profile right away.

Talking about running your own blogs, I already have a writer blog set up. The Matthew D. Brown (author) blog is where I post my stories as a serial. You should get over there and give them a read. If you subscribe to the blog you can get an update when I publish new story entries.

Later, as the admin team continue to expand the site’s capability, there will be even more great features open to you. These features are planned but are still being tested and improved.

  • Agents will be able to maintain a profile for their authors
  • Authors will be able to maintain a list of their books which readers can review and, quite importantly, purchase from major retailers.
  • Readers will be able to connect their account to GoodReads and show off the books they have read.
  • Read more about the vision for Author Buzz UK.

It has to be said that, as of writing this article, things are still being set up at Author Buzz. So there will be ongoing changes and improvements. Crucially, this is the stage of development where your input could radically alter the finished product. If your company or your needs as a writer are not being met anywhere else, then your input could help shape Author Buzz UK into exactly what you need.

I would highly recommend that anyone who writes, publishes, or promotes those that do, sign up for a free account and become a beta tester while your opinion has the power to shape the site.

The admin and development staff at Author Buzz are dedicated to the principles of transparency and open creativity. As such they have a dedicated development blog where they talk about both the success and failures that they encounter as they work towards bringing this dream to life. I know this because I am the lead developer in the team.

Thanet Creative Writers already have our own group on Author Buzz. Connect with us there if Facebook is not your thing.

Get on over to Author Buzz UK and create a free account.

Getting to grips with the Story Bootstrapping Problem

How do you establish characters while making them interesting and keep the audience along for the ride while you do that? It is time to get to grip with this problem.

As writers, we need to establish our characters, set them in a world. We need to outline the goal the characters are working towards while foreshadowing the obstacles between the character and their goal. We need the reader to care long enough to do all that and the reader will not care unless we do all that. This is the bootstrapping problem.

Every story ever written has to wrestle with the Story Bootstrapping Problem.

Thus anonymous reader asks

When your backstory is as important as your story how do you tell both without tacking on a bajillion word introduction?

As hard questions go… Oh, boy. Here we go.

The Story Bootstrapping Problem

I was hoping no one would ask this because this is exactly the topic that I have been struggling with myself.

Every story has a bootstrapping problem. Readers need us to get on with the story and be interesting which requires that we have character, place, and motive established but to do that we need to get on and be interesting.

Writers Stack Exchange has a question about “A long backstory right at the beginning” which at least addresses the Story Bootstrapping Problem. I read that question several times before I tried to answer but, ultimately, I needed to do a lot more reading.

In Fixing Chapter One Patricia C. Wrede tackles the Story Bootstrapping Problem. Incidentally, Patricia’s blog is a great example of an authorial platform, but I digress.

Chapter One and the Story Bootstrapping Problem

In a short story you have maybe a paragraph or two to get to grips with the Story Bootstrapping Problem but in a novel, this is the task of Chapter One. The Story Bootstrapping Problem is what chapter one is for. For this very reason, it is sometimes recommended that you write the first chapter last. It is good advice at least for some of us some of the time.

When it comes to how you start your story, writersdigest.com has some pointers on that, and guess what? You still have to start with Chapter One.

Patricia C. Wrede tells us:

It is the job of the first chapter to get your readers to care about the main character, or at the very least, to be interested enough in the character to keep reading.

Chapter One is the linchpin of the entire story. Chapter one supports everything else as a foundation. Chapter one is, by far, your hardest working chapter. It is no surprise that it is also the hardest work.

Look at all the things the first chapter must do:

  • Make a promise
  • Orient the reader
  • Establish character
  • Set up the plot
  • Show the world
  • Make us care
  • Keep us reading

Solving the Story Bootstrapping Problem with a promise

Chapter One needs to promise the reader that it is worth them continuing. The promise is the cheque that the first chapter writes and the rest of the novel has to cash.

A really good promise is whatever it takes to make the reader excited to keep reading. If you make your promise well, you don’t need to establish backstory, character, or pretty much anything else that does not fit in Chapter One.

Conceptually, the promise solution to the Story Bootstrapping Problem is similar to Linguistic Bootstrapping only on the scale of a single novel. You need to give the reader the tools to infer, deduce, or discover backstory right before they need it.

