As a fellow Georgette Heyer fan, I asked her to chat about her influences in plotting Regency novels. Here goes...
'Unusual Regencies - How to plot a Regency novel that stands out'
The Regency era offers so much for a writer. Historical events, larger than life historical characters, the ton and the Prince Regent’s sparkling, decadent court, and the Napoleonic Wars, all of which offer great material for any number of stories and fit well with popular tropes in romantic fiction – marriage of convenience, forced marriage, and friends become lovers etc. Many sub-genres adapt well to Regencies from historicals, like my sensual adventure romance, A Baron in Her Bed, to sweet stories inspired by Jane Austen, mysteries, crime novels, paranormals, young adult, fairy stories and even steampunk. What about alpha males? A sexy, disreputable rake? The trick is to give it a fresh twist.
Making the novel stand out and gain readers attention is the greater challenge.
When I decided to write a Regency spy series, I wanted it to be nothing like other spy stories. Spy plots are woven into the books drawn from history, but it’s the characters which drive the stories. Hopefully, readers will enjoy my three heroes and heroines. All very different and from different backgrounds. Horatia Cavendish is not a society miss. In the second book published in September, Taming a Gentleman Spy, Lady Sibella Winborne, is a member of a big wealthy family. My third book, What a Rake Wants, features a widow, Lady Althea Brookwood.
Of course, your story has to have drama. It has to have conflict. You need charismatic characters who want something badly and struggle throughout to get it. Give them flaws but make them redeemable. During the Regency era, your heroine may struggle for her independence, but make her strong. I like this quote from author Elizabeth Gilbert:
I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue."—”
Horatia Cavendish fights to realize her dreams and gain independence in A Baron in Her Bed, refusing to bow to society’s demands.
Don’t forget the satisfying resolution – a neat tying up of all the threads of your story. Some writers have it all planned out before they begin. They know what each scene will contain before they write it. I wish I could do that at times, but I’m what is called a panster, at least at heart. When beginning my novel, I can tell you how it will end with that essential HEA, but I can’t tell you how I’ll get there until I write it. If I try to plot it out in advance, the story lacks passion. I like it to reading. If I know what happens in a book, I put it down. A voyage of discovery ensures I remain emotionally involved as my characters reveal themselves to me, sometimes surprising me in unexpected ways.
Whichever way you go about writing, you must be emotionally caught up in the story. Robert Frost puts it well: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
Karl Iglesias, in WRITING FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT, finds a difference between story and plot. He feels there’s too much attention given to plot and not enough to story. Writer’s make a mistake focusing on plot construction. Plot is not as important as story, accordingly to Iglesias, and it produces too many predictable, formulaic storylines.
Plot is the arrangement of events designed to make your story emotionally satisfying to the reader. While you need to connect on an emotional level with your reader this does not create the story.
Story arises from a great premise, concept or theme, and character development.
I like the way E M Forster puts it in Aspect of the Novel:
The king died and then the queen died. (Plot)
The king died and then the queen died of grief. (Story)
After you have your premise, you should be able to state it simply in a few lines. Then give your characters something they want badly. Something important enough that, if they fail there are serious consequences. Then have them struggle to achieve it.
Fill your novel with surprises to keep your reader guessing what will happen next. Nothing too easy. If readers guess what lies ahead too easily, they may give up on the story. And watch the use of coincidences. They happen in real life, but aren’t so well accepted in fiction.
If you are stuck or run out of ideas, I find asking ‘what if?’ helps.
If you don’t have Karl Iglesias’ book I do suggest you purchase a copy. It’s a great addition to my library.
Maggi will be awarding the winner’s choice of a backlist eBook to two randomly drawn commenters during the tour, and a $30 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter!