Monday, August 10, 2009

Twenty Classic Romance Plots - Part Two

Last week I attempted to come up with examples for the first 10 Classic romance Plots. To refresh your memory, here are the first 10 plots along with the next 10:

1. Secret Baby
2. Cinderella (rags to riches)
3. Opposites Attract
4. Bodyguard
5. Second chance/First love rekindled
6. Reunion
7. Stranded
8. Love Triangle
9. Marriage of Convenience (mail-order bride)
10. Beauty and the Beast
11. Sleeping Beauty/Ugly duckling
12. Amnesia
13. Fish out of water
14. Blackmail/Revenge
15. Forbidden love
16. Mentor/protégé (boss/employee)
17. Princess/Pauper; King/Beggar maid
18. Bad boy/good girl; Bad girl/good boy
19. Best Friends
20. The Road to Adventure


11. Sleeping Beauty/Ugly Duckling – “Wake Me With a Kiss” by Emily Dalton (Harlequin American Romance, 1997) Phillip Fairchild is called the “Perfume Prince”. When Phillip tracks down the winners of the “most fragrant rose” contest, he meets the three unusual winners and their beautiful goddaughter Aurora McBride. Phillip knows he’d give his kingdom for Rorie’s kiss, and is even willing to pass the three tests laid out by her godmothers. If he passes, he wins the hand of the prickly princess.

12. Amnesia – The TV show “Samantha Who?” starring Christina Applegate is the first thing that comes to mind. Samantha is a horrible person until she has an accident that gives her amnesia. In her new life she tries to make amends for her bad behaviour in her old life, especially the crummy way she treated her sweet boyfriend.

13. Fish out of Water – Several TV shows have used this device. Throwing New Yorkers into the wilds of Alaska seems to be popular. This is the premise behind “Northern Exposure” and “Men in Trees”. In “Due South” the opposite happens. Canadian Mountie Benton Fraser from northern Canada ends up in the wilds of Chicago. In “Life on Mars” police detective Sam Tyler is run over by a car in 2008, and wakes up in 1973.

14. Blackmail/Revenge – “Just Imagine” by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Avon 2001). In this historical romance set just after the Civil War, Kit Weston disguises herself as a boy and comes to New York City to kill Baron Cain, the man who stands between her and Risen Glory, the South Carolina home she loves. Instead, she falls in love with him. The interesting thing about this story, and several of the other novels, is that it blends not only the Blackmail/Revenge story, but the Marriage of Convenience plot as well.

15. Forbidden – “The Fulfillment” by LaVryle Spencer (Avon, 1979) After seven childless years of marriage, Jonathan Gray asks his brother Aaron to do the unthinkable: father a child with his wife Mary. Aaron and Mary have always been friends but Jonathan’s request awakens a forbidden passion between them. Aaron and Mary must choose between loyalty to Jonathan and happiness and fulfilment with each other.

16. Mentor/Protégé – “Lone Star Millionaire” by Susan Mallery (Silhouette, 1998). Texas oil man Cal Langtry is shocked to discover he’s father to a twelve year old girl. He takes the girl in when she loses her adoptive parents, and relies on his able assistant Sabrina to help care for her. Sabrina has always had a bit of a crush on her boss, but as Cal navigates the unfamiliar waters of fatherhood, he comes to appreciate her more than ever. Soon he learns he can’t live without either of them.

17. Princess/Pauper – “Cordina’s Crown Jewel” by Nora Roberts (Silhouette Special Edition 2002). Her Royal Highness Camilla de Cordina needs a break from her duties to just be plain old Camilla MacGee. So she packs her bag and rents a car, which promptly breaks down in the Vermont backwoods, where archaeologist Delaney Caine is working. An injury to his shoulder has left Del in need of some assistance, and Camilla offers to help, anxious to hide out for a while. They fall in love, but when Del learns her true identity, he’s hurt she hasn’t told him the truth.

18. Bad boy/Good girl / Good Girl/Bad Boy – “Rising Tides” Nora Roberts (Jove, 1998). I’m not sure if this strictly qualifies as a bad boy/good girl story, but I love this book so I’m going with it. Ethan Quinn believes he is a bad boy. He believes his terrible, abusive childhood means he’s not good enough for Grace. But Grace has been in love with him since she was fourteen. To get the life he wants for both of them, Ethan must face down his dark past.

19. Best Friends – “Just Friends” by Robyn Sisman, (Seal Books 2000). When Freya’s boyfriend dumps her, saying he wants to be ‘just friends’, she ends up at her long time friend Jack’s house. When Freya needs a date for her sister’s wedding, Jack steps up to take on the job. Freya starts to think that Jack may be good marriage material after all.

