17 March 2007

Seeds of Plots

Most of the time, I don't where my story ideas come from. They sort of grow. However, Sold and Seduced, my Roman set novel that is released in April in the UK had two distinct seeds.

The first came from a chance meeting with my now editor. Every year, Harlequin Mills and Boon has a glittering reception for its authors. At my first reception was I introduced to the new editorial assistant for historicals. We got talking and I mentioned that I was just finishing a manuscript with pirates. Great, she said -- I love pirates and dangerous men as heroes. My heart sunk. The pirates in A Noble Captive are not the heroes. But I thought -- how could I make a dangerous hero? And teh seed for my hero -- Fabius Aro was born.

But I didn't know the story I wanted to tell, just the hero who need a strong and interesting tale. Then about a week later, I was travelling back from a daylong workshop on writing with Harlequin Presents author, Kate Walker. She was explaining about her troubles with a manuscript. She said the sentence -- And the heroine has to marry X to save her father from prison. I will admit that I stopped listening at that point. The Beauty and the Beast plot with a very good reason for a Marriage of Convenience. If you are doing a M of C plot, you have to have a good emotional reason for the pair marrying. A tip I learnt very early on from an editor when she sent a long rejection letter explaining why a particular manuscript was not suitable.

My wheels in my brain were turning fast. I had a plot line for my dangerous hero -- and then I only needed to work out the specifics...how, why would my heroine feel compelled, why would her father agree, why would he disagree. That sort of thing. The things that make a plot a writer's own. I am a great believer that there are only a limited number of plots. In fact the Joseph Campbell/Christopher Vogler theory of the monomyth is very attractive. But I digress. I had the seed of an idea and then I had to adapt it to fit the historical milieu of the end of the Republic (Romans had four different forms of marriage).

The irony to this is once I did read Kate Walker's book. I realised that I had misunderstood her plot line totally. I was concentrating so much on my idea that her plot twist ( the heroine was being forced to marry an aging tycoon and not the hero) went over my head. And such are born ideas.

The next contest that I am running (and you do have to be a member of my newsletter) will be for a copy of Kate's book -- The Antonakos Marriage, and for a copy of Sold and Seduced. It is show how two writers can take the same seed -- a woman sacrificing herself for her family's sake and create two very different novels. The newsletter goes out on 1 April. And the details of how to join are on my website.

If you look at the US cover for Antonakos Marriage and Sold and Seduced, you will see a certain resemblance. The UK cover of S&S is lovely but has nothing to do with the story, except it evokes the general mood/feel. My editor who knew my story of the seeds swears it was a coincidence. My editor is known for her wicked sense of humour. I am not sure when Sold and Seduced will be released in North America. it will apparently have a different cover. (And yes I know it was the inside cover of Lyn Randall's Wife or Warrior) My next North American release will be in July with The Roman's Virgin Mistress.

What do other people think about the Vogler idea of the monomyth?


carrie_lofty said...

Gorgeous cover, Michelle. I like the color scheme.

I was just talking about plot ideas over at my site yesterday. I find the whole topic just fascinating -- what mingled bits of info and imagination inspires people to devote so much time and effort to these projects of ours.

Funny about Campbell: I just heard something the other day that Campbell believes all true heroes must be reborn at some point in their journey. I thought, hey! That's a really good idea....

Michelle Styles said...

Carrie --

Have you read Christopher VOgler - -The WSriter's Journey -- if not, do. It is far more accessible than Joseph Campbell. He uses movies as examples which can be helpful. And I loved his break down of the Lion King -- why certain things happened, why they didn't. Vogler was the man who commissioned it.He also shows where he thinks the flaws are. You don't have to agree with him, but it gives food for thought.

Personally I think thinking about the concept of the hero's journey with all its various parts has made me more aware of the structure of my novels. The why are things happening when they are happening. The call to adventure, refusal of the call, threshold guardians. the whole concept of mentors and shadows.

Anyway, I hope it has helped my writing. My editor seemed to think so with my last one...

carrie_lofty said...

I haven't read Vogler. When I was at uni and studied history, linguistics & mythology, the vogue was to discredit Campbell & Co -- not "serious" enough about studying actual differences between cultural myths. But I'm keen on coming back to those ideas, from a writer's POV, because I think they're intensely useful for crafting stories -- particularly genre fiction intended for a Western audience.

Michelle Styles said...

Vogler is worth reading, simply to use as a tool for structure. It can useful to think about your novel in his broad terms. I am not sure I necessarily agree with his three act idea.I think I might four acts, with a very short fourth one. It is a minor quibble.
I am currently waiting for my copy of Goal Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon to arrive to see what she says. (GMC is best ordered through its publisher btw)

DeborahBrent said...

I have seeds of stories, but then I run into problems with conflict. I just hate to put obstacles in the path of my beloved people. I've read Vogler and Campbell. I can watch a movie and follow the HERO'S JOURNEY, but incorporating it in my work is more difficult.