Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Guest Post No 3 - Kate Walker on romance writing - Training Yourself as a Plotter. Reminder - Dec 2 Challenge!

Hi RFW members and guests. First, a message for all! Our December 2 Challenge is not that far away, so I'm reminding our members to get those stories/poems underway, and invite anyone who'd like to participate in the challenge to take the image for your sidebar, prepare your post, then sign up with the linky here on December 1st!

Challenge - December 2nd. Respond to this image in story/poetic form. 600 words maximum. Check out our Challenge Page above for more stimulus/details.

Now, over to our guest Kate Walker.

Today I'm taking a brief look at one of those questions - the one that every writer gets asked (often more than once) at every stage of their careers. And the question is:
Where do you get your ideas?
The honest answer is 'Life' - I have often tried to persuade my accountant that life is a claimable expense for a novelist but sadly I haven't yet managed it.  But every day I see, hear or read something  that interests me, intrigues me, amuses me and I often spend time wondering how I can work it into a novel.
So here are some of the tips and techniques I use when trying to come up with a new idea. Because, believe me, after 60  books, it can be difficult to think of something fresh and interesting - and something I want to write. I always work from the characters and their motivations, but I have to have some ideas as a ‘setting’ – a place to put them and a reason to start them off on their journey.
Filling the imagination ‘well’
Read Read Read – learn the plots that make successful romances – or any other type of story -  in the past and in the present – and the ones that have failed
Think about them – which ones can you still use?
Which ones will need changing to make them work today?
How?  In my own line, things like the use of condoms – for sexual health as well as contraception, scans, DNA tests have all changed the so-called ‘secret baby’ story from the  way it used to be when I first started writing.
So if you take those changes into account to make it more believable for today – how does that change the story and change the characters’ motivations and actions?
How could you turn a plot on its head?
For example -
Have her kidnap him instead of having him kidnap her? (I did this in Captive Lover 1987)
She wants the marriage of convenience and sets the terms for it – or thinks she does. ( The Hired Husband 1999). Changing the person who initiates the action changes the whole perspective, the balance of the set  up   and so makes everything develop along a very different path.
But of course you will always have to consider that most important question of all – the question WHY – why would this happen? Why would your character do this?
Take a different fork in the road
Watch soaps/dramas/films – stop it halfway – or at the end of the episode – ask yourself:
Where is it going?
Who will end up with whom?
What conflict/problem/sudden revelation/black moment is the writer going to bring in?
How could you do it differently?
What twists could you bring in?
Who could they end up with instead?
What if . . .?
People watch – in reality and in print
Read newspapers/magazines/watch people stories on TV – use them as your characters - see if you can see what will happen – check it against reality.
I once switched the radio on when I was about to do some ironing and I heard a man say ‘when I first held my son it meant so much because I was an abandoned baby and never knew my parents. So, alone of everyone in the world, he was the only other person who had my blood in his veins.’ I just switched off the iron(No hard decision there!) and went to write down that line and all the ideas that it had sparked off in my head for a story that would involve all those emotions he was talking about.
How could you rework a fairy story –
Gothic Cinderella?
Beauty and the Beast?
Or a classic ?
Jane Eyre?
Pride and Prejudice?
I just reworked Wuthering Heights for my new novel The Return of the Stranger and it was an amazing challenge.  There are no truly original plots in the whole of fiction   so you can’t hope to be desperately original – but you can be authentic  and put your personal spin on an old story so making it fresh and new.
 With every story you read, watch, hear - think about what was behind it, who is involved, why it happened - and consider what will happen next. Very soon just a phrase or even a name can spark you off. I know. I once wrote a book (long ago) simply because I was determined to get into the story the line 'I don't know who the hell you are, but you're certainly not my wife!' I did it too.  That was in a book I wrote years ago -   way back in 1988 - Chase the Dawn and I still get letters about that novel.

And the winner of Kate's novel from last week's post is Madeleine Maddocks! Congratulations Madeleine, and would you contact Kate via her website? Enjoy!

Thank you Kate. I learnt so much and I'm sure you have too. Thanks for sharing. Also thanks to my good mate Nas Dean from Romance Book Paradise in Fiji who answered my call for a guest poster. I think Nas has done us proud. 

Denise (L'Aussie)


  1. Nice blog not to mention a terrifically useful post from Kate Walker.

  2. Wow, a whole lot of good ideas there!

  3. great post! Yes putting a new spin on old plots... sounds easier than it is!

