An engraving from the Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
♫♪ Tell me a story
Tell me a story
Tell me a story, before I go to bed.
You said you would, You promised you would,
You said you would, if I’d be good!
So tell me a stor-ry before I go to bed. ♫♪
If you want the REAL words and tune, you can go here. Mama must have changed the words a little to fit our situation. And she only sang the chorus–the best part. 😉
Some of my earliest memories are stories Mama told. She often changed the story to make it easier for little ears to hear.
My favorite story for a long time was Little Red Riding Hood. When Mom told me the story, she said the big bad wolf raced ahead to Grandmother’s house and locked the grandmother in the closet. When I got a year or two older, I heard someone else tell the story or maybe they read it.
In that version of the story, when BBW got to Grandmother’s, he didn’t just lock her up, he ate her up! What’s up with that? I wondered.
So I asked Mom about it. “Why do they tell the story wrong?”
She shook her head. “They don’t tell it wrong. I changed it for you.”
“Why’d you do that?” I felt really silly, not knowing how a story as elementary as LRRH really went.
“Because when I told you the part about the Grandmother getting eaten up, it made you cry.”
Mom wasn’t the first one to change that story. There are a ton of versions. One, called Red Cap, was adapted by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
So if you’re studied very much about writing, you know there are only so many plot scenarios in the world.
According to Lori L. Lake,
The bare bones plot of Romance looks like this: boy/girl meets boy/girl; conflicts arise; something or someone is lost; conflicts are dealt with; boy/girl finally gets either the object of his/her affection or someone better. Within that plot construct, there are at least a dozen scenarios such as the following.
ROMANCE PLOT SCENARIOS
- Amnesia – One character helps (or takes advantage of) the other who has lost his or her memory.
- Beauty and the Beast – One of the characters is marred or scarred—usually physically, but sometimes emotionally.
- Cinderella – A classic plot where the protagonist (male or female) goes from rags-to-riches and wins a Prince/Princess after experiencing deprivation and want.
- Class Differences – One is in a different class or world than the other. Doesn’t have to be monetary—could be due to education, lifestyle, or work.
- Family Feud – Two characters are interested in one another, but their separate worlds seem closed because of family hatreds and misunderstandings.
- Good/Bad Dynamics – Character #1 is desperately in need of redemption, and Character #2, who is clean-cut and straitlaced, is amazed to find him/herself attracted to and interested in the “Bad” Boy or Girl. Another version of this is that Character #1 is somehow kinky or kooky and drives the clean-cut Character #2 to distraction, but between the two of them, they find a way to bridge their differences.
- Homebody v. Adventurer – The characters have opposing traits. Which one will change in order to preserve their love? Another variation on the theme is City Mouse v. Country Mouse.
- Kidnapping – One character is kidnapped. The other character may be the kidnapper, a helper, a detective, bystander, or someone else.
- Lost/Snowbound/Stranded –Two characters who were formerly not interested in one another—perhaps didn’t even like one another—are thrown together in solitary, forced intimacy complete with pitfalls and danger. They learn to get along and, surprisingly, grow in respect and caring.
- Mistaken Identity – One character isn’t who the other thinks he or she is.
- Secret – One character has a secret that must not be revealed or all love could be lost. This works well with coming out stories, too.
- Unknown Baby – One character has a baby, but the father never knew. At a later time, the father and mother meet again, with him still not knowing the baby is his.
If there are only three or seven or twenty story scenarios, why isn’t one book exactly like the next?
Okay, Red Riding Hood isn’t a romance. It’s a fairy tale. But my point with Red and Wolfie is that even with all those people writing same story line and working independently (or not so independently) they ended up with completely different tales. The same way romance writers, using the same romance plot lines, end up with completely different books.
Back to my favorite childhood fairy tale. If I were writing it, I’d call it The Wolf and the Hood–and in my version, Red, without the help of the woodsman, would rescue Granny and kick Big Bad’s tail.
But then, that’s just me.
How would you pen it?