Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Writing Romance

Happy Valentine's Day! In honor of this lovely day, let's take a look at the love-factor in the books we, well, love.

If you google "writing romance" you'll get a long list of helpful tips. You'll find suggestions on creating your characters, knowing your setting, and wrapping the romance throughout the plot. I love how Ally Sestito adds the "cheese-factor" into the mix, or rather warns against it. Ever read a book where the romance dripped with so much sweetness it sent you searching for a wet-wipe? That's the "cheese-factor." You'll want to avoid that. Then there's the steam element, can you write a romance scene that grabs the readers heart or do you write the ones that leave them feeling jipped? (This is so me, I struggle with the romance scenes. That's why I did a lot of research, before I wrote this post :).

Just like finding that perfect Valentine's date, writing YA romance can be a bit tricky. You don't want to write romance that leaves the reader feeling like you just spent time with a fake and you don't want to write romance that leaves the reader creeped-out and looking for every available exit door. You want to write romance that makes a reader watch the main character's texts and wonder why he hasn't gotten back to her, yet. So what do we need to keep in mind when writing romance or romantic scenes? All the articles I read touched on one common point. Keep it real. From the characters to the setting to the design of the cover, keep it believable.

Make the characters live, eat, and breathe in the minds of the readers. Give them normal characteristics the reader can identify with, good and bad. Show us their physical and mental reactions to the events of your book. Make them people a reader will miss when the story is over. If you do this, readers will feel what the character feels, including love and hate (an equally powerful emotion).

The plot is fundamental. This is where the events, problems, situations, and conflicts in life will press your characters together, rip them apart, and just when we can't stand having them apart any longer, it'll pull them together with a death-grip. There are two main romance threads you'll see in writing articles: romance that rides through conflict, gaining strength through the process and romance that is born from hatred (either mutual or one-sided). Romance that rides the wave, is the kind that brings two characters together early in the book. They have to survive the insurmountable in order to make it to the end of the story. And when they make it to the end, they have a deeper love than when they started. Think the Twilight Series, by Stephanie Meyers Oh, they had their moments, but we all knew they never really hated each other.

Then there's the romance born out of hatred. Because opposites can magnetize readers, this can be a very effective plot tool for a romance novel. This plot involves one or both main characters disliking, even hating, the other, but a conflict arises that forces them to work together and as they conquer (or fail) they find their feelings take on a new direction. They see things in the other they hadn't seen before; things they like. Think Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. There exists a distrust and dislike in at least one of the characters from the beginning which changes as the story unfolds. (These plots can be combined to make a together-apart-together-apart-together plotline in any pattern of your choosing--you get the picture:).

Dialogue. If you fill your romance scene with oodles of "oh, honey pork-chops," we're liable to run for higher ground. But if the dialogue is like watching a super movie, the reader becomes part of the story, captivated by the romance you've created. The reader becomes engaged! This is where the "cheese-factor" becomes an essential watch-label. I encourage you to read Ally's article and keep that dialogue far from sounding like the things your parent's say just to gross you out.

Whether you write contemporary romance or YA dystopian, you are bound to bump into the occasional romance scene. If the google-experts are right, and they usually are, remember to keep the moment realistic, in character, fitting to plot, and be believable. How do you do that? Well, I wish I could give you a step-by-step method, but in truth it takes practice. And lots of critiques.

Now it's your turn...

What is the number one irritation in a bad romance scene? (What makes it bad?) What makes a good romantic scene sing?
Where do you go for romance writing resources?
**My favorite ? of the day** Should every story have a romantic element, even if it's a small one?

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