Friday, March 19, 2010

Plot Contrivances - the bane of my writing life!

In my revision letter, I was pulled up a lot on 'plot contrivances'.

One eg. 'It did feel very coincidental that P and C ran into Tim (that's her nasty ex btw) and his wife together.'

In the above scene, running into her ex-fiance with the hero triggers an important conversation about P's backstory and conflicts. The editor however wanted me to think of another way to make this happen. She suggested maybe they run into a doctor who delievered some bad news to P instead.

Now I can see how this is slightly less contrived - cos both P and C are working for a children's charity in a hospital and therefore could more likely run into a doc. But it STILL feels a little contrived to me.

I find it really hard to decipher what's contrived and what's an okay coincidence!?

Take the BM (which I've written in the original incarnation but am not up to in the revised version yet). P cooks a lovely, romantic dinner for C and just when she's expecting him to turn up, another man who really, really likes her, turns up instead and is in the throws of proposing to P when C arrives. I've hopefully foreshadowed this enough through the story so that readers won't think 'What the?' when he does. The reason I wanted the other man to show up is that I wanted C (the hero) to realise that in just having a 'fling' with P, he's holding her back from what she really wants. Then he sees the hugely romantic dinner laid out and freaks.

This triggers a heated discussion where he makes her confess that she does want marriage, babies, the whole shebang and he leaves.

So my question is... is the other man a plot contrivance or because I've foreshadowed it throughout and am using him to make C sit up and think, is it okay? Would love to hear your thoughts.

I could do this scene without the other man. Have C come upon the romantic dinner and simply freak out, but personally I think it's much stronger if he sees that there's someone who loves P enough to want to give her marriage and babies and so he realises he should take himself out of the equation. But I could be too close to this, so I'd love your thoughts and opinions.

I think I've realised I actually quite like it when external forces (not earthquakes and fires etc, but things that are more likely to happen) give the hero or heroine a shake-up! Perhaps that's my downfall - I like a bit of action :)

49 comments:

Maisey said...

Rach, in all my revisions experience (which is extensive) and in all that experience, with all the times I've been called on plot contrivances (which is extensive!!) I would say, whatever you can do to reduce events like that to include on your h and H, do it.

With the doctor/ex thing, I would try and see if it can come up organically without either, in which case you avoid any semblance of contrivance. And as for your black moment, it is a loose rule that a black moment shouldn't be cause by anything external. However, it can get murky since you could argue that, if the internal conflict wasn't there, the external event wouldn't matter. See what I'm saying?

But I do know that, generally speaking, the black moment should be between the h and H. He may be able to realize that she needs all of that, and from another man since he can't give it, without ever introducing anyone else. It might only be a matter of him feeling ill-equipped to give her what she needs.

Rachael Johns said...

Thanks Maisey for your thoughts! I've already emailed the editor and come up with a way to get around the doc/ex thing - a way which I hope is much more organic!

Now I think I might hassle her one more time and ask about the BM. Cos I see what you're saying... but I LIKE IT!!! *cue toddler type tantrum*

Maisey said...

Emailing the ed was a good idea. :-) But, just IMHO, getting too attached to anything is bad. My first sale really did hinge on me getting rid of the external for the black moment. No harm in asking though.

Caroline Storer said...

I've read a lot of books - especially HM&B - as we all have I'm sure - and don't get me wrong but...PC's are in most of them! Some I've read have made me see red(!) in that they *just* so happen to meet here there and everywhere. So I suppose the moral of my rambling is make PC's realistic so that we the readers aren't taken for a ride. I've just finished a historical Roman and it does feature a volcanic eruption 'cos that's what happened - Vesuvius erupted and my H/h were based in and around Herculaneum. So external can work as well (I think). Caroline x

Mel Teshco said...

oh, that's a hard one Rach!
I read a book a few months ago where something was so contrived it pulled me right out of the story (which was fantastic until then!)
I think if you work on the internal stuff, the external 'stuff' is just a bystander along for the ride =)

Joanne Coles said...

If they both work at a hospital, perhaps the BM could be from the hero seeing heroine holding a baby. He would know by the way she was holding baby, looking at it, whatever, that she'd been lying to him and marriage & babies is what she really wants.

