Not that the research is boring; not at all. As I've mentioned, I love research (most of the time). It's just that telling you about that process is rather akin to forcing you to sit through a dull lecture by a professor who sounds like the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
So, I dithered. And then I thought: WAIT! I'm not just researching Tibet; I've also been researching love stories!
Why? Well, part of my advice to people when they're struggling with plot (besides go back to your characters, of course) is to look for some way to frame the plot; some plot-skeleton to hang your story-flesh off of, if you'll excuse the unsettling metaphor. This can be literal - when I was writing Cloudland, I used Joseph Campbell's monomyth - or it can be thematic. You know, some kind of writing prompt, or jumping-off point, like, in the month of April I'll write blog posts for every letter of the alphabet. Or something.
For this WIP, since a) it's about love, and b) it follows souls through multiple lifetimes, I thought I might be able to structure each lifetime around one of the Great Love Story Plots.
Except, erm, I didn't know what they were. What?? I've never claimed to be an expert on writing romance. Far from it, actually. This is where all of you romance writers point at me, and laugh, as well you should. But I really did do some research on it.
So, for all of you non-romance writers, who, like me, freeze in panic when they have to write a love story, I want to share the most helpful thing I found in my research thus far: a fantastic old blog post by one Margo Berendson, listing her idea of the 13 standard love story plots, with examples for each.
For those who don't have time to click on the link, here's a little user's guide to the love plots I'm going to mention, quoted from her blog:
- Reluctant love: "where two people are forced by circumstances into a betrothal or marriage. Sometimes both are reluctant partners; sometimes one is willing, the other reluctant. As the reluctant one comes to know her partner better, they genuinely fall in love"
- Love Torn Apart: "the opposite of a happily-ever after, where love reigns for a while, but then is torn apart by circumstances"
- Love Forsaken: "a pair of lovers where one rejects the other (usually because of unequal status or to honor the family), and then regrets it"
- You're the Last Person I'd Ever Love: "two characters start out disliking each other, often quite intensely, and then fall in love as they get to know each other better"
- Forbidden Love: "Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Paris and Helen" and so on.
If you found those helpful, I highly recommend checking out the original post. Just sayin'.
Anyway, thanks to that post, I'm off and running, and GOD does it feel good to have a sense of the overall structure of this monstrosity that I'm working on. And because I'm me, and I am incapable of doing anything simply, I want to combine these plots to make new stories. Yes, one lover might be headed towards an arranged marriage, and therefore a reluctant love plot, but suddenly another character arrives in the story, of the wrong race or gender or social class (or all of the above), and now we have a forbidden love story, with a dash of love triangle and great potential for love torn apart. And THAT is fun to write.
For example, I'm thinking my Ancient Greek story will combine jealous love and love torn apart (yes, I made the first one up, but I like it. Think crazy jealousy ruining everything, like in Othello), and my modern London story will be an amalgamation of you're the last person I'd ever love and love forsaken, with a possible, unusual, modern twist on forbidden love.
Silly? Maybe, but it's working, and I'll take that over dignity any time.