1. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tips on Romantic Subplots?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Commandante Lemming, Sep 14, 2014.

    So I'm wondering if anyone here knows any good resources on adding romantic subplots to novels.

    I've planned a love interest (Aiden) for my main character (Nina) but have avoided writing that relationship because I haven't figured out how to mesh it into the early plot (the later plot meshes nicely with said relationship but starting it without distracting is something that I haven't figured out)

    That and as a male author writing a female protagonist, I'm not entirely confident on writing a convincing romance "backwards" relative to my own perspective.

    That said I know Nina has been getting criticism for being flat, too good, and not proactive - and since I know Nina pretty well, I know that the best way to bring out her flaws and insecurities is to bring Aiden onstage...so I have to bite the bullet and write Aiden
     
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not too sure what you want help with - tips on romantic subplot, yes, but what about the subplot? How to write a girl realistically? How to develop the relationship? How to help you mesh it better with your main plot? (and how would we give you advice on this point when we don't know your main plot...?)

    From your post, I gather you're a man and writing from a woman's POV, so that's fine. So why do you say you have to "bite the bullet and write Aiden" as though it's Aiden's POV you're not sure about? Aiden is the guy - you're a guy - what's the problem?

    Sorry, just in general confused... :confused:

    EDIT: and if writing Nina realistically is the main problem, the best might be to post your work up in the workshop for critique.
     
  3. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Aiden is the guy - you're a guy - what's the problem?"

    I absolutely suck at writing and creating male characters - my women are usually vibrant and well defined, my guys always seem cardboard. That and Aiden is radically opposite of me, so he's a challenge - I invented him as a background character but figured out after writing him that his chemistry with Nina would ultimately lead to a very frustrating on-again-off-again romance.

    Actually I was just wondering if anyone knew any good resources (articles, books, podcasts, etc.) that deal with the proper construction of romantic subplots IN GENERAL so that I can figure out how to build one without slowing down the main plot. The big problem with Aiden right now is that he has a big role in Nina's growth as a person, but no defined role in the main plot.

    If you want the actual plot context - Nina is a young TV reporter in her mid-twenties who has just started working for a national cable news channel. Aiden is a world-weary cameraman in his early 30s working for the same network. Nina is very idealistic an naive about a lot of things in life - journalism, love, life in the big-city etc. Aiden, by virtue of the fact that he's always on the road and in dangerous places, purposefully avoids romantic entanglements and has styled himself as a playboy as something of a coping mechanism. That said, he has sort of an "honor among thieves" code of not sleeping with anyone from the office, and on top of that he sees Nina as an innocent young farm-girl who he doesn't want to "ruin" (eventually he realizes that he's actually more of an honorable guy than he thinks he is). Nina is drawn to him but at the same time realize that he is potentially "trouble" - there's a disconnect between how he treats people and the type of person everyone thinks he is, and she picks up on that, but he has a reputation. Although at first they don't get along at all.

    That's probably too much to dump - but if you want context that's it. The main plot revolves around Nina's professional ascent at the network, her "war" with her editor, and the news story of the newly elected pope they are covering. So trying to see how to bring Aiden onstage more without slowing down - they have to spend a lot of time together because he's her cameraman, so that's a start.
     
  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Apart from the above that makes me wonder whether you are approaching this female protagonist in the best way (you don't want to be writing a stereotype or a man with boobs), I think instead of looking for 'how to' books on writing a romance, you should read some novels with romantic plots or subplots in them. And if you have no interest in reading such things, then why write it?
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Commandante Lemming - I don't get it. In your original post, you said, and I quote: "That said I know Nina has been getting criticism for being flat, too good, and not proactive."

    Then in response to my post, you say: "my women are usually vibrant and well defined, my guys always seem cardboard."

    Seems to me like your problem might be far bigger than your question. Are you quite sure you're writing both of your characters as full-dimensional human beings?

    That said, for example, chick lit doesn't always have multifaceted characters, but nonetheless they sell. Cardboard characters do not necessarily have to be a problem, depending on the tone/style/genre - but just don't make the mistake of applying cardboard characters to the wrong sort of story, or vice versa, the mistake of trying to flesh out characters that would actually work best as simple archetypes.

