I'm working on the plot of my NaNoWriMo novel. Yes, unlike last year, I hope to have a working outline in place when I get started. I'm having a great time working on it; I have a very good feeling about this story. (Incidentally, did you notice that semicolon? I'm trying--with limited success--to be more conscious of my overuse of the em-dash in my prose. Please comment if you think I'm getting sloppy.) It's a very exciting story about a girl who goes up against a vast and ruthless commercial power in her quest to discover the key to her past. There are airships, and a little magic, and a magical airship. The bad guys are monopoly-hoarding slavery-condoning environment-destroying capitalist monsters. The good guys are brilliant humanist inventors. It's gonna be so rad.
So one of the things I need to figure out about the plot is the romantic aspect, and I thought I'd turn to you, dear readers, for your thoughts. The basic situation is that she is thrown together at the beginning of her quest with a seemingly helpful fellow who is, in reality, a spy for the enemy. But he repents, of course, and becomes a valuable companion and eventual love interest. The trick will be to have the reader and the protagonist convinced that he is, in fact, a good guy, despite his earlier betrayal, and to not end with the feeling that the protagonist (her name is Elsie) is compromising her integrity by forgiving him.
So here are some possible brief synopses of how the romantic plot could unfold. Do you like one better than another? Is one better than the rest when it comes to dramatic action? How about retaining the integrity of the characters? What do the different scenarios make you think about the characters?
1. He comes to like her bit by bit. Something happens where the chips are down, and on the verge of handing her over to the enemy, he changes his mind and saves her bacon instead. Then he confesses everything. She is hurt and angry, but over the course of their journey he has chances to prove himself, and it turns out that he had a desperate reason for kowtowing to the enemy. Eventually she comes to love and trust him in return.
2. She comes to like him, but then discovers his betrayal. Furious, she turns on him, and leaves him to fend for himself, despite his assuring her that he has a desperate reason for kowtowing to the enemy. Later he reappears in a dire moment and saves her bacon, in clear defiance of the enemy, thus proving himself, and she forgives him.
3. She comes to like him, but then discovers his betrayal. She confronts him, but they can't part ways due to circumstances. He explains that he had a desperate reason for kowtowing to the enemy. He gets more chances to prove himself, and eventually she relents.
4. She comes to like him, but then discovers his betrayal. She keeps the knowledge to herself, hoping to keep getting help out of him until the risk becomes too great. She is not really surprised that he wasn't trustworthy after all. But then he confesses it to her on his own, and she doesn't know what to do with all her mixed emotions. After finding out more about the desperate situation that forces him to kowtow to the enemy, perhaps through meeting his family or something, she forgives him and allows herself to feel the affection.
I think I'm leaning toward the last one, but I'm not sure it will fit in a 50,000 word novel--which is okay, really, since ideally the full novel would be about twice that long.