You mentioned you needed to focus more on the Nita and Nick romance plot and less on the Cthulhu plot. Could you expand a little on how you do that? What makes the romance the main plot? My Cthulhu plots tend to take over.
The things that make the romance the main plot are that the major events and turning points are about the romance, the theme is tied to the romance, and the climax is about the romance. Okay, that sounds obvious, so let’s look at this using Nita as the example because ARGH that’s all I think about these days.
Here are the turning point events:
Beginning: Jimmy gets killed by a Cthulhu minion, and because of that Nita meets Nick
Higher Stakes: Nick saves Nita by smiting Rich, a Cthulhu minion, and Nita has to accept the supernatural and Nick as future Devil.
Point of No Return: Nick is poisoned by Cthulhu, and Nita has to deal with a series of new Nicks as she fights Cthulhu.
Crisis: Nick is kidnapped by Cthulhu’s minions and Nita goes to Hell to get him back and put Cthulhu down.
Climax: Nita defeats Cthulhu and commits to Nick.
If this is Nita vs. Cthulhu, then Nick’s irrelevant except as a complication, a subplot. If this is Nita vs. Nick, Cthulhu is the complication in their love story arc. Pick a lane, Jenny.
So now that you’ve looked at the events that make your turning points, answer the following questions:
• Who’s the protagonist and what is her/his goal?
• Who’s the antagonist and what is her/his goal?
• What is the main conflict/central story question?
• What are the turning points?
Nita’s Cthulhu plot:
- Nita’s goal is to keep her island safe for the people who live there. Cthulhu’s goal is to take over the island and use it as a power base to become Devil, exploiting the people for his own ends.
• The conflict is Nita blocking Cthulhu and Cthulhu fighting back directly against Nita to take power from her, aka “Will Nita defeat Cthulhu and save her island?”
• The turning points: Nita shows up when Jimmy dies because Cthulhu ordered Nick killed; Nita realizes that she’s up against the supernatural when one of Cthulhu’s minions tries to kill her which ups her game, Nita is left to fight alone when Cthulhu poisons Nick, Nita goes to Hell to confront Cthulhu, Nita defeats Cthulhu.
Nita’s Romance Plot:
- Nita’s goal is to save her island because it’s her only connection to humanity.
Nick’s goal is to defeat Cthulhu because it’s his job.
Their goals bring them together in the same fight against the same Big Bad, but they get in each other’s way because they have differing views of reality and how to proceed.
- Nita and Nick begin to work together and are bonded even more through stress as Cthulhu tries to split them up because they’re more powerful together; they fight and negotiate as the start reversing the effects of Cthulhu’s plotting.
- The central question is “Will Nita and Nick compromise to forge and protect a partnership so that together they can defeat Cthulhu and live happily ever after?”
- Turning Points: Nita meets Nick when somebody tries to kill him and it’s her job to find out who; Nita accepts Nick as a partner when she realizes he hasn’t been lying about the supernatural; Nita sleeps with Nick and then finds out he’s been poisoned and has to work to accept and save him even though he’s somebody else (multiple somebody elses) now; Nita and Nick reconnect and commit just as he’s kidnapped back to Hell; Nita and Nick save each other, defeat the Big Bad, and live HEA.
Both plots have Nita as a protagonist and control of the island as a goal. One story is a power struggle and the other is a relationship test; one story is about politics and the other is about love and trust in a relationship. They both have most of the same events, the emphasis is just different.
For a romance plot, I don’t need as many details of Cthulhu’s general plot for the island, I just need the moves that threaten the romance. I don’t need all the stuff that Nick does to defeat him or that Nita does to defeat him separately, I need to arc them working together. The Cthulhu plot would make some crucial scenes in the romance unnecessary; the fact that they have sex three times has nothing to do with the Cthulhu plot, but they’re crucial to the romance since because of the poisoning, Nita has sex with three different Nicks who don’t remember each other or being with her before, so the struggle is to find the memory and the connection they had before. If Nita defeats Cthulhu in the Cthulhu plot, she returns the island to safely. If she defeats him in the romance plot, she’s done it by her and Nick working together which fosters a committed relationship having saved their island/home.
Short version: The events are the same, but the events don’t mean the same thing in the different plots. That means I can cut the romance-only events from the Cthulhu plot, and cut the miscellaneous Cthulhu events that don’t directly affect the romance in the romance plot. So the difference in the plots is where you find your meaning and put your focus.
Or approach it through character arc. Look at your protagonist and see what the turning points in her character arc are:
- Nita is alone and cold and afraid for her island.
- Nita joins forces with Nick after she gains a new understanding of the forces threatening her island (supernatural); she’s not alone any more.
- Nita commits to Nick and sleeps with him even though he’s radically different after being poisoned and works with him and the team they’ve assembled to save the island.
- Nita goes to Hell to save the island and Nick, realizing that she belongs everywhere now.
- Nita defeats Cthulhu and returns to Earth with Nick, establishing a safe warm community for everybody, demons and humans (sanctuary city!).
That’s a relationship arc, not a Cthulhu arc. She’s not growing and changing because she’s fighting Cthulhu, she’s growing and changing because she’s met Nick and connected to him and the team they’ve gathered, and in the process discovers who she really is, ready to become part of a committed relationship and her community.
Which is probably overexplaining. Argh.