Novel Writing: The Remake Your Life Plot

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I'm about three chapters into a new novel and the other day when I was making some notes on themes and events to come, the thought occurred to me that I'm writing a Remake Your Life plot.

I made that name up, but these kinds of plots are staples of women's fiction.  For various reasons, the protagonist's life falls apart, usually in unexpected ways, and then she has to go about finding a new one. 

As I made notes and pondered, a rough basic outline of this kind of story came to me and I jotted it down.  Here it is:

1.  Everything falls apart, and/or the protagonist loses everything she's held dear.

2. She has no choice but to start over again, often in a new place.

3.  There, she's a stranger in a strange land.  She has to navigate in these strange new surroundings and it is often puzzling.

4.  But slowly, she settles in.  And bit by bit things begin to go well.

5. However, there is still more to be learned.  Any lingering issues left over from the problems at the start will now rear their heads to be solved.

6. The heroine's actions come back around to haunt her, good and bad. 

7.  The choices the heroine has made in the second half of the book are now what truly count because these are the choices she has made as her new, wiser self.

8. The heroine uses these new found traits and skills to manage the final crisis.

9.  Often, but not always, she returns home triumphant.

This is also a variant, of course, on the heroine's journey.

What do you think?  What did I miss?  What did I get right?  Have you ever written a lot like this?  Guys, why aren't there more novels with plots like this for men? 

I'd love to hear your opinion.

*Don't forget to sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter.  In return, you'll get a free Ebook called Jumpstart Your Book with a Vision Board.  It will help you envision plots like the one discussed here!

**Photo of board game by Will Folsom.

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25 Comments on "Novel Writing: The Remake Your Life Plot"

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Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/12/2012 17:58

J.D., You mean like men? 🙂 In women’s fiction, that’s often the case. Great suggestions because more conflict is always good.

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
01/12/2012 17:52

For her to lose everything is not enough. Five and six suggest some difficulties. I think it should be more forceful than that. Once she sets her mind on recovery, she should encounter some impossible-to-overcome obstacles–these sometimes walk around on two legs.

Jessica Baverstock
Guest
01/13/2012 03:42
I would think that actually a lot of guy novels follow a similar plot line, but wouldn’t admit it. For example, guy’s life is falling apart, wife is leaving him, job is on the rocks, all because he is selfish/works too much/is a pain to live with/can’t work with a team. Suddenly he finds himself in a holdup/receiving a ransom call/falling in with a bad crowd. Action, mayhem and witty dialogue ensues, during which he realises why his life was falling apart. Along the way he begins to change, eventually using his new-found strength to solve the climactic situation. Similar… Read more »
Cheryl Reifsnyder
Guest
01/13/2012 07:30

I like this–you’re filling in the details for the heroine’s journey. The only thing I can think of that might be missing is that some of her choices will make things worse, leading up to that final crisis. Although perhaps that’s encompassed in her actions coming back to haunt her! Anyhow, great way to think about this 🙂

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/13/2012 07:41

I sort of had in the back of mind that a few series mystery novels might follow this pattern, broadly. I’m thinking of an LA detective whose name I can’t remember who is in therapy for anger management, whose house has been destroyed by an earthquake. His entire life is changing and being remade and its through his work that he figures stuff out. So I think you’re onto something–men tend to figure things out through work, whereas women do it through relationship. Kind of fun to ponder.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/13/2012 07:41

J.D., you’re funny.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/13/2012 07:42

Cheryl, yes, that’s brilliant, I think that is is a missing step–that her choices first make things worse. All this input is great, we’re going to have the structure of this kind of plot nailed!

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
01/13/2012 04:56

Relationships? You mean like with her best friend?