The promise might be a striking statement, an intriguing idea, a dastardly deed – almost anything can be your promise (depending on genre). How well the promise solution works is entirely down to your skill as a writer. Sorry, there are no easy answers here today.

Aristotle’s Poetics says that we need to stage our story from Pity to Fear and, finally, Catharsis. So we need to show a character unjustly suffer in some way. In otherwords, Aristotle suggess that we use Chapter one to make the reader pitty the main character.

Think how Harry Potter starts. Pitty the abandoned boy, we most certainly do.

Orient the reader and make them want to stay

I’ve never read any Steinbeck but I have it on good authority that his introductions were almost all description that went on for pages and pages. These descriptions were so good, so rich that, as the reader, you want to go and live there – right now.

If you can orient your readers to the point that they get lost in your world, then they will stay long enough for you to introduce them to characters and plot as you wish. This orientation might be harder than the pity route but should (at least in theory) work just as well.

Strong orientation is, potentially, a great solution to the Story Bootstrapping Problem. Again, this is down to your skill as a writer. That level of captivating detail is probably not something I could attempt right now.

Solve the Bootstrapping Problem by establishing character

Another route into the bootstrapping problem is to establish a strong sense of character. Someone that the reader feels deeply attached to. That is, I think, why sequels work so much better than episode one stories. If we have been following a series we already know the characters.

Aristotle’s suggestion could also be taken to mean that we should hook a reader (or listener, or playgoer) by opening a story with a reason to pity the character. By this, we could say that you must have a reason to feel empathy for the character’s plight.

To make this work, the reader needs to be able to think “that could be me”. Even if they do not consciously think it.

You might try to make your hero an everyman or put them in a common situation that goes uncommonly wrong.

It can help to show that your character is charismatic. Some might say that this was vital. This works in much the same way that we make friends. We meet someone and like them even before we know much about them. For our story, we need enough like to let the relationship between the reader and the character bloom. To do that the reader needs to care about the character early on.

Whatever else you do, you are almost certainly going to need to put your main character on the stage in Chapter One. It will help your story no end if the readers are interested in what happens to them.

Bootstrapping with a character readers care about gives you time to get the plot going. Of course, how well this works depends on you as a writer. There are no shortcuts here.

Bootstrapping vs Plot

In a plot-heavy story, sometimes you simply need to lay the bare facts before the reader.

The danger of going in plot-first is that if you do this wrong you may commit the crime of info dumping on your poor reader. No one wants that. Info-dumps are a storytelling fail.

Getting the facts in early can work well as part of the “start at the height of the action” framing device. Let your plot be like a locomotive charging along and taking the reader with it.

Remember though, framing devices are just devices and they will not hook your reader alone. Only your skill as a writer can do that.

How do you solve the Story Bootstrapping Problem

I am currently figuring out how to bring a lot of emotional baggage into a story from before the story started and have the reader care about it as much as the characters. I am not sure I have figured that out yet. If you have a good answer, pick up some easy reputation points on Writers’ Stack Exchange with your insights.

  • How do you solve the Story Bootstrapping Problem?
  • What approaches have you applied and how did you get on?
  • What makes your Chapter One really work?

Share your insights with us in the comments section below.

The thing I love most about Thanet Creative Writers

This is, if I am honest, the one I have been looking forward to the most. Finding out what about Thanet creative writers (the blog, the group, or the charity) that resonates best with you guys.

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 22nd.

The thing I love most about
Thanet Creative Writers

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

I am particularly interested to see if the fiction writers can turn this into a fiction prompt or if you will write a more tranditional blog post. This posts image was actully taken during a Tea and Chat meeting. You can use it for your post if you want.

How to win

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but as you might have realised by now, we no longer have a “most comments”. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. This week, and going forward for the last few weeks, the Reddit section will be a special one created for the competition. This is also where the grand, overall, winner will be chosen by you.

Competition thoughts

There should have been a new entry for this week. I know it is late. There should have been one (or is it two) sets of winners announced this week too.

I’m going to get to that in just a moment. Before I do, would you mind if I rambled on about what I have been so caught up in this last few weeks?

Brilliant, thank you.

A few weeks ago I started working on a new article. One of the big, well-researched ones that I have not written for a while. This one was about the author of the Martian. In the article, I focused on how Andy Wier used his platform to get a book and film deal (in the same week). One of the things that Wier did was publish his work as a serial.

