A romance plot or a "defeating the villain" plot?

by Ethan
(California)

Question: I have a story with some characters that I really like, but I haven't developed the main plot. I have the backstory, the character roles, and other essentials like that but no main story (or title). I'm stuck right now between a story that focuses on the developing romantic relationship between the two main characters or a story that focuses on the main characters defeating the antagonist and his evil plan (whatever it might be). The thing is, I feel that if I focus on the latter plot, there won't be much room for any developing romance and if there is it will seem out of place. I can't just have these characters not get together though, it's essential to the story. It's like I have two versions of the story. One where it's just a casual romance with nice side characters and one where they have to save the world or whatever. I can't decide what I should do, and it's really overwhelming me.


Answer: As you probably know, there are plenty of stories that have both an overall plot and a relationship arc. (In fact, a story should have both to feel complete.) Whether a story is primarily an adventure story or a romance often depends on emphasis.

In a true romance, the adventure may just be a vehicle to get the two romantic leads to interact more closely than they would have otherwise, so their relationship can
develop.

In a true adventure, the relationship may be a vehicle for the main character to have his/her approach or attitude challenged and tested so he can grow into the person who can win the day.

Regardless which way you go, consider making both of these plotlines integral to the story. Each of them needs the other to create additional emotional layers.

An obvious example here is The Hunger Games, which would be a much shallower story if the whole Peeta relationship arc were removed.

On the other hand, the emphasis in Twilight is so much on the relationship that there's very little overall story for the first 2/3s of the book (which I find to be a weakness). It's only when the villain enters that the overall thriller story emerges.

However, in both these books, the relationship and the overall plot co-exist because each is essential to the other. Thanks to Peeta's example, Katniss stops letting her situation rob her of her humanity. Through James' pursuit of Bella, Edward discovers his inner strength.

You may only discover in the writing which of your arcs becomes foreground and which is background.

Something else to consider: sometimes what matters is not how much space/time a particular arc gets in a novel, but that the significant stepping stones are there. As long as the reader can appreciate the significance of a particular arc, it may not need to take up a lot of words.

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Oct 20, 2015
thanks so much!
by: Ethan

Thanks a lot for your advice, that actually makes a lot of sense to me now. I've decided to just try writing the story naturally and see which plot comes more naturally. Thanks for answering! :D

May 02, 2016
both, why not
by: Anonymous

I have written a story with a villan, two characters are thrown together at the start and a romance develops between the two coming to a head just before the sad and dramatic end.

I wrote this because it's what I wanted. I hadn't given any thought to 'A romance plot or a "defeating the villain" plot'. I just did both and it works.

Lots of films and books have a couple thrown together, whose romance develops while chasing the baddy. You should definitely have both, or even make it an attempted and ultimately failed romance, this would keep the reader wondering if it would ever happen.

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