Construction Zone: Twisting the Plot

By now, I’d guess most writers find out pretty quickly that there are really no “new” plots. There are new characters, new settings, new ways of acting or reacting to stimuli…but the base plots have all been done before. In romance: boy meets girl, chaos occurs, they fall in love and live happily ever after. There are variations, of course, but that’s the basic gist. The challenge then becomes how to twist the plot into something just different enough to hook people, but not so different it becomes a different genre altogether.

I’ve been trying something recently that I hope helps give my writing a little more originality. I call it “twisting the plot”, and no doubt others do it all the time, but it really excited me the first time I did it, and now I try to do the same with every new idea I come up with.

I start with the basic plot. For example:

Daisy Mae walks into a bar one night, having just lost her job. Howard the bartender is totally hot, and such a good listener that when he hits on her, she goes home with him. He helps her tell her family what happened and defend her position when they attack her, he rebuilds her self-esteem, she falls in love with him, and they live happily ever after.

Then I start thinking of ways I could have the exact opposite happen, to twist things around:

– Daisy Mae could say no to Howard, but go home with Frank instead. Howard could be jealous, or a love triangle could start.

– She might wish he’d ask her out, but he offers her a job instead. She takes it.

– She could get hit on by a totally hot guy, but Howard the average looking bartender is less of a threat so she goes home with him.

– Maybe she hits on Howard. And he says no.

I keep coming up with ideas until one stands out…and that’s the one I plan out to write. This weekend I came up with a “vanilla” small town romance plot, and managed to twist it into something with the potential to be quite a bit kinkier by the time I was done. It’s one of the best parts of planning, in my opinion.

Do you twist your plots? How to you try to inject twists into your story, to spice up a basic story in your genre (s)?

7 comments on “Construction Zone: Twisting the Plot

  1. Samantha Hunter

    Standard disclaimer of “whatever works, this is just how I do it” here. 😉

    I don’t often see the twist in a plot until I am writing the book. I have some general idea of what’s going to happen, of course, but I never plan too tightly because I like what happens to come from the characters, rather than fitting the characters into a plot. So, for the moment, I have a book that I know is about two people caught in a blackout for 24 hours and they have to make their way across town, and stuff happens. LOL

    I won’t really know much more than that until I start writing it, and things could change quite a bit as I do…

    The only time this changes is with something like writing mystery, which is a whole other ball of wax — there, you need to know the story, the mystery part, up front, from start to finish, who did what and why — then you need to write the other story, the story of the detective, as if you don’t know what happens — a harder trick. Again, that’s how I do it, but your mileage may vary.

    So that’s my take,

    Sam

  2. Annarkie

    Y’know when you’re reading a book, romance or not, and the author leads you to believe that they are going to “go there” and they either don’t or fail miserably at it?
    Well, with my books I see what happens if characters actually “go there.”

  3. Carol

    Your posts always make me think too much! :-p

    I was going to say that I agree with Samantha: “whatever works, this is just how I do it”. However, once I started thinking about it I realized that I’m more like you (big surprise LOL). I often start with a basic plot and then start poking at it to see how I can make it different.

    In romance you’re pretty much assured of a HEA, but that doesn’t mean we have to make it easy for them. 🙂

  4. Annarkie

    Y’know when you’re reading a book, romance or not, and the author leads you to believe that they are going to “go there” and they either don’t or fail miserably at it?
    Well, with my books I see what happens if characters actually “go there.”

  5. Jamie D.

    Now see, what I want to know is how you do that when you have to write proposals/synopses first?

    Mine always change once I start writing too, but I normally have a good idea of the original plot before I get started. I used to “pants” it all the way…but my drafts end up a lot more cohesive when I have a rough plan first.

  6. Jamie D.

    Indeed. But do you plan that out ahead of time? Do you know where it’s going before you get there? Half the time when I’m writing, the small twists just jump out at me and I had no idea that’s where I was heading. The big twists though are what I generally plan out ahead of time.

  7. Jamie D.

    Heehee…gotta keep your brain in shape, Carol!

    Poking is good. So is prodding. LOL

    You know I agree on the not making it easy….I do love to torture characters. Too much sometimes, I think.