One of the things that Wier did was publish his work as a serial. Serial writing seemed like a lot of fun and something I wanted to try.

As a typical over-thinker, I started thinking not about the easiest way to do this but the best way. In no time at all, I had cooked up a whole batch of ideas. One of those ideas was a project I had been sitting on for years and years – Author Buzz. I had owned authorbuzz.co.uk for a long time and at some point I let it expire.

My chosen domain name was available again so I registered it. But not before I suggested to Thanet Creative Writers that we start a portal for all writers. Both the idea of serial writing and the portal received a positive response and so I went ahead.

chimpanzee_seated_at_typewriter

What I did was create an entire WordPress network (like wordpress.com but just for authors). I then had to start writing and fixing and integrating and coding and theming like a wizard. I am not a wizard. This is much, much harder than I thought it would be.

This is an actual photograph of how I felt while I was doing this.

As a result, I have not kept up with everything. For that, I apologise. It was not fair to keep you guys hanging.

If it is okay with everyone, what I will do is pause the competition for this week. Which adds an extra week for the deadline of our last theme. During the week I will announce our winners and on Monday I will announce the winners of last week (and this week, now). I will also set the next theme ready to publish. In case you want to get writing, here was the sneak peek of what the themes will be. I had planned all twelve before we even started.

We have two themes and the grand vote off to go and I want to give you wonderful writers my full attention while it takes place.

I also want to shout out to Jess Joy for reminding me just how far from the straight and narrow I have wandered lately. I also want to thank not just Jess but AUTHORity, Artimis Blake, Kentish Rambler, L. L. Winder, Neil, and Anstey for your wonderful contributions. Reading your work has been a pleasure and a joy. I truly hope that all of you continue to write after the competition has ended.

Once more, please forgive this interruption. We will get back on track next week. That’s a promise.

What mistake do I make most with writing?

Which mistakes do I make? Which mistakes don’t I make! Seriously, you could probably compile my mistakes into a definitive “A to Z of how not to write”.

Okay, maybe that is something of an exaggeration. But I have made more than my fair share of howlers in my time. More than a few stories have ended up like today’s picture – derailed and broken.

Mistakes are the theme for this week’s competition as we enter week ten (or twelve).

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 8th.

What mistake do I make most with writing?

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

How to win

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but as you might have realised by now, we no longer have a “most comments”. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. You can vote on your choice of winner in a special Reddit created for the competition. I strongly encourage you to get in there and cast some votes. Those votes select not only the user’s choice for this week but they will count towards the grand winner in a few week’s time.

Just like the last few weeks, to get “best post” you need to have linked to this post (unless you write something which is unequivocally orders of magnitude better than all the rest combined).

How a platform got Andy Weir published

Andy Weir is the author behind the book behind the film “The Martian”. The film contract was agreed within four days of the print contract. This is how Andy Weir did that.

There is a video coming up with Andy Weir talking about how he got started. As we are talking about author platforms I am going to focus on Andy Weir’s platform building.

Andy Weir spent 10 years building a relationship with 3,000 subscribed readers. So when he released “The Martian” on Kindle for $0.99 it shot up the ranking and hit the number one slot for Science Fiction.

That’s Andy Weir’s entire secret in one paragraph. That and just keep writing until you get good at it. As platforms go Weir’s one really sucks. Take a look at it and try to disagree. But that did not matter. It did not matter because the content was good.

Content is everything.

So without further ado, here is the video.

Notice the takeaways here:

  • Weir kept writing
  • Weir maintained a website and published regular content
  • Weir developed and sustained a relationship with readers
  • His relationship turned readers into fans
  • Fans buy stuff
  • Weir used his platform to get feedback from fans
  • Knowing who you are writing for matters

Knowing your readers

Andy Weir always had a love of science and wrote for people like him. People who also loved science. Weir let his passion direct his writing and when the book came out, others with the same passion caught the excitement.

There is no surprise that Adam Savage found the book exciting. If you are a geek like me, this interview will excite you. If you are not, you might want to skip on past it. But don’t. If you are a writer, this is one hour of a writer talking about how he works and that’s always good research for us.

One important note, Weir had thousands of regular readers before he started writing “The Martian”.

On of the things that Weir brings up in both videos is how he enthusiastically gave away his work. That giving away of work led to the sales that led to the contract that led to a film.

