Monday, April 20, 2009

The Secret Baby, the Runaway Bride and the Romance Novelist that Loves Them

So, I got involved in a book this morning and forgot the time of day. This is not all that unusual. I love books and I often get involved in them and forget to pay attention to what is around me. What disturbs me the most is that it wasn’t even that good of a book. It just had a plot that gets me every time. Every. Single. Time.

It was a Secret Baby book. Yes, you heard me. A Secret Baby Book. I love Secret Baby books and I’m not alone. There are thousands of us. Maybe even millions of us Secret Baby lovers out there. I should be ashamed. I know this, but I’m not. The Secret Baby works.

What is the Secret Baby plot? Here’s the plot in a nutshell. Woman and man have an affair/short term marriage. Woman gets pregnant. Woman or man leaves. Woman does not tell man that she is pregnant and has the baby alone. Some indeterminate time later, man finds out woman has had his child. Chaos ensues. There are variations on this plot (usually involving siblings of the Secret Baby parents), but in general that is how it always starts.

This seems formulaic. It seems contrived, but romance readers (like me) are instantly drawn into the story. The Secret Baby involves a child. It’s a cheap trick but almost everyone loves a baby or a cute kid and almost everyone would agree that a child changes your life instantly. (Finding out that you are the parent of a rebellious adolescent can also be a big life change.) A character that in the past has only worried about themselves is now forced to consider another person – a person that is almost completely dependent on them. The Secret Baby provides an impetus for a character to change. As an added bonus, when the hero and heroine of the book are the Secret Baby’s biological parents, there is the past relationship that didn’t work to add intensity to the story.. The hero and heroine must overcome their shared past before finding their happily ever after. The Secret Baby is one way to add tension to the story and keep the pages of a book turning.

There are several “formulaic” (I hate that word.) plot devices. The Secret Baby. The Runaway Bride. The Reunion. The Takeover. The Vengeful Hero. The list goes on. Most have existed in one form or the other since people began telling stories and they continue to exist because they work. They are part of the tool kit that a romance writer can mix and match to craft his or her story. It is up to the writer to use them in an original and unique way.


haricot vert said...

I much enjoyed the last sentence in particular, and I agree with you. /nods

Donna Fasano, author said...

I used all of those 'tools' during my days writing for Harlequin as Donna Clayton. Twisting and turning those plots until they were unique was the trick, and I enjoyed every last minute of it!
I have published my latest book myself in Amazon's Kindle program. If you own a Kindle, take a took at my latest book. I think you'll enjoy it!