That would happen organically if they both work at a hospital/charity and wouldn't involve anything outside of the two characters and would be a conclusion the hero comes to all by himself.

Just a few rambling thoughts, hope they help :-)

Maisey said...

You're right, Caroline, they *do* happen in books, and the Historicals allow for more external than MH or Modern. And authors that are already published get away with things that unpublished (or newly published) authors can't.

I'm getting the sense that the trend is to focus more on characters and character development, which limits external conflict and its effectiveness. I just had to rewrite an entire MS because I had external conflict playing too prevalent a part. What I needed to do was reduce it to the relationship. That's not to say nothing external, but as far as the romance, what keeps them apart, that's where the internal should come in.

Janette Radevski said...

Rach - you already know my thoughts (or lack of them) on this, but the lovley ladies here have all posted some great stuff.

It is tricky. I've just thrown in a external contrivance that I think is small and farily insignificant, but the ed might think otherwise. I like what Maisey said about focusing on the relationship between the h&H, cause in the end its all about their journey's right?

Jackie Ashenden said...

Hey hon, you know my thoughts on the matter too. I think you can do it without the other man. But see what the ed says.

waitingforthecall said...

Reading what you have, I don't think the other man is necessary for the black moment. Just seeing all the trouble she's gone to creating a beautifully romantic meal will make the hero feeling threatened and want to withdraw emotionally. I can imagine you writing that scene superbly!

Anne MacFarlane said...

Rachael, plot contrivances seem to over complicate the story a lot of the times, as well. Bringing in other characters and threads. And that takes the focus off the internal conflict and the romance between H and h. So, the simpler, the better.

Lacey Devlin said...

I vote to kill off the doctor too ;) Unless he's a handsome doctor... wandering around with rippling abs and someone's stolen his shirt...

Let us know how it goes :)

Rachael Johns said...

Maisey - have emailed ed! Will let you all know the outcome :)

Caroline - the last three books I've read have had HUGE plot contrivances in and it's annoying. Not so much cos I didn't think they worked but because I can't work out which plot contrivances are okay and which aren't - lol! In Kate Hardy's latest (which I liked), the hero literally runs his supermarket trolley into his ex which triggers the BM with the heroine! Isn't that contrived?!

Rachael Johns said...

Mel - I reckon you are so right. If the internal stuff really grips you, the external should only add not detract!? Is that what you meant? - lol.

Joanne - great idea, unfortunately they don't both work at the hospital and its a children's hospital, which means the heroine's doc would be less likely to be there! Am I confusing you yet?? :)

Rachael Johns said...

Janette and Jackie - waving!!! You guys are so fabulous :)

Rachael Johns said...

Jane - thanks for the faith! Hope I do write it superbly!

Anne - you're probably right! KISS right?

Rachael Johns said...

Oh Lacey - you NEVER fail to make me LAUGH!!!

Mira Lyn Kelly said...

Rach, been where you are for sure. Had the same plot device call outs from my editor with the first book, and while I did say "sure, sure!! No problem...exactly right!!" lol, I was totally weeping inside because I LOVED my plot devices. But editor was totally right and the story was way better without them. I am now a recovering plot device user. I still want to use them all the time, but I'm aware of my problem, and resist the urge. :-)

Maisey said...

Mira, can we have a plot contrivance/external elements anonymous club?? I had to do that with my first sale, and I thought 'but other people do it.' :-( Have finally concluded that it IS better without them, and the biggest thing I've learned is...just because someone else got away with it, doesn't mean I'm allowed to. :-D

Cathryn Brunet said...

Wow! Great question, Rach, and one I have no idea how to answer!

Hope your ed sorts you out.

Such an interesting topic with excellent replies. Thanks for posting about it.

Rachael Johns said...

Mira - love the recovering plot device addict!

Maisey - good idea about the club! We three can be the founding members, although I'm sure people will flock to be in it :)

Mira/Maisey - just a question - how long (from being given rewrites on your fulls) did it take for you to sub them!?

Rachael Johns said...