  4. I can see why you write so incredibly well. Your thought process demands it.

    I'm loving the fact that even as a reader (and stalker) I am learning a great deal along the way.


  5. Great post, the ideas from which I am going to try to put into practice. Thank you soooo much for choosing me for the prize. It has already arrived in the post :O))))) x

  6. Oh my gosh Kate. I didn't realize that you helped out like this. I'm just a reader but I know if I was a writer I'd be trying to follow your helpful instructional posts.

    Just read a switch up story where the mother of the baby didn't realize that her family had given her baby to the father to raise. She was told the baby had died. Enjoyed this different twist to the story.

  7. Hi Kate
    Great post and I relate. Thank you for sharing these tips for writers. Every little tip helps!


  8. 60 books? I'm blown away. Kate sounds like she's very attuned to making every scrap of an idea work for her. Well done!

  9. Denise, that's a really nice picture. I wonder what an island girl could come up with for a beautiful scene like that? We'll see.

  10. Hi Joy! Yeah, well we can dream of a white Christmas can't we, although I do like my prawns on the BBQ!


  11. Hi everyone

    Just to say thatI'm not neglecting you - I promise to be back to chat. Yesterday turned into a crazy time with too much to do and now this morning when I hoped I'd catch up, I have a trip to the dentist first - just for a checkup, thank goodness! But I'll be back this afternoon and hope to spend more time with you then

    See you soon!

  12. Hi Kate and Denise!

    Great post! Training your self to be a plotter and coming up new twists and turns for every book is an extremely hard job. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post full of advice with us, Kate.

    Thank you Denise!

  13. Hi I'm back - to say Hi and wave to Maria - fast becoming one of my 'stalkers'! I'm glad you found the post helpful Maria

  14. Nice to 'meet' you Sarah - I hope the ideas inspired you.

  15. How nice to 'see' you again Kerrin - and you are so right. That puttign a new spin on old plots is the hardest thing sometimes! I often get to a point in a book and think, well the obvious answer to this is . . . but I did that in another book .. . or that . . . and I did that before . . finding the different way to go takes some real brainstorming

  16. What a wonderful comment, Mary - thank you. I'm delighted to think that you feel I write was as well as coming up with new ideas! And I'm enjoying seeing appear as my 'stalker'

  17. Hi again Madeleine - I hope some of these ideas work for you. And thank you for letting me know that your prize has arrived - I do hope you enjoy reading The Proud Wife - oh, and the 12 Point Guide.

  18. Hi Kaelee - yo've found me wearing my 'other hat' - that of teacher of creative writing. The twist in the story yo've just read is just the sort of thing that editors are looking for - a 'secret baby' story but with a difference.

  19. Hi Denise and thank you for invitign me to join you again - I like helping writers learn more about their craft and so many of you live too far away to get to my courses/workshops. I hope these ideas spark off more ideas for you

    PS If anyone does have a chance to come to one of my writing weekends/workshops - the details arfe always on the Events page of my web site

  20. Hi JL - well, I wrote those 60 books the way everyone has to - one word at a time - it took quite a few years though! But you're right, I've learned not to let an idea slip away - I always have a notebook and pen with me wherever I got - otherwise I forget too much

  21. Denise and JL - that pic might look beautiful but last year we had so much snow we couldn't go anywhere - could barely get out of the road we live on! So the snow may look beautiful, but I prefer it on my Christmas Cards. Can I join you at the barbie?

  22. Hi Nas - thak you for always being so supportive to all my blogs. Training yourself as a plotter is always tricky - but there's always a different angle to approach a story from and that makes it fresh and interesting.

  23. Excellent post. 60 books, that's amazing.

  24. I'm late to the party, it seems:(

    A fantastic guest post. Thanks, Kate. I learnt a lot from your tips. It would provide some inspiration for a book (with a complicated plot) that I'm trying to finish. My biggest problem though is the POV for the different characters as this is vital to the plot(s).

    Thanks Denise, for the guest post series. It's been quite refreshing.

  25. Hello.
    A lot of very good pointers in this post, some I never even considered. My wife is always telling me I need to step outside of my cocoon.
    lol..."Gothic Cindrella"...I bet that would raise a few eyebrows!
    Great & informative post Kate. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Oh I forgot to add...congratulations Madeleine on winning the novel!


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