I’ve been working on Give the Lady a Ride’s rewrite, and step one was reading this book by James Scott Bell. Bell has two books in the Write Great Fiction Series. The other is Plot & Structure where he introduces his LOCK system of plotting. As he says, whether you’re a plotter or an SOTP writer, knowing the elements in a novel helps considerably. So, here are the elements according to Bell:
L: Lead (aka, Main Character or MC)
K: Knockout ending
He reiterates this in his Revision & Self-Editing book, and just looking at it helped me regain my direction. I’ve rewritten the first four chapters and think I have the Leads down pretty good (I’ll know better after I go through it again), I’m refocused on what the objectives are for each of them, and I need to strengthen the confrontations; but let me tell ya–I got the knockout ending down pat!
Of the LOCK components, the Objective is the one that really keeps the action moving. Leads have goals and strive to obtain them–that’s why they have a story. The primary/dominant objective for genre writers is dictated by the genre. Ride is a romance, so the necessary objective for both my Leads is Love. But Ride is also a Christian novel, which adds another objective–one with a Christian theme. For both of my Leads, the second objective is Faith, although it could be anything–salvation, overcoming a sin or a fear, anything Christians need or face which only God can remedy. This objective, more than the genre objective, is usually subconscious–the characters don’t know they’re striving for it until deep into their stories. For Patricia, she begins needing to regain faith in herself, but ends realizing she needs to regain her faith in God. Talon, a strong Christian, needs the faith required to realize God wants for him what he wants (which, in this case, is love and family).
Aside from the dominant objectives of love and faith (using my book as an example), there are story objectives, the ones that makes my Christian romance different from other Christian romances. In Ride, Talon’s story objective is to keep his job as foreman of the Circle Bar Ranch, something that may not happen if Patricia, the new owner, sells it. Although she comes to the ranch to sell it, Patricia’s story objective is to get away from the fake smiles of her political world back home, but doing so would mean disregarding her responsibilities. Until she resolves her objective, Talon’s objective is on the line–which brings about confrontation, aka conflict. And keep in mind: If the Objective keeps the action moving, the Confrontation keeps the action interesting.
Each scene and chapter also contain objectives, auxiliary objectives intended to move the characters through the book. In Chapter One, Talon’s objective is to find out if the cute but out-of-place woman on his ranch is really his new boss. Patricia’s objective is to prove it to him.
Objectives are tricky little things: they change as situations change. For the purpose of the novel, the dominant objectives (Love and Faith for Ride) must remain the same throughout or you’ll be riding down too many alleys and lose the main road. Auxiliary objectives change out of necessity: After Talon discovers who Patricia is, he’s met his goal and he needs to move on to the next one. Story objectives can change or not, but they must support the dominant objectives. As an example: since Talon’s and Patricia’s story objectives conflict, each changes their goals to obtain the dominant objective–Love.