20. The Road to Adventure - “Maddy Lawrence’s Big Adventure” by Linda Turner (Silhouette Books, 1996). Maddy is a 34 year old elementary school librarian whose humdrum life gets blown out of the water when she’s mistaken for a criminal and goes on the hunt for the real bad guys in South America with a handsome adventurer. This story also has elements of the Bad Boy/Good Girl story: Maddy, a virgin, tells us at the beginning of the book she didn’t even help herself to grapes at the grocery store while Ace definitely colors outside the lines from time to time.

Can you think of examples of books you’ve read that fall into any of the twenty categories? TV shows and movies also count. Are there categories here that surprise you? Do you think any categories have been left out?

24 comments:

Hayley E. Lavik said...

A very concise list, Jana! I'm tempted now to think of other stories that might not fall int these categories, but I suspect they wouldn't be romance plots. I have to say, I'm rather partial to non-romance revenge plots, as they don't end with abandoning the revenge for the sake of love ;) The one I read for my Harlequin paper though, Carole Mortimer's A Past Revenge made good on it before the reconciliation though, which I appreciated.

The first story that I know that came to mind for this half of the list was Roman Holiday, a classic princess/pauper story. The scene when she cuts her hair always stuck in my mind, as I liked the 'permanence' of the change it symbolized.

Also reading Outlander right now, which is definitely a fish out of water. The foreign aspect of their interactions seems to have worn off now, so I await to see what theme will emerge in the next section.

I'm curious, regarding the ugly duckling/sleeping beauty trope, it sounds like it's pretty much a guaranteed "hero makes heroine realize she was lovely all along" idea. Have any authors ever switched that around, or found a unique way to spin it?

Ban said...

#18 kinda sounds like beauty and the beast (to me) - guy THINKS he's bad, THINKS he's not good enough ...
Very nice conclusion - I'm thinking I'm going to be a lot more conscious of these now when I read :D
Like Hayley though, it'd take me some time to see if my books fall into any of them as I read mostly fantasy too.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Hayley,
I think you're right about the revenge plot in romance. Often the hero/heroine abandons the revenge they seek for the sake of love. But I've also read other revenge plots (a couple of Nora Roberts books come to mind) where the hero/heroine join forces to defeat the villain. It's always very satisfying for the reader when the villain gets it in the end!

I loved Roman Holiday, probably because it features two of my favorite actors, Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. One summer my daughter and I held our own little Audrey Hepburn film festival and rented a whole bunch of her movies. "Sabrina" is another Prince/pauper story, this time with Sabrina as the pauper. It is also a variation on the boss/employee story. Sabrina, the daughter of the chauffer to a wealthy family, falls in love with the handsome, rich son.

Regarding the ugly duckling story, I would say Vicki Lewis Thompson put a unique spin on that classic plot with her nerd stories. I've got a Harlequin Temptation on my shelf by Nancy Warren called "Underneath it All" in which the hero deliberately gets a bad haircut, dresses in nerdy clothes and glasses etc. to escape. It was a fun spin on the ugly duckling story. But of course this hero was never "ugly".

Jana

Jana Richards said...

Hi ban,
The #18 (bad boy/good girl) example that I used perhaps isn't the best example of a true bad boy/good girl plot. Maybe somebody out there can give me a better example?

I'm wondering if fantasy has its own version of twenty classic plots. Are there conventions in fantasy that are repeated over and over? Do you think there are classic plots in other genre fiction such as mystery or westerns?

Thanks for your input ban.
Jana

Vince said...

Hi Jana:

I like the ‘buddy, just-one-of-the-guys, tomboy’ theme where the heroine fixes her own car (and even fixes some of the guys cars), plays sports on the men’s teams, and loves to drink beer with the guys after the game.

She is really not a ‘best friend’ but a buddy just as the other guys are buddies. She has a romantic interest in the hero but he has no clue about this. She does not have a girlfriend support system and does not know how to be ‘girly’. When the hero sometimes sees the heroine as a woman, he is afraid of what the other guys would think if he dated her?

There is an almost mandatory scene in this theme in which the hero complains to his buddy (heroine) about an air headed woman he just dated and the hero says, “why can’t women be more like men – like you, for example?” And she thinks “Well, here I am guy.”

This theme has lots of built in conflict but it is very rare. I’m not sure women want to read this theme or that publishers want to buy it. However, I think it is a fun theme for a guy to read.

BTW, I’ve never seen a blog posting on what publishers are now buying and looking for. I’d like to know what themes are so hot that editors can’t get enough of them! If I wanted to be published fast, I’d find out what editors want and I’d write that. (If I could.) In marketing we have a saying: “When you go fishing do you bait the hook with what you like to eat or what the fish likes to eat?” Just a thought.