We sometimes get all het up about “protecting our copyright”. Yet serialising the story as he wrote it was what made things work for Andy Weir.

So that leads me to the new idea for today – give away your best work. It seems counter-intuitive. After all, wouldn’t that hurt future sales?

Writers Digest digs a little into this topic here. You can read that when you have a moment but the main point is that, as Seth Godin often points out, ideas that spread win. It worked for Andy Weir and it could work for you too.

Serialising your story

I want to take a quick look at the topic of telling your story in episodes. That seems like a great idea for building an audience while getting the work written.

It is not just Weir who has followed this path of serialised publication, Joanna Campbell Slan has blogged about doing that too.

Back in the day, I had a section on my website called Lord Matt Fiction. It got taken down in one of the server moves over the years and never went back up but I had a few stories that I was making up as I went (pantsing). I’ve got a hard drive full of supporting illustrations, story notes and all sorts that I could throw into such a project.

How to structure your project by Simon K Jones is a series about how to How to write serialised fiction. The whole series might be worth checking out if you like this serialisation idea.

How to Start a Web Serial by Jukepop Serials might be worth a read and will definitely sell you on some interesting ideas but, honestly, get a blog and start writing. Forbes has an article on the same subject that covers many of the same ideas. Forbes has a good reputation for offering excellent advice so, if you want to read a lot, go read this too.

If you are going to go down this route, and I am seriously considering doing that with one of my stories (that one with the cat in it), then you will want to read Zachary Bonelli’s Monetizing Serialized Fiction. After all, what we writers want more than anything else, is to get paid so we can do more writing.

Talking about getting paid, after realising that Weir was on to something with the whole serial thing (about halfway through this post), I checked out a post called How To Get Your Book Serialised in Newspapers and Glossy Magazines. Nice, I thought, Dickens (who has this huge Thanet connection himself) got started by doing just that. I’m not sure if getting published episodically in magazines is for me right now but it could be a good idea one day.

Over to you

This is the part of a blog post where I try to wrap everything up and hand off to you for comments. I really did not imagine I would take this post in exactly the direction it went in so appologies if I rambled a lot and didn’t talk about building a platform as much I suggested in the title. I hope you go something out of reading this anyway.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing in serial form?

My favourite book ever

If you ask me what my favourite book is I am likely to tell you that it is whatever amazing book I am reading at the moment. That said, I am quite likely to quote you such books as “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin. Our theme this week is favourite books.

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 1st.

My favourite book ever

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

How to win

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but as you might have realised by now, we no longer have a “most comments”. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. This week, and going forward for the last few weeks, the Reddit section will be a special one created for the competition. This is also where the grand, overall, winner will be chosen by you.

Just like last week, to get “best post” you need to have linked to this post (unless you write something which is unequivocally orders of magnitude better than all the rest combined).

Writing Love and Romance

I have a confession to make. I am not qualified to write this post. Love, romance, and intimate relationships in serious fiction are something that I struggle to get right.

Not being one to let my weaknesses hold me back, I’ve been looking into the whole topic of writing love and romance.

Blog posts about writing love and romance

Being a geek as well as a writer I have been looking at what other people have had to say about writing love and romance. Here is a cross section of the blog posts that I looked at.

Good Reasons to have love and romance in a story

There are some great reasons to include love and romance in a story. Here are three good reasons.

  1. Love and romance happen in real life so why not in fiction too?
  2. Love and romance are a central part of the story.
  3. Love and romance are the story (I think we all know what you are writing)

I am sure that you can think of more good reasons to include love and romance in your story. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment. However, this list exists to contrast with some very bad reasons to include love and romance.

Very bad reasons to include love or romance

Love and romance because I need a female character

Oh dear muse, no. Just don’t. Not ever…

This is just about the worst reason to include love and romance. If your female character cannot stand alone without the romance then she is an interloper. There are many good reasons to have strong female characters in a story. You don’t need romance for any of them.

Love and romance to fill up the word count

Just, no.

Apart from anything else, this would be as boring to your readers as it is likely to be to you as a writer. Stop worrying about your word count and tell the best story you can.

Love and romance to motivate the hero

If you ever – and I do mean that literally – if you ever need romance to give your hero motivation then you have not got a story but a cliche. I mean, honestly, stop that right now.

