2014 Books #3 – #7

Yes, I have been reading! Oh boy, have I been reading. The thing is, for various reasons, I’m not allowed to overtly discuss the books that have been taking up my time. Maybe someday, for some of them at least, but not all of them. But what to do? I got so used to writing book reports for the books I read, and I really enjoy it too. So here are a few observations from the titles I’ve read in the last few weeks, approached collectively.

Courtesy of istockphoto.com contributor Massonstock

Courtesy of istockphoto.com contributor Massonstock

The majority (though not all) of these books I’ve been reading are Romance. Between several of them, I’ve come to one important conclusion: one that effects my writing and hopefully the writing of a lot of other romance writers out there. It’s the difference between the internal plot and the external plot.

For those who don’t know, in the world of Romance, books generally have two plots. The internal plot is the relationship between the hero and heroine. It’s how the two come together, how they run into obstacles or are torn apart or work at cross purposes, and ultimately how they get together and have their happily ever after. It’s the bread and butter of Romance.

The external plot is the stuff happening in the world that the hero and heroine inhabit. It’s the action, the uncontrollable forces that drive the hero and heroine through their internal struggle. When done right, it’s what works off of the hero and heroine and what shapes their internal plot.

A good book, like some of the ones I’ve read, provides a reason and context for the relationship between the hero and heroine to exist. The exchange of motivation, of cause and effect, that happens in the external plot directly causes the actions and emotions of the internal plot. … Was that too obtuse an explanation? Basically, the stuff that happens to the hero and heroine directly and clearly impacts how they feel about each other.

One of the books I read was particularly good at this. One of them really wasn’t. Looking at both of them together has really helped me to see that it is essential for the external plot to carry more weight, even if the internal plot is “more important” in terms of the genre.

Okay, so what do I mean by that? In the book that I feel fell short in this area, it seemed as though the events of the external plot had no other purpose than to be blocks for the hero and heroine to bounce off of. They were very conveniently placed plot points that rang as transparent to me. Of course X would happen, because it allows the hero to do Y action. And of course the twist in the plot was A, because the author clearly wanted the heroine to react in a specific way to A so that B would happen. The plot was nothing more than a tool of the romance, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

The other one, however, used plot masterfully to give the hero and heroine something to do that, in turn, effected their romance. The world that the hero and heroine were written into was so dimensional and packed with detail, thought, consequences, and motion that their romance seemed woven into it smoothly and clearly. I felt as though the course that the romance took was inevitable in the face of the external forces working against them and that they found themselves a part of.

I can’t be sure, but I think that in the one, the author had a clear and concise idea of the point she was trying to make with the plot. The romance was central, but the plot was what the story was about. In the other, I felt as though the author knew exactly how she wanted the romance to progress, and so manufactured the plot that would best enable that to happen. The problem with that, for me at least, is that it made the external plot seem thin, and as a result, the romance wasn’t as interesting.

Mind you, the writing itself was okay with the less satisfying book. If the author had been less talented with words, I would have chucked the book against the wall. Kudos to her for lifting her craft to the level that even though I didn’t buy the plot, I was able to finish the book. That says something!

Well, I have several more books that I can’t talk about after reading them, but I’ll see if I can pull some discussion points to talk about anonymously. Stay tuned! Keep reading and keep learning!

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