Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Anatomy of a Book – The Story Situation

So far I’ve talked about where story ideas come from and naming characters. Scroll down for more of this blog series on how I put a book together.

People tend to think of plotting as a murky business with endless possibilities. While it’s true there are infinite ways for story ideas to play out, most begin with one of only 36 dramatic situations. See here for the complete list of these along with explanations and examples:

This list by Georges Polti dates from the late 19th century and applies mainly to literary fiction. Other writers have simplified it for more commercial work; a quick Internet search will bring up several variations. I’ve actually adapted it for use by romance novelists, which was a fun exercise. But no matter how you look at it, the end result is the same: we have only a limited number of basic situations from which to craft a book.

Examples of romance situations include Star-Crossed Lovers, Love at First Sight, Opposites Attract, Marriage of Convenience, Secret Lover, Boy/Girl Next Door and of course the eternally popular, Secret Baby. These are mere starting points for the creation of stories, however; it’s how you flesh them out and bring your characters into the action that counts.

For my current WIP, the situation choice was practically made for me once I decided to use the Amalfi Coast and a private Mediterranean island as settings. What could be better than an Abducted Heroine scenario? Just think, isolation on that island, no way to escape, no one to interact with other than the self-made billionaire hero. Well, except for the cat named Trouble, of course. The idea has elements of a Stranded on a Desert Isle situation, too, doesn’t it? And that’s not a bad thing, the combining of two types.

Now all I have to do is (1) make this story believable in a contemporary novel, (2) give the hero good and sufficient reason for his action and (3) come up with something for this couple to talk about and do (Well, other than the obvious.) while thrown together for several days. Of the three, the last will probably be the hardest!

Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.


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