- The main character ends up – in whatever way – with her soul-mate.
- There is a happy ending.
On these grounds, I rejected the following alternative plot directions for Burning Embers:
- Coral falls in love once more with her ex-fiancé, Dale, and rejects Rafe.
- Coral refuses to swallow her pride and go to Rafe when he is ill.
- Coral believes everything the witch doctor tells her, and will not be swayed.
- Rafe refuels his affair with Coral’s step-mother.
- Rafe ends up with Morgana, the dancer with whom he’s been having an affair.
- Rafe is unable to share with Coral the truth of his past.
- Rafe dies from his illness.
The 1998 romantic film Sliding Doors explored the idea of plot alternatives. However, it’s not a film I enjoyed for the simple reason that I think the message carried forth in the diverging plots is not uplifting or positive. The plot splits in two as the protagonist, Helen, rushes to catch an underground train. Helen 1 gets on the train in time; Helen 2 does not. Helen 1 gets home to find her boyfriend cheating on her with another woman. Helen 2 does not. The ending? Helen 1, who has gone on a great journey of self-discovery and met a new, lovely man, dies. Helen 2, who hasn’t achieved much at all in the plot, lives (and meets the new, lovely man of the other plot branch, just to confuse you). To my mind, that’s the wrong way around – to develop a character and have her find her soul-mate but then kill her off isn’t a comfortable plot for a romance story; and neither is a woman doing very little developing throughout and then meeting a nice man at the end of the story.