How to Refocus a Plot
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of story you want this to be. Is it a romance? Is it something else with a strong romantic subplot? Is it something else with a light romantic plot?
If you want it to be a romance, you definitely need to take this conflict and shove it into the background. It can still be there and serve as the backdrop against which the romance plays out, but ideally the focus should always be on your couple and not on other characters or the conflict that’s happening. In other words, whatever is happening in regard to the conflict or other characters, your couple should still be at the center of that somehow.
- The Twilight saga, for example, is a supernatural romance. The ongoing conflict with other vampires, the Volturi, and the wolves wasn’t really the point of the story–the romance between Edward and Bella was. All that other stuff just provided conflict for the couple and gave the story an interesting backdrop against which to play out. If you took the romance between Edward and Bella out of the story, you would no longer have a story.
If you want your story to be something else (as in some other genre) but with a strong romantic subplot, ultimately your couple will “share the stage” with the conflict and other characters to some degree. Your couple will take center stage as far as the characters go, but the conflict won’t just serve as a backdrop. It will be the heart of the story.
- Caraval, for example, is a fantasy novel (not a romance novel), and the romance between Scarlett and Julian is an important part of the story, but it’s not the heart of the story. The story is more about Caraval and Scarlett’s search for her sister. If you take the romance away you would have to change a lot, but it’s possible for the story to exist without the romance.
If you want your story to be something else (a genre besides romance) but still with a light romantic subplot, your protagonist will still take center stage character-wise,
- The Hunger Games, for example, is a dystopian novel. The romance between Katniss and Peeta (or Katniss and Gale for that matter) isn’t the point of the story. Katniss’s survival in the games and her opposition of the Capitol is the point of the story. If you take away the romantic elements and still have a story. You have to tweak a few things, but the plot doesn’t rely or even lean on the actual romance.
Once you’ve figure out which route you want to take, you’ll know how big or small of a role the “big fight” conflict should actually play in your story, and that will help you figure out exactly what to do with it. Plus, if you know you want the romance to be the heart of the story, you know you need to refocus your efforts into figuring out how this romance builds up and experiences challenges with the help of the conflict playing out in the background.
Something else that can be helpful is looking at different types of story structure/story templates. A popular one making the rounds right now is Save the Cat Writes a Novel, but there are lots of others. The key is to use these things as a guide, not a template, and not to panic if your story doesn’t fit the suggested layout exactly. In other words, don’t feel like you have to force your story into any particular layout. But looking at what’s out there and using it to help re-tool your story can be very helpful. Good luck!