For this post, let’s break down a well known romance plot to see where the story beats are going. This is an exercise I’d really recommend for authors of any genre. Take your favorite story, or movie, and break it down to see how they made everything work. You’ll be surprised how much it helps you break down your own story! And yes, this is the movie I’m turning into plot points, but it still translates to novel form.
Beauty and the Beast
We start out with the beautiful expository vision of the Prince being cursed for his selfishness. We’ve now learned:
- the Prince’s defining character trait (selfishness) which will need to change
- the stakes here (magic curse, only love can save him, he’ll stay a beast forever)
As Belle interacts with her Papa and walks through the town singing, we learn a lot about her personality as well. Other characters including the villain, Gaston, are introduced and some history is given as to who Belle is and how the tapestry of this town weaves together. We start to sympathize with Belle when we learn she decidedly does *not* fit in.
Our characters are established, so now they need to move. Belle’s father, lost in the woods and being chased by wolves, chooses to find sanctuary in the Beast’s castle. Oops!
Gaston proposes and Belle refuses. He swears to have her as his wife no matter what he has to do. We now have a sub-plot with lots of tension, and motivation for the villain.
Belle searches for her father, finds him locked in the Beast’s castle, and offers to become the Beast’s prisoner in exchange. This is in character for her, and now we have even *more* reason to root for her. Go, Belle!
We watch Belle learn about the curse on the castle & Beast (which we already knew about, because exposition, but it’s enticing and fun to watch Belle be given all those mysterious *hints*). Belle runs away and the Beast saves her which begins their friendship. We start to wonder; can Belle look beyond appearances to find the good things about the Beast? Will she find the redeemable person buried under the monstrous façade? The Beast steps out of his comfort zone and tries to win her love (awkward and adorable) and we start to root harder for him, too. Go, Beast!
Belle sees that her father is sick and the Beast lets her go, showing us that he’s changing from the selfish person he used to be into a selfless one.
But . . . Oops! As a result of the Beast’s selfless actions the townspeople find out about him and Gaston now has a perfect excuse to get what he wants. He leads the townspeople on a march to kill his rival, while Belle tries to stop them.
Obviously, this is going to be the meatiest, longest part of your book. Insert lots of action here! Along with all of the awkwardly adorable relationship moments.
Gaston seems to be kicking ass, but then Belle arrives (the turning point). The Beast finds a new reason to fight back and defeats Gaston. But oh no! He sacrificed himself in the process (because character development) and might die. Belle is provoked into making a choice; does she love the Beast, or not?
Belle confesses her love for him and the Beast changes magically back into the Prince. Their relationship is now firmly established. All the enchanted objects turn back into people in a pretty cool sequence.
The curse is broken. Everyone happily watches Belle and the Prince waltz the night away, while the secondary characters get a little screen time to tie up all their loose ends.
What do you think of this exercise? Would you want to do it with your own favorite story? Which story would you pick?