According to Christopher Booker, there are only Seven Basic Plots in existence. And romance writers, with the required ending of HEA (happily ever after) have even fewer to chose from. Most, if not all, romance stories are Plot 7, Rebirth. Sometimes Rags to Riches, a Quest, or a Comedy might get thrown in as well, but romance is really about change and growth. Two people are meant to be together, but some force within one or both of the protagonists keeps them apart. When they grow enough to overcome that force, they have earned their HEA.
Successful romance writers are prolific, often writing several stories a year. So how do they manage to come up with so many different stories using one basic plot? I think it’s a little like zucchini.
We have two healthy zucchini plants in our garden. If you’ve ever grown zucchini, you know a modest plant can produce an astounding number of squash. I’ve heard a rumor that people in the Midwest lock their doors in August for fear a neighbor will drop off unwanted zucchinis. I know I’ve been tempted.
We’ve been eating zucchini every day, and yet so far we’re not sick of it. Taking a cue from Forest Gump's friend Bubba, we're eating it in a million different ways. It’s good dipped in cornmeal and fried, brushed with olive oil and rosemary and grilled, and stir-fried with onions and peppers. It’s nice stuffed with onions, mushrooms, celery, and cheese or with ground meat and rice. Zucchini bread is a classic, muffins are good, and I haven’t tried it but my neighbor gave me a recipe for chocolate chip zucchini cookies. I think shredded zucchini and carrots would make a lovely vegetable timbale, and it probably wouldn’t be bad in an omelet. It’s all zucchini, and yet each recipe tastes a little different.
Romance stories are like that. The basic plot may be the same, but each character is an individual, acting according to his or her motivations and experiences, and interacting with other individuals. There may be popular tropes like friends to lovers or secret babies, but when they’re presented in a new and unusual way, the story feels fresh. I think that’s why romance fans are such voracious readers. They can count on an introduction to interesting people, a heartfelt struggle, and finally a feel-good ending, and yet each story is unique.
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup oil
1 cup shredded zucchini
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 small can pineapple tidbits - drained (optional)
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a loaf pan or spray with cooking spray. In medium bowl mix dry ingredients (first 6 ingredients). Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in eggs, vanilla, and oil. Mix the wet ingredients together in the well. Add zucchini, nuts, and pineapple and stir until batter is well moistened but do not overmix.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 60 to 70 minutes. A toothpick in the center should come out fairly clean, although the bread will still be moist. Let cool in pan 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack before slicing.
Makes about 16 slices.