    It sounds like Nina's career ascent is the driving, main plot, and the romance is the major subplot. Your book I would probably categorise as chick lit, where the book revolves around the development of the female protag and romance is a major aspect of how she grows. I don't see a problem with that, and therefore I don't see what your dilemma is? If Aiden's relationship with Nina is what makes her grow as a character, then that's part of your main plot right there. Why would you think it'd slow things down?

    As for writing men - I actually rather understand your dilemma. I have the opposite thing. I'm a woman and I constantly write men. The moment I start writing women, they all turn into weeping willows it's actually cringe-worthy. So I suppose we have the same problem lol, only with different genders! One way of improving this is to write something from the POV of the gender you're weaker at, because when you write from their POV, you're forced to think of them as human with all their motivations, and you're forced to make them proactive because this character has to lead the scene and/or chapter. What if you switched POVs between Nina and Aiden? Could be fun.
     
  6. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I should have noted that Nina is the one female character who gets knocked around - I get a lot of positive feedback on the others, but Nina is a classic case of the protag being the most normal person in the cast and hence not as interesting as all the nutty people around her.

    And it's not chick lit lol. It's a futuristic political drama and the romance is at best a tertiary plotline at this point - but it's one of those cogs that's needed to make the big picture work.

    I may take the advice on jumping into Aiden's head - he's someone I never use as a POV (even when he's not with Nina) because he's so foreign to me - which means I need to write his POV so he starts making sense.
     
  7. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    And I totally feel you on the problem of stereotyping one's own gender lol. I'm good at the whole "strong non-stereotype women in non-traditional roles" - but a lot of my guys (Aiden especially) end up in the same category that a lot of male authors shove female characters...they're shallow and exist primarily for the purpose of falling in love with the protagonist lol! I have one in another story who has the same problem!
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    These two quotes:

    made me wonder if there's any chance that Aidan is taking too much of Nina's initiative from her? If she's young, idealistic, naive, and Aidan is what triggers her to take action, maybe the readers are seeing Nina as essentially passive?

    I realize that that doesn't address the question about the romance, except I suppose I'm wondering if perhaps Aidan's role in the story is one that should be transferred to Nina herself--maybe he's the cynical side of her personality, and much of him should just be merged with her?
     
  9. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    I understand your trouble with writing your own gender. My males seem to be a bit generic, while my females are tough, sassy, extremely smart and witty/sarcastic. Blissfully, my last book I needed my male lead to be just that, lol.

    Anyway, I think the key for you is to create some romantic tension, but keep the romance from growing quickly. The two should maybe even dislike each other at the outset. Begrudginly, they work together and find a middle ground, and then over the course of the story they each are surprised by qualities in the other. There's also no rule that says the attraction needs to be reciprocal at the same rate. Nina could think Aidan is the hotness right off and perhaps be flirtatious while Aidan is dismissive because of his 'code'.

    I find the romantic interactions great fun, and the more difficult you make the characters, the more the reader will often find themselves rooting for the pair to get together. This sort of thing has worked in TV shows galore (my wife's favorite, Castle is probably a good example) and I always go back to Moonlighting as a great example of two characters who frustrate each other while the viewer is convinced they should be together.
     
  10. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's been a bit of an issue - especially since her role at this point in the story is largely that of a trainee. She's there to learn not to lead - although what she's learning is that her environment is toxic and needs a kick in the teeth. But she certainly needs more active scenes rather than always being in the presence of superiors in a "do not speak unless spoken to" mode.

    Good stuff - That's mostly the storyline I have planned. Both of them are going to need some serious convincing since she thinks he's a jerk and he thinks she's incompetent, vain, and making his job difficult. I realized last night that I subconciously modeled their relationship off Mark Sloan and Lexie Grey from Grey's Anatomy so I guess I need to go re-watch that (which goes to show that just because you didn't choose to watch the show of your own volition, doesn't mean you don't internalize it - although honestly I ended up liking the plotlines on Grey's until they started killing them off for no reason).

    Also spent time writing first person from Aiden's point of view about Nina, which makes me feel a little better about putting him on-page.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
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