Come back tot he idea of love and romance in your story after you have sorted out the hero’s motivation.

3 things that make you better at writing love romance

After all that reading I have come up with three things that will make you or me better at writing love and romance. When you think about it, this is common sense for writers.

  1. Read good love and romance writing.
  2. Write more love and romance.
  3. If possible, get out there and experience life.

Swap out “love and romance” for any other aspect of life you want in your story and the same three rules apply.

What, you wanted some magic formula? Please. This is writing, not magic (the two are very similar sometimes).

Using “magic moments” for love and romance

Oh, very well then. Here is how to use a magic formula for writing love and romance. This magic formula is derived entirely from writing theory and is based on no direct experience whatsoever.

Rules for writing love and romance

  1. Feelings matter, keep them in focus
  2. Show far more than tell
  3. Avoid cliches
  4. Anticipation builds expectation
  5. Let the reader do some of the work for you

Let me briefly explain these rules. Love is an emotional topic, therefore you need to be comfortable talking about feelings. Furthermore, you need to be able to show what characters feel not just tell the reader. If you use cliches to do this, you will kill your story.

Do not be in a rush. Anticipation can be a powerful tool. Think about romance stories (I’m talking about the sort of story where all there you have in a romance) we don’t rush to the happy ever after but take our time getting there.

Anticipation can let the reader do some of the work for you. If you can present the reader with the material to start shipping your characters for you, then they will do a lot of the heavy lifting too. A close cousin of the cliche is the pattern. The pattern of love and love stories contain a common language that signals to the reader that a love story is in progress. I’m going to talk about patterns another time. If you know how to use them do, if you are worried about cliches avoid them.

Now the magic

The magic formula is actually the magic for all story telling. The formula is in two parts:

  1. The Scene
  2. The Sequal

The love and romance scene

In the scene a character wants something. In this case, maybe to confess her feelings to her love interest. There are obstacles to overcome. Something defining happens. Often this is a disaster to be dealt with but as this is romance this could be a mid-story win for the hero.

A married man, alone at the bar, wants a drink. There are a lot of people at the bar and the barman is busy. Disaster strikes as some (hot) woman starts chatting to him and he misses his opportunity to be served.

A timid girl alone in the castle wants to go horse riding. Guests arrive and she must receive them. Disaster! Prince Charming is walking over to her.

The lovers, separated, long to be reunited. They must overcome the distance between them. Success, they finally find each other.

The sequel to the scene

In the sequel, there are four stages to be covered and they need to happen in strict order.

1. Emotional Reaction

This is vital to a love and romance moment. The emotional reaction is both the payoff and the motivator so do not skimp here. This is, I think, where I might be going wrong- time will tell on that one.

A married guy approached by a hot lady might feel flattered but shy.

A timid girl, approached by her prince charming, might feel flustered but overjoyed.

The lovers, reunited, are relieved to be back together. This is a big emotional payoff so we dwell on those feelings.

2. Reasoning

The more pure romance you are going for the smaller this section will be. If the hero is in denial about his feelings this is where he will try to reason them away. He might even think about what the right thing is to do here.

The married man might reason that he needs to end the conversation with the hot lady at the bar. He might conclude that this is the right thing to do.

The timid girl might reason that her prince charming is telling her the truth. She trusts him.

The loves reason that the conflict is over.

3. Anticipation

This is where the character considers what others might do and say. He anticipates what might come next. This is fairly internal but you need to show it nevertheless.

The married guy might anticipate that he can get away with a night of forbidden passion.

The timid girl might anticipate being hurt as she has before.

The lovers anticipate living their happy every after. They think about how they will spend the rest of their life together.

4. Reaction

This is where the character does something following from their anticipation and they set up the next scene where they want something and must overcome obstacles.

Our married guy might decide to cheat (or try to).

Our timid girl may run away from her prince charming. Thus setting up the prince for a chapter of him trying harder to win her heart.

The lovers, meanwhile, are sailing off into the sunset.

We are on to the next scene

Rinse and repeat, as they say.

That’s the structure of a scene, generally, but with the theory applied to love and romance. I’m going to be giving this a try soon.

Over to you

When it comes to love and romance in fiction, I am just a beginner. This is more theory than any practical experience here. Please use the comments to share your insights into writing love and romance.