J.D. Frost
Guest
01/13/2012 13:11

Where is Jessica? lol

Zan Marie
Guest
01/13/2012 13:18

My WIP has a bit of this. A retired teacher who is recently widowed, the MC must decide if getting involved with an abused foster child is something she should/could do. Needless to say, obstacles abound. ; )

Samantha Gluck
Guest
01/13/2012 15:47

Thought provoking list, Charlotte. Don’t we all want to read about protagonists overcoming impossible obstacles — rising from the ashes, so to speak — to find success, true love, and joy? As an earlier commenter said, a lot of novels for men follow similar plot lines, but the structure is more subtle and they cope with the obstacles differently in most cases.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/13/2012 15:47

I think she’s probably hiding from you. 🙂

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/13/2012 15:48

Love those obstacles! And I do love all the variations of the Remake Your Life plot, I’m a huge sucker for them.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/13/2012 15:49

Samantha, Those are my favorite stories to read. And I love this kind of tale, when people lose everything and have to find the courage to start over and in the process discover things about themselves they never imagined. I think we’re all on a path to awaken our authentic selves and these kinds of stories just present one aspect of that.

Jessica Baverstock
Guest
01/13/2012 17:38

Jessica was asleep! 😛 Or at least trying to sleep…and then not and deciding to check the comments to this post on her iTouch at 12am and then her iTouch rebelling and refusing to display the page…So my iTouch was hiding from you too!

Did you realise you had such power over electronic devices J.D.?

Jessica Baverstock
Guest
01/13/2012 18:14
Arg! I just wrote a long comment and then lost it. Gonna try again. I’ve been thinking about this overnight. I believe this is what Blake Snyder (of Save the Cat fame) would call a Rite of Passage story. It’s about life, where the “monster” is ‘often unseen, vague, or one which we can’t get a handle on simply because we can’t name it.’ He gives examples like drugs, alcohol, puberty, mid-life crisis, old age, romantic break-up, grieving. Usually the people around the hero can see the problem but the hero can’t. Snyder says, ‘The story is about the hero’s… Read more »
Sue Mitchell
Guest
01/13/2012 21:38

Jessica, you totally nailed this!

Sue Mitchell
Guest
01/13/2012 21:47
I haven’t written fiction in years, but recently I’ve been warming up to the idea. This post and conversation is really inspiring me! Jessica’s plot might be slightly different. The theme there is more of acceptance, whereas in your original version, the character actually builds new skills and attitudes in response to the crises. The two types of stories would have a very different feeling at the end. In Jessica’s, the reader would probably feel compassion and understanding for the fact that her life is messy, but that’s what it means to be human. In yours, Charlotte, there is more… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/14/2012 07:22
I’ve got to pull that book out and read it, every time you mention it, there’s great stuff in it. This is really, really helpful, Jessica, thank you. I especially like the part about the “wrong way to fix it,” because I think that’s so apropos. In our learning process as humans, we grasp at solutions in order to get out of pain fast. And often those solutions are the exact wrong thing but we’re so desperate we don’t see that. And yes, “natural buoyancy” also called letting go is ultimately the solution to just about everything. Thanks for all… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/14/2012 07:23

I like your take on the nuances of the plot, Sue. I think that you have the makings of a fiction writer deep within for sure!

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/14/2012 07:24

J.D. has crazy powers the extent of which we don’t even know for sure, and this is just proof. 🙂

Sophia Chang
Guest
01/18/2012 14:52

Aaaand there’s my novel. 🙂 I love this – so glad I found your site! We’re BlogHer ad network sisters.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/18/2012 16:15

Hey Sophia, I’m glad you found me, too. Sounds like we are not only BlogHer ad network sisters, but novelist sisters–both of us writing in the same area and the same plot structure.

Cheryl Reifsnyder
Guest
01/20/2012 04:12

I thought you’d like to know that I linked to your post yesterday, in my blog about writing blog topics. Not sure why it doesn’t show up above, but you’ve done a great job here applying the Hero’s Journey to a specific type of story. Thanks for sharing!

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/20/2012 10:30

It probably doesn’t show up because sometimes Typepad is retarded. Thanks so much for linking to me!

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