I love to be entertained and romantic stories and movies do it for me. Stories where two people meet, sparks fly, and stuff happens. Stories that have you, turning pages or popping popcorn into your mouth, and wondering how in the hell the pair will work things out and earn a happily ever after life together. I’m no different from anyone else. Reading or watching them provides an escape from the pressures of real life and we all need to do that once in a while.

In a really great story, each act of the story lives up to its purpose.
The beginning not only has to grab its audience’s attention but it also has to set the tone of the story, introduce characters and make you care about at least one of those characters. The story should start at the dire point in one of the main characters lives. This character doesn’t necessarily need to be the hero or heroine. The event could occur to a secondary character, but their predicament does have to have a direct affect on the hero or heroines lives within a reasonable time period. A perfect example of this type of opening in a book is Brenda Novak’s story The Perfect Couple. I don’t want to give away too much for those you haven’t read this awesome book, but in the opening scene you see a young boy escaping from one of the two villains. His escape drives the villain to immediately capture another victim which is the heroine’s daughter. Exciting, right?

I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and soon found myself entering the meat of the story, otherwise known as the middle. Most writers hate writing the middle as they fear it will sag. Sagging middles leave the audience dozing off, lying the book down—never to return, or leaving the theater. In order to avoid a sagging middle, the author has to up the stakes, create a twist, change a character or introduce a subplot that conflicts with the main plot. We’ve all seen GOT MAIL, right? At the crest of the middle, Joe Fox realizes he doesn’t want to rack up failed relationships like his father and decides ShopLady is his perfect mate. He just needs to convince her they were meant to be. The author changed the hero and created a twist. And yes, up the stakes. We were no longer dealing with a business take over tale, the story becomes the personal, a relationship starts and romance blooms. At this point, I was totally invested in the lives of the characters, and wouldn’t budge from my chair until I knew the heroine and hero would be alright.

Which brings us to the end. Simply it has to be satisfying. The end should wrap all threads and be so thrilling, it’s the first thing your audience recalls when thinking about your story. Right now, I’m thinking of the moment when a trembling hero, despite his fear of heights, climbs a couple floors of a fire escape with roses in his mouth and then while holding the heroine says “What does she do when he saves her?” The response from the heroine, “She saves him right back.” You got it. Pretty Woman.

Do you have any examples you’d like to share?

12 comments

  1. Nightingale // April 14, 2011 at 9:55 AM  

    There were some good reminders in this post, Autumn, about writing. I can't think of any examples right now, but I thoroughly enjoyed your post.

  2. Autumn Jordon // April 14, 2011 at 10:45 AM  

    Thanks, Nightgale. I find I need to be reminded often. I really should make a check list and paste it to me monitor.

  3. Patrice // April 14, 2011 at 3:12 PM  

    Autumn,
    Great post. Loved your examples and made me think of my own middle in my current WIP. Do I have enough twists, conflict, etc? The romance has heated up, now I decided it was time to cool things down with a little conflict, and still have a hundred pages to go, setting up for the big, black moment. Isn't writing fun! I was thinking of the new movie SOMETHING BORROWED which should be just great, because I loved the book, and opens with a great hook - the heroine, the "good girl" sleeps with her best friend's fiancee, oh my!

  4. Autumn Jordon // April 14, 2011 at 3:52 PM  

    Glad I could help, Patrica. We're at about the same point, so writing the blog helped me too.

  5. Mary Ricksen // April 14, 2011 at 5:44 PM  

    I know someone once told me. As soon as they get outta trouble, new trouble should come along!
    Great blog Autumn!

  6. Mona Risk // April 14, 2011 at 6:05 PM  

    Hi Autumn, I will give you the example of a book that I started reading at 8am and couldn't stop, really couldn't stop reading till 4 am, NON STOP, unable to sleep until I knew the ending,But what a disappointment the last forty pages were. I was so mad I slammed the book on the floor at 5 am, furious to have wasted precious hours of sleep. The author that kept enthralled with his amazing writing and suspense was Dan Brown, and the book was the Da Vinci Code. I was so upset at the stupid ending. I never read another book by that author, although I tried to apply his technique of suspense.

  7. Autumn Jordon // April 14, 2011 at 6:17 PM  

    Good advice, Mary. WINK

  8. Autumn Jordon // April 14, 2011 at 6:23 PM  

    Oh, Mona. I loved The Da Vinci Code, but yes, I too was a little disappointed in the end. After seeing the movie, I wondered if I was looking for a romantic ending.

    The Da Vinci Code is definitely a book to study for plot structure. I think Larry Brooks uses it in his course study.

    Man, if only I plot like that.

  9. Mary Marvella // April 15, 2011 at 1:17 AM  

    Good job!
    I was gone all day and then dived into judging late contest entries.

    There are authors who won't let me stop and go to bed. The thing is that I love to read and a good book will keep me reading. I love stories and I love characters and if I put a book down before I finish it, that means the book is really boring or makes NO sense or I want to kill the characters for the villains.

    I love emotion stories. I tell stories and if I'm lucky there is a deep point.

  10. Autumn Jordon // April 15, 2011 at 8:19 AM  

    Exactly the way I feel, Mary. I hope I'm accomplishing that with my work.

    I hope you got some sleep and slept well.

  11. Judy // April 15, 2011 at 10:57 AM  

    Good post as always, Autumn! It's always good to get reminders... about sagging middles. But what about the sagging middle on my body?!!! Guess maybe we're still talking twists and turns, huh?

  12. Josie // April 16, 2011 at 2:49 PM  

    Autumn,
    I love that line from "Pretty Woman" and can picture Julia Roberts where she says it. I love a great book or movie--who doesn't? One of my favorites to date is "The Cider House Rules". Not romantic per se---just wonderful storytelling.