The Plot Thickens

I love a good plot, one with twists and turns and heart-pounding suspense. I love it when a book keeps drawing me back, enticing me to give up my cherished sleep to read into the night. I consider it a bonus when a book has all these elements and is also an historical.

Alas, these are the books I read, not the books I write.

To date my published works are at eight contemporaries and one historical. I’d love to write humor, but I strongly believe humor depends on one’s mood. What I find funny may not tickle anyone else. So I stick to what I know—ordinary people in small towns with classic problems or extraordinary people in the 19th century with unusual problems.

But plot is still my first priority, even though an agent years ago called my first contemporary novel “plot-heavy” and therefore unmarketable. Fortunately for me he was wrong. I sold that book and after three years it’s still doing well.

He was right in one respect. Contemporary plots generally focus on the hero and heroine, most of the action takes place in a single location, and there must be conflict that worsens before it gets better. I try to follow these rules using popular tropes—friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, secret baby…the usual. But I always end up with a lot of minor characters.

Where do my plots come from? They come from the news, from places I’ve been to, and from people I’ve known.

The opening of You Were Mine at Merlot has the heroine being chased by a stalker. That one came right out of my local newspaper.

The setting for A Pinot for Your Thoughts was based on houses, headlands, and sea caves that dot the Sonoma/Mendocino Coast.

The features of the house my heroine is documenting for an environmental report in A Touch of Chardonnay was based on buildings I visited in a beach community in Southern California.

The idea for Scandal’s Child began with a comment made by my ophthalmologist about hysterical blindness.

I like to grow books out of random ideas. I start with a scene and see where it takes me. I’m not a plotter. But I always have a premise, an idea of what the story is going to be about, and how I want it to end. My hubs always says, “Be sure to fulfill the promise of the premise.” All I can do is try.

I also like to start each book with a quote related to the theme. I do this with the full- length contemporaries. What are some of the themes? Wine, home, loyalty, friendship, and trust.

But the plot—the story—is my main focus, and I’m always happy when I type “The End.”

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