Cathryn - thanks for your support! And yes, it has been really interesting hasn't it?

Anonymous said...

ugg boots sale uk NetWeiple
bootsoutletus.weebly.com NetWeiple
ugg sale NetWeiple
http://uggboots.martuk.co.uk

Anonymous said...

Women's Russell Wilson Jersey axiotakix
Darren McFadden Youth Jersey axiotakix
Nike Peyton Manning Jersey axiotakix
http://www.nikecowboysnflstore.com

Anonymous said...

Eli Manning Women's Jersey axiotakix
Nike J.J. Watt Jersey axiotakix
Darren McFadden Youth Jersey axiotakix
http://www.niketexansnflstore.com

Anonymous said...

J.J. Watt Limited Jersey axiotakix
Peyton Manning Youth Jersey axiotakix
Black Jimmy Graham Women's Jersey axiotakix
http://www.nikeredskinsnflstore.com

Anonymous said...

UGG Outlet Online NetWeiple
ugg boots uk NetWeiple
ugg sale uk NetWeiple
http://bootsuksalecheap.webeden.co.uk

Anonymous said...

J.J. Watt Red Jersey axiotakix
Marshawn Lynch Women's Jersey axiotakix
Marshawn Lynch Jersey axiotakix
http://www.authenticnikesaintsjersey.com

Anonymous said...

Larry Fitzgerald Jersey axiotakix
Darren McFadden Youth Jersey axiotakix
Aaron Rodgers Mens Jersey axiotakix
http://www.authenticnikepackersjersey.com

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Dwyer Jersey
Golden Tate White Jersey
Golden Tate Grey Jersey
drydayoutraro

Anonymous said...

axotomarvex Andrew Luck authentic jersey
www.coltsproshop.us
Adam Vinatieri Jersey
UnmannaSmurce

Anonymous said...

axotomarvex Andrew Luck authentic jersey
Andrew Luck Youth Jersey
Andrew Luck Womens Jersey
UnmannaSmurce

Anonymous said...

ZesNiclesex Leonard Hankerson Women's Jersey
www.officialbroncosfansstore.com
Eric Decker Womens Jersey
nutWhororog

Anonymous said...

Russell Wilson Jersey
Brooks Reed Jersey
Jahvid Best Jersey
drydayoutraro

Anonymous said...

[url=http://louboutinshop.co.uk]christian louboutin outlet uk[/url] feaupaw. [url=http://dkgoose.com]Canada Goose jakker[/url] Lgtuaczcp http://canadagoosesweden.com
wchbdb 464582 [url=http://www.canadagoosestorontofactory.ca]constable parka[/url] 641926 http://www.officialcanadagooseparkas.ca

Anonymous said...

When we finally consider the concise explaination the word adore, installing terms of a captivating marriage along with a further, nevertheless being a sensing that could be engendered should you have miltchmonkey the best partnership with ourselves very - or perhaps as a sensation of better oneness family members or the human race - therefore it develops into much more extra ordinary that most any individual is seeking in your everyday living is certainly really enjoy.

Anonymous said...

kqohecxzy
ugg ムートン
アグ
ugg アグ
アグ
ugg アグ

naapgbtyp
[url=http://www.agusandansu.com/]ugg ブーツ[/url]
[url=http://www.aguclassiccardy.com/]ugg ムートン[/url]
[url=http://www.agubaileybuttontriplet.com/]ugg アグ[/url]
[url=http://www.agubaileybutton.com/]ugg ムートン[/url]
[url=http://www.aguultrashort.com/]ugg[/url]

adsoaualr
http://www.aguultratall.com/ アグ
http://www.agubaileybuttontriplet.com/ アグ
http://www.agubaileybutton.com/ アグ
http://www.aguultrashort.com/ ugg アグ
http://www.metallicboots.com/ ugg

Anonymous said...

