Writing Lesson #6B: Using Christopher Vogler’s Plot Circle To Develop Your Romantic Story

Please read first Writing Lesson #6A

Act IIA -Descent: 6-8 (special world)

6.     Tests, Allies, Enemies

New rules

Welcome to the Special World where both your romantic protagonists embark on a journey in which they will never return the same. Your Hero and Heroine have decided to jump into their adventure, leaving their ordinary world behind them. They need to learn new rules and a new way of life. Your protagonists might pretend to be engage or married to avoid family criticism or get a promotion at work. They might need to learn to live together while taking care of a baby. They might get stuck on an island trying to survive together. This is a good stage in the story to test your protagonists, get on their nerves, use enemies to emphasize what is at stake for the protagonists, and send them some allies to soothe their nerves.  Think about the biblical book of Job – what challenges God threw at Job to test his loyalty to him. At this stage your protagonists hope that what they have agreed on would work despite all the flaws and problems in their initial plan.  They are hoping to have the cake and eat it too.

Pretty Woman – Once agreed to spend the week together, both Edward and Vivian faced different challenges. Edward needed to spend time shopping for clothes with Vivian, explain who she was to his suspicious lawyer, and deal with Vivian’s emotions. Vivian had to deal with different people who did not appreciate her presence in their ritzy environment; she learned to finesse her appearance, manners, and behavior so she would look like a lady instead of a street hooker. Despite facing different problems, both Edward and Vivian hoped that they would be able continue with their arrangement for the week. 

7.     Approach To The Inmost Cave

2nd Threshold. Belly of the whale. Breakthrough. No exit. Obstacles. Warning, Courtship. Romance.

Fools’ idyll is meant to shatter and it happens here. Create an event that will trigger a crisis that will threaten to end the arrangement of your romantic protagonists. Make it painful, hurtful. A moment where one of your romantic protagonists decides that he/she has had enough and no longer interested in the existing format of their relationship.  This 2nd Threshold serves several purposes: A. It forces both protagonists to admit that they need more from their relationship, more than they have admitted initially. B. Facing the possibility that they might lose the other person and acknowledging their need of this relationship, both protagonists are motivated to grow and make changes to make it work. This is a good time in the story to have a romantic scene or engage your protagonists in make-up sex.

Pretty Woman During the polo game Vivian was hurt by the fact that Edward told Stuckey that she was a hooker.  When Edward refused to understand how his behavior caused her pain, Vivian decided to leave. She did not touch the money that Edward threw dismissively on the bed. When Edward noticed she left the money, he went out after her and apologized. Then they went back to his hotel penthouse and had an intimate talk in bed.

8.     The Ordeal

 Test of death. Death of the ego. Facing shadows

After crossing the 2nd Threshold, both protagonists have to let their ego die and face their fears in order to maintain their romantic relationship. Make your protagonists do something that they have never done before, something that will show the other protagonist that they care about them and cherish their presence in their life. Let them show each other a side in their personality that they have never shared with anyone before.

Pretty Woman – The day after the reconciliation, Edward left the office early and took Vivian to the Opera in San Francisco. Encouraged by Vivian, Edward took the next day off for the first time in his career.  Vivian turned off his cell phone and they spent the rest of the day leisurely.

Act IIB – Initiation: 9-10 (special world)

9.     Reward

Celebration, Self realization. Taking possession. Elixir theft

At this point in the story, both your protagonists are changed people from the people they were at the beginning of it. Some have new understandings about themselves; some decide to change something in their life. Create an event or a conversation that brings this understanding to the surface. To make the story more interesting, have an event or a person that threatens to sabotage your protagonist’s resolution. For example if the man decides to propose, have his ex show up in his place and ask to give them a second chance.  A woman with fear of commitment is ready to tell the man that she loves him, is stuck in traffic while his flight is leaving any minute.

Pretty Woman – By the morning of their last day together, both Edward and Vivian knew that they really liked each other.  Edward told her that he would like to continue seeing her. He offered Vivian to become his mistress. Vivian rejected his offer. The relationship with Edward had changed her and she wanted more in life. In response to her response Edward mumbled “Impossible relationship”. At the moment, that was the best he could offer her. 

10.     The Road Back

3rd Threshold. Turning point. Heroes dedicate themselves to the quest. Motivation.

Protagonists cross the 3rd threshold in the story and make something out of their character that shows that they have changed.  They want to lead a different life from what they had before, a more happy and satisfying life.

Pretty Woman – Influenced by Vivian’s outlook on life, Edward decided to help Mr. Morse to save his company instead of his initial plan to take it over and sell it in parts. 

Act III – Return: 11-12 (ordinary world)

11.     Resurrection  

Choice. Show down. Death & rebirth. Climax. Catharsis.

If you have a fighting scene, or life or death situation, I hope you kept it for this moment.  Just before the final closing scene of declaration of love, give your readers some action. Create an event that will make them stop breathing and hold their hand to their mouth while worrying about the safety of the protagonists. This is a great time to show heroism and how committed the protagonists are to their new cause in life and their relationship.

Pretty Woman - Stuckey, angry with Edward for changing his business plan, went to the hotel and tried to rape Vivian. Edward showed up at the right moment to save her. He confronted Stuckey and kicked him out of the penthouse. 

12.     Return with The Elixir

Proof. Sacrifice. Change. Declaration of love.

The end of the romantic journey. Protagonists know and feel differently from what they did at the beginning of the story. They reach for each other and declare their love.

Pretty Woman – By the end of the week Vivian was back in her apartment, and she was ready to make some changes in her life.  The next morning Edward was ready to go back to NY. Feeling the empty space that Vivian had left in his life, he decided to change his plans and go to her. Despite his fear of heights, Edward climbed up the emergency ladder to reach Vivian

Now go start working on your romantic story. Make it good!

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