Vince

Jana Richards said...

HI Vince,
I love your idea of the buddy plot, although I have to admit I can't think of any examples of romance books off the top of my head. There is a TV show I've seen once or twice in which a young woman has a group of men as her best friends. She is a sports writer and they play poker together and do "guy" type things together. I think the show is called "My Boys" or something like that. Help me people!

Vince, if I knew what publishers were dying to buy, and if I could write fast enough to cash in on a current trend, I'd be laughing. I've heard other writers and editors say that if you write to a current trend by the time the book gets to the editor, the trend is over. They say you have to write the book you're passionate about and hope it finds a home. I agree with that to some extend, but I also agree with you. A writer always has to be aware of the market and what is saleable.

Jana

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Jana, jumping in on your reply to Ban (jumping on the Ban-wagon? Sorry...), I would say absolutely fantasy has its standard plots and devices, as I'd say every genre does. The beauty, of course, is when the old formula hardly seems noticeable in the midst of a beautifully woven story. Also, in genres where the ending isn't set, there's a little more wiggle room, so things might not seem to clear. In romance, you give us a 'bad boy meets good girl' story, and we know right away what that means, and how it unfolds.

A few classic fantasy plots... the Hero's Journey (the classic archetype story, a la Highlander, etc), the farm boy turned great hero (or secret prince all along), restoring the deposed ruler/defeating the evil enemy kingdom (aka Lord of the Rings), etc. Anita could probably say a bit more about mystery/suspense plots after her course this summer, but the classic plot that comes to mind for me there is when an assortment of strangers go away to the remote location, someone gets murdered, and they try to figure out the whodunnit.

And of course this also goes back to your archetype blogs. There are concepts that echo in stories whether or not we intend them to, and the same goes for literary fiction. It's just that, for example, a fantasy novel has a rather more blatant Hero on a rather more blatant Journey to defeat a rather more blatant Evil ;) The good thing with the fantasy genre (at least from what I hear agents talking about lately) is a real push to get away from the tropes or find new takes on them, rather than reading yet another story of a motley party of human, dwarf, elf, and small humanoid not technically called a hobbit, out to save the world.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Hayley,
Everything kind of ties in together, doesn't it? I think all stories come from the archetypes with each genre and each literary tradition having their own particular way of using them.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, as usual.
Jana

Anita Mae Draper said...

Excellent list, Jana. I think I'm going to think throughout the day on these...

But an example of #18 is one of the free Harlequin ebooks I downloaded to my eReader:
The Rebel Doctor’s Bride by Sarah Morgan
Classic, classic example of this theme.

Roman Holiday is an excellent example, Hayley. Loved that movie.

Hopefully, I'll be back with more...

Ban said...

yes Jana there DEFINITELY are fantasy plots that are used over and over again - I'll have to see if Hayley wants to work with me finding them all so we can post for your amusement ;D

Ban said...

Guess I should have read Hayley's resp. before commenting (Ban-wagon HA HA HA!!!) still up for a list if you are though ...

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
"The Rebel Doctor's Bride"? Is that one of the 16 books Harlequin gave away as a promotion for their 60th anniversary? If so I've got those on my ereader too, although I haven't read that one yet. I'm going to have to look that one up.

Audrey Hepburn really is great in Roman Holiday, isn't she? And I don't know a woman alive with that tiny a waist.

Jana

Jana Richards said...

ban, I'd love to see a list of classic fantasy plots. Let me know when you post it.

"ban-wagon"!! Our Hayley definitely has a way with words!

Jana

Anita Mae Draper said...

The Rebel Doctor's Bride? Is that one of the 16 books Harlequin gave away as a promotion for their 60th anniversary?

Yes it is Jana, however, it was a late addition so there are actually 17 books to download.

And here's a bit of info I picked up on Twitter this am:

RachelleGardner Great post by @WendyLawton about some worrisome publishing trends we should be watching: http://short.to/m9t4

Kinda makes me mad.

Suse said...

Hi Jana, I was hoping for the boy/girl next door, but I guess that would fall under 19 (Best Friends).

There's been a lot of mention about Audrey Hepburn today, so I thought I'd tell you about a book I bought recently called "What Would Audrey Do?" by Pamela Keogh. This is an "Audrey primer" with anecdotes about AH and her insights on love, dating, beauty, style, raising children, success and generosity. The New York Times calls this book " a charming guide to Audrey-inspired living for the modern woman."

