‘Popcorn Fiction’ is an umbrella term which covers a range of ‘Chick Lit’ from ‘Mummy Lit’ to throwaway holiday paperbacks. There are so many books like these out there already so, if you’ve decided to try your hand at writing your own, what secret ingredients are guaranteed to create something sweeter, sharper and more addictive than the rest? Here are some tips to help you start planning.
The most important ingredient is the character. Your protagonist has to be genuine. The reason we adore Bridget Jones is because we can relate to her. You should try to get inside the mind-set of your leading lady and understand how she thinks. Draw up a character profile, even if this includes things which won’t be relevant to the story, like her most embarrassing memory. Get it all down on paper- she will spring to life in no time! Do the same for every character in your novel. Think of the ways in which their personalities complement and conflict with each other so when you come round to plotting the novel you know exactly how they will respond to your events- no matter how scandalous they are!
You probably have a great idea for a story already. If you don’t there are two ways to set your creative cogs in motion. You could try taking real life events and adding fictional elements. Alternatively, you could take a story you love and work with it until you get something completely new and original, a la Bridget Jones’ Diary and Pride and Prejudice. Mix things up; make your tale fit with the times. You could use the old ‘woman meets man and falls in love’ storyline but with a contemporary twist- perhaps she starts looking online for a guy while working abroad, but the only one showing her any interest is her boss’ acned teenage son!
Once you have decided on a storyline, you need to add the good stuff. The trick to keeping the reader hooked is to add only a couple of main obstacles but allow them to organically grow and complicate so the resolution is hard to spot in advance. The central character’s actions and those of others should all feed into the storyline. If they don’t, cut them out- you don’t want to end up with loads of unresolved issues stressing you out at the final chapter!
Some people say that the staple features of Popcorn Fiction are worn out and should be avoided i.e. the ditsy central character, the well-meaning friends, the mysterious alpha-male, the fad diet, the shoe obsession, etc. I think, when done properly, they are the icing on the cake.
The most important thing to remember when planning your novel is to have fun. If you are enjoying yourself, your story will sparkle. So grab a pad of paper, some colourful felt tip pens, and your brilliant imagination and start planning!