velbilpra
アグ
ugg アグ
ugg アグ
ugg
アグ

hapkcirfb
[url=http://www.aguultrashort.com/]ugg ムートン[/url]
[url=http://www.agusandansu.com/]ugg ブーツ[/url]
[url=http://www.aguultratall.com/]ugg アグ[/url]
[url=http://www.metallicboots.com/]ugg ムートン[/url]
[url=http://www.aguclassiccardy.com/]ugg[/url]

kjsbqhiqq
http://www.aguclassiccardy.com/ ugg
http://www.agusandansu.com/ ugg ブーツ
http://www.classicminiboots.com/ UGG ブーツ
http://www.aguultrashort.com/ ugg
http://www.agubaileybutton.com/ ugg アグ

Anonymous said...

gSbd michael kors bags
dOtz fer a lisser ghd
bTka cheap north face jackets
5dQdq cheap ugg boots uk
2vGtb Michael Kors

Anonymous said...

There is no rose without a thorn.
http://www.burberryoutletsalexs.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesan.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesam.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.hairstraighteneraustraliae.com/
http://www.cheapuggbootsan.com/
http://www.cheapsfashionbootax.com/
http://www.christianlouboutinshoesxx.com/
http://www.burberryoutletxi.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutlesa.com/
http://www.cheapnikeshoesfreerun.com/

Anonymous said...

The Golden Rule is that there are no golden rules.
http://www.christianlouboutinshoesxx.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesam.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesan.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutlesa.com/
http://www.hairstraighteneraustraliae.com/
http://www.burberryoutletxi.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.cheapsfashionbootax.com/
http://www.cheapuggbootsan.com/
http://www.burberryoutletsalexs.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.cheapnikeshoesfreerun.com/

Anonymous said...

To err is human,to forgive,divine.
http://www.hairstraighteneraustraliae.com/
http://www.christianlouboutinshoesxx.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesam.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.burberryoutletsalexs.com/
http://www.cheapuggbootsan.com/
http://www.cheapsfashionbootax.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesan.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.burberryoutletxi.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutlesa.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.cheapnikeshoesfreerun.com/

Anonymous said...

It is easy to be wise after the event.
http://www.burberryoutletsalexs.com/
http://www.cheapsfashionbootax.com/
http://www.cheapuggbootsan.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesam.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.burberryoutletxi.com/
http://www.cheapnikeshoesfreerun.com/
http://www.hairstraighteneraustraliae.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutlesa.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesan.com/
http://www.christianlouboutinshoesxx.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/

Anonymous said...

fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its
http://www.cheapnikeshoesfreerun.com/
http://www.burberryoutletsalexs.com/
http://www.hairstraighteneraustraliae.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.cheapuggbootsan.com/
http://www.cheapsfashionbootax.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesan.com/
http://www.christianlouboutinshoesxx.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesam.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutlesa.com/
http://www.burberryoutletxi.com/

Anonymous said...

If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big.
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.burberryoutletusaxs.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesam.com/
http://www.cheapuggbootsan.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.burberryoutletxi.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutletsea.com/

Anonymous said...

It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime,but at night it is another thing.
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.christianlouboutinshoesxx.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.hairstraighteneraustraliae.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesan.com/
http://www.burberryoutletsalexs.com/
http://www.cheapsfashionbootax.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutlesa.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.cheapnikeshoesfreerun.com/
http://www.burberryoutletxi.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesam.com/
http://www.cheapuggbootsan.com/

Anonymous said...

Death¡­is no more than passing from one room into another.
http://www.cheapuggbootsaz.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.cheapsfashionbootax.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopsx.com/
http://www.burberryoutletsalexs.com/
http://www.cheapnikesshoescz.com/
http://www.cheapnikeshoesfreerun.com/
http://www.cheapfashionshoesas.com/
http://www.uggsaustralianorges.com/
http://www.longchampsaleukxs.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/

Anonymous said...

Sow nothing, reap nothing.
http://www.cheapfashionshoesas.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.casquemonsterbeatser.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.burberryoutletusaxs.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutletsez.com/

Anonymous said...

Without learning, without eyes.
http://www.cheapfashionshoesas.com/
http://www.burberryoutletusaxs.com/
http://www.nflnikejerseysshopxs.com/
http://www.buybeatsbydrdrexa.com/
http://www.coachfactoryoutletsez.com/
http://www.michaelkorsoutletez.com/
http://www.casquemonsterbeatser.com/