where the writers are
Plotting a novel, or: What could possibly go wrong?

So it’s all well and good that I decided to write a romantic comedy about a drive-in theater, inspired by … well, by sitting at a drive-in theater. But the story could only be set there, and even then only partially. Setting isn’t plot.

The germ of any story contains two questions: What if? What then? Those were the questions I had to answer if I wanted a good story, and it turned out the what if part was easy.

I mentioned before that there used to be three drive-ins within reasonable driving distance of my home: Now there is one. With cable, VHS, DVD, blue-ray, internet, not to mention the space age visual and sound systems of a traditional, air conditioned indoor theater, who wanted to sit in a car to watch a movie anymore?

So, what if someone did? Say, our hero? And what if that drive-in was in danger of being torn down, replaced by a mall, or housing development?

What then?

Well, my hero is not the type to sit around wringing his hands. He’d lead the charge to save the traditional family drive-in, because he’s a family kind of a guy. (This was the point where I realized my hero was a family kind of a guy, the kind who went there as a kid and brings his own kids there now.)

What then?

Okay, what if someone was sent by the development company to overcome the obstacles to the demolition? And what if that someone was a beautiful female lawyer? Suppose they met at the drive-in, without knowing they were leading the opposite sides?

Wait, what if she was uncomfortable around kids? And the guy had two? Where was his wife? Why was the attorney uncomfortable around kids? How can I make her more sympathetic? Why is she coming from out of town, instead of being a local attorney? And could there be a reason why his family already hates lawyers? We don’t want to go too easy on them – that makes for boring stories.

And what was around the drive-in, anyway? If it has enough customers to stay open, wouldn’t there be a community nearby? And wouldn’t our hero be a part of that community?

Questions lead to more questions, just as it should be with a novel length work. By now I was on a roll, creating an outline for the story while also working on character development. The characters had to be done before the outline could be completed, of course. Once they were fully developed, they’d tell me what to write.

 

Next: the town. You can get a first look at the drive-in in the first chapter of Coming Attractions, and vote for me at Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest:

http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts/coming-attractions/