Last year I started a novel (well it was supposed to be a novella, but it got out of control) I’ve given the working title of ‘Skeleton Romance’ (I really need to give it a proper name). It was a joy to write, and – as often happens when in the throes of writing – I chased the muse.
I stuck to my plot outline quite faithfully actually, just I found myself adding in extra stuff. The primary addition was my two antagonists. Now when I look at the story I know it’s all the stronger for their unplanned appearances. The problem though is since I never planned them, I also hadn’t planned how to resolve their conflicts.
Just like bullies in real life, it isn’t so easy to deal with bullies in fiction. I didn’t want to fall back on stereotypes for their motives, nor wrap them up in a way that a real teenager might try to do and then find themselves in deep water. This is why I stopped when I was essentially 3/4 of the way through the novel. I knew I couldn’t proceed without resolutions for both antagonists.
As the year passed and I wrote other things flashes of inspiration came here and there until now, when I have enough to wrap them both up, but am now faced with figuring how to weave the romantic ending and the resolutions of the two antagonists together.
In case any of you out there are writers or just curious This is how I’ve done it.
Step 1: arc outlines on index cards
I wrote out my original plot outline ending from the point I stopped to the end (which I’ll refer to as the romantic conclusion) on index cards, one scene per index card. Then I wrote the major antagonist’s conclusion as I envision it scene by scene onto cards, and the same again for the secondary antagonist.
Now I’ve got 10 cards each with their own scenes on them. When the kids are NOWHERE NEARBY (crucial in case the caps lock isn’t a hint) I spread these out on the rug in front of me.
Step 2: Lay out original arc
First I lay out the romantic conclusion, because it’s already got its flow and order. Then I look at my to antagonist conclusions and look for where they would piece in nicely to the romantic conclusion. For the most enjoyable end I need both of them wrapped up just before the final conclusive romantic scene, but depending on how it all reads, putting both conclusions side by side just in front of the final romantic scene might be awkward from a pacing and timing perspective.
Step 3: Insert other arc’s scenes
I also look to see if some of any of the antagonist conclusion scenes can be merged with any of the romantic scenes. for example, information to defeat on of the bullies might be stumbled across while the characters are actually doing something that propels the romantic arc forward. Now instead of having to write two separate scenes, I merely have to add a little to an already outlined scene.
Ultimately I had a lot of fun with this, figuring out my concluding outline, and I had so much fun finally finishing my extremely unusual romance filled with teen angst, sexual identity, and suicidal thoughts (because what romance doesn’t include considering suicide?)(the story really isn’t a romance anymore ;p more a coming out/coming of age).