Plotting via Motivation

Laurie Schnebly Campbell’s second Romance Novel beat out Nora Roberts for Best Special Edition of the Year. After writing six books, she had enough inquiries about her method that she began holding workshops and teaching groups of Romance Writers. Soon after that, she realized she loved teaching as much as writing and began a whole new phase of her career.

040818 laurie

So I had the luck to attend a workshop she presented in March at my local Romance Writers of America Chapter. Laurie spoke on Plotting via Motivation and From Plot to Finish, both subjects near and dear to my writerly heart. This week, I am focusing on the motivation.

040818 special edition

Laurie suggested we challenging couples in Love. Make them suffer! Let them fall in love and show how being in love makes life a lot tougher. They can be reasonable people but have conflicts. Here are seven things that are likely to cause conflict according to marriage counselors.

1. Gender Roles. Historic love stories, as well as contemporary, can have this issue. Maybe the hero or heroine doesn’t fit the mold society set out for them.

2. Loyalties. To family, to work, to each other, maybe to country. If either has been in a military unit, they will have a hard time breaking with that attachment. (An excellent example of this is Sha Renée’s book, Forbidden Kisses)

040818 forbidden kisses

3. Privacy. Does she read his mail? Or more modern story, emails or texts. Do you want the bathroom door open or closed? A bigger issue than that comes from personality types. Glommers. (Overly-attachment oriented) He won’t ever let go. Ever. Non-glommers like to have emotional space. Lots of conflicts if he feels rejected by her need to have “me” time.

4. Money. This is the most frequent conflict. In Regency Romances, if he is titled but wealthy and she is rich but maybe descended from merchant lines, he might feel embarrassed to have society know that he was forced into the marriage. Oh, the lovely, lovely conflict!

5. Power or Control. Certainly an issue in love and sex. But it can show up in all other areas.

6. Sex. When, where, how, why, and why not. All you Fifty Shades fans know how this one works.

040818 children

7. Children. Should they have any? Do either already have some? Back to our impoverished nobleman, even if he marries for money and not love, he must produce an heir with his wife to continue the line. Only then may he take a mistress. And only then can she take a lover. Conflict is the name of that game.

Of course, there are thousands of others but these are the main ones. The issues can surface on the first date or after years together. Often conflict seems to occur when a need isn’t being met. So what do your characters do? Depends on their goals.


Mommy! I’m thirsty. If you are at home and your child can reach faucet himself, you will be annoyed. He just wants attention. But if you are lost in the desert, you recognize the real need and start looking for water.


“I don’t want to dress up for this party. I’ll wear my sweats.” Should your character get ready for battle if their loved one says this? What if, instead of squaring off, he or she steps back and lets it happen. Chances are the sweats-wearing partner will feel embarrassed. Like a Chinese finger trap, the issue is resolved when both stop pulling away from each other

040818 sweats


Why do they want revenge? Maybe because they have been hurt. Be sure to have your characters acknowledge when they feel hurt. And if they don’t get satisfaction, what do they plot instead?

Because Romance revolves around a Happily Ever After ending, Laurie shared the following that can make it all resolve in the final chapters.

Five ingredients for a lasting love

1. Work at it. Not everyone feels an overwhelming love, sometimes relationships require work.

2. Encouragement. This comes automatically in the early days. But it fades. The trick is to keep up this habit.

3. Communication. 70% non-verbally. Even if the couple has little in common, establishing regular chances to talk and connect will keep the love alive.

4. Mutual Respect. Both need to respect themselves and each other. OR there will be a problem.

5. Acceptance. Changing people, thinking you can change them, working to change them, all are deal breakers. A hero who accepts the heroine and visa versa will have a happy ending.

040818 acceptance

Early in the story, of course, there will be criticizing, arguing, and angry words. Resolve that by any of the above.

A really satisfying ending cannot be resolved by anyone else but from the Main Characters. They need something that only the other person can provide.

In wrapping up the first session, Laurie shared this Public Service Announcement: Don’t panic if you sell your first book then don’t sell another for a while. That happens and you can’t let it discourage you. Keep writing!

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Thursday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s