By the time I recognized that I had been tying myself up in knots, I was already in a pretty tight tangle. Too happy that the narrative structure of my new story was all sorted out, I was unprepared to find that the plot structure wasn’t cooperating. The story was complete, already framed in my mind; and I knew the inciting incident for the part of it that happened in the past. There also had to be cause for the characters to act in the present, and it eluded me. Hence the knots. Depressing.

I tried to create a ground-zero event, but it was obviously only there to be ‘the incident’. Then I tried to scrap the story in the past and bring its event forward. Ruined everything – not enough time had passed. Finally I examined the motivations of the hero and heroine. To my intense relief, the tangle started to undo itself. It was clear that each of them had to have their own reason for getting involved in the story.

So in the present, there are two inciting incidents for the action plot. Additionally, there must be an inciting incident for the romantic plot. That makes four plot lines, when I had made myself believe that there would be only two – one each for the past and present. How I could do that when the single-timeline story I just finished had dual plot lines – one each for the action and romantic plots – is a mystery. But for now at least, I am no longer imitating a pretzel.

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