For the amnesia plot, Margot Dalton's "Another Woman" (1993) fits the bill. I copied and pasted the description from another website:

Leah Temple is living a nightmare. Somewhere in her past--a past she cannot recall--is a secret she is terrified of uncovering.

Paul Temple is fighting his own demons. His wife is back! Or is she? Gone is the conniving, devious shrew who'd made his life hell. In her place, a strong, loving woman he doesn't know ... and doesn't trust.

This book was also made into a Harlequin made for TV movie. I think this book/movie could also fall under the category of Bad girl/good boy.

I can think of a few books I've read that fall under some of the other categories, but with the memory I've had lately, do you think I can remember the names or authors?

Thanks for posting this list. It is very helpful. I'm going to copy the list and put it in my Romance Writing folder on my desktop.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
I'm not sure I got #17. I'll have to check it out.

I went to Wendy Lawton's blog at the address you gave. The practice of return and refund is very disturbing. The whole industry is changing and writers don't seem to have a lot of say in the matter. Will it come to a point where no writer can make any kind of living from writing?

Food for thought. Thanks for sending me the link.
Jana

Jana Richards said...

Hi Suse,
Love Audrey Hepburn. Such a classy lady. I'd love to read that book.

I've read several Margot Dalton books but not this one. It sounds great. But I've got to say that the Harlequin movies I saw were never even close to being as good as the books.

I'm glad you liked the list. It was fun to write even though it took me forever. As I shifted through my keeper books I kept getting sidetracked by rereading them!

Jana

Vince said...

Hi Jana:

Below is a quick list of major Western plots I can remember reading over the years. How do you think these compare to romance?

Western Themes

1. Gunfight at… (OK Corral, High Noon, Liberty Valance)
2. Hired gun -- hero is one or hero is set to stop one-- (Have Gun Will Travel)
3. Sheriff hired to Clean-up a Hard Town, Lawman stories, Texas Rangers, Marshals (Dodge City)
4. Catching Crooks: Cattle Rustlers, Bank Robbers, Runagate Indians (Bounty Hunter stories)
5. Range War, (Lincoln County Wars), (The Regulators)
6 Widow trying to run a ranch in need of a foreman (Louis L’Amour)
7. Stagecoach Stories (Stagecoach to Tucson, etc.)
8. Innocent Man Running from a Posse (Louis L’Amour)
9. Revenge for Killing family members (True Grit)
10. Ranchers against farmers; Cattlemen against Sheep herders
11. Farming, homesteading, Land rush stories
12. Wagon Train Stories (Series by same Name)
13. Gold Rush & Claim Jumpers & Mining Camps Stores (Jack London stories)
14. Riverboat Gambler & Professional Saloon & Mining Camp Gamblers (Maverick)
15. Cavalry, Blue Coat & Indian Fighters, Indian Agent (Fort This and That)
16. Cattle Drive stories (The Goodnight Trail)
17. Outcast, Tenderfoot from Back East, Half breed trying to fit in
18. Itinerant Adventures: (Preacher, Peddler, Medicine Man, Circuit Judge, Drifters, Grub line cowboys)
19. Doctor & Medicine on Frontier
20. Survival story, killers, posse after hero & stranded in desert
21. Hunters, Trappers, Indian traders, (Buffalo Hunters)
22. Pioneer Woman (hardships of frontier life from female POV)


Can you add to this list?

Vince

Suse said...

This is sort of in response to Vince's last post. I read a lot of Louis L'Amour when I was younger. Even though his stories were historical westerns, I considered them romances. L'amour also means love, does it not?

Jana Richards said...

Hi Vince,
That is an amazing list you've got there! I don't read westerns but I have seen a few western movies over the years and I can see where they would fit these classic plots.
Just goes to show you that be it a western, a fantasy or a romance, different writers can take the same plot and make it their own.

Jana

Jana Richards said...

Hi Suse,
I have to admit I've never read Louis L'Amour (and yes, my French isn't great but his name sounds like love to me!) I hadn't realized he put an element of romance in his stories. Romance is the kind of genre that sort sneaks in to other types of books. I might have to pick up one of L'Amour's books.

Jana

Vince said...

Hi Jana and Suse:

Louis L’Amour was born LaMoure and changed it to L’Amour which was highly criticized as the name “The Love” sounded too feminine for a western writer. He did use the name Mayo at first for some novels but went back to L’Amour rather quickly.

I think his most romantic book is “Conagher” which is a wonderful love story. I suggest you read this one first.

Vince

Jana Richards said...

Interesting Vince. Thanks for the recommendation.

Jana

Ban said...

Ok for anyone interested, I hunted down this list of fantasy cliche plots : http://amethyst-angel.com/cliche.html
Have fun !!!