As I’ve been browsing the internet and social media over the last week, I can’t help but get the feeling romance and story are big topics of late. With the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey” in theatres this weekend, I’ve been bombarded by discussions on what is true romance, the dangers of bad relationships, and just how powerful story can be in the lives of others.
So that brings me to today’s post: romance in story.
As a romance writer myself, I can say that this topic has been a tough one for me. To portray something as complicated as love is a daunting task. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes the road map is clear and other times it looks like it went through a paper shredder and you need to tape the pieces back together in order for it to make sense (I say that from experience in writing a love triangle – never have I given myself such a mental headache…) But the more I write about love, the more I feel like I’m beginning to understand it’s role in story, and I’m finding that these lessons I’m learning through writing are teaching me more and more about what I want in my own relationship.
Through writing romance, here’s what I’ve learned (slight spoilers from my books):
- Love is more than physical attraction. One of the things I realized in writing Edward and his relationship with Antoinette in “The Ripple Affair” is just how unimportant physical attraction became. Was Edward physically attracted to Antoinette? Definitely. She was gorgeous to him. But when he got involved with Malina, he realized the things he missed most about Antoinette involved who she was and not what she looked like. He missed her kindness, her compassion, her loyalty, and her love. Physical attraction may win a quick fling, but it’s other factors (like personality, morality, and characteristics) that win a relationship.
- Physical love is the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. I’ve read some stories classified as “romance” that was nothing more than one physical act after another. Yes, there are many who like those kinds of stories (I admit I’m not a fan of reading or writing them, though.) But when writing a romance, I find that if the story is nothing but characters acting out biology, it becomes old really fast. In “Reign of Change”, we see the beginnings of an Emmerich and Antoinette pairing. Throughout the entire book we know Emmerich wants to kiss her. He’s been waiting for years, for crying out loud. But he waits. She’s not ready, for one. And because she’s not ready for physical love, he shows her love in other ways. He makes her laugh by telling really stupid jokes. He shows his appreciation by giving her flowers and chocolate. He proves his loyalty by standing by her and listening to her needs and wants. By the end of the story, when they do finally kiss, it’s worth the wait, and because he’s waited so long, it makes it that much more special.
- Romance doesn’t always lead to change. This one is a tough one, because there are many examples in real life of love changing a person. But let’s be honest – it doesn’t always work out that way. I once read a story that (truth be told) wasn’t my favorite. The characters were always over-emotional and their relationship was based on physical attraction and nothing more. I think I skipped over half of the story because I got sick of reading the same thing over and over. But even though I didn’t care for the story, I will say the ending left an impression. In the end, the woman left the man. He had too many issues to sort out and no matter how much she loved him and tried to change him, he didn’t. And until he could change on his own accord – not because of her but because he wanted to change himself – she would never see him again. I give applause to the author of that story for writing something that many authors seem to skip when writing a romance. There are times when we can’t change people, no matter how much we love them, and they have to be willing to change themselves.
- Everyone can find love. Love isn’t limited to the bubbly, attractive, outgoing people who are often the stars of romantic comedies. Love is for everyone, no matter what personality type or size we are. I’ll admit in writing “The Ripple Affair”, Bernie’s story is the one I’m most excited about writing. In a way, I think she reflects what so many are thinking today. “I’m not pretty enough. I’ll never find someone. If I’ve never had anyone in the past; why would I have anyone in the future?” As the author of Bernie’s story, I’m happy to say she is wrong, and there is a guy (*ahem* who may or may not have already appeared in “The Ripple Affair”) that will become smitten with her. And boy, will it be adorable!
- Love must be shown by both sides. In “The Ripple Affair” series, I’m going to be exploring a relationship that isn’t exactly going to be easy for the two lovebirds involved. Yes, they’re both attracted to each other, but they learn very quickly that their love is much more than words and flirtations. They both have needs and wants. They both sacrifice their wants for each other. They also learn that a marriage is defined not as “two” but “two becoming one”. It’s takes two to make a relationship work, both practicing give and take.
There are many other characteristics of a romance story than what I’ve listed here, but I’ve found that these are the five I write by the most. In the end, though, I think that we can all agree that love is a beautiful thing, and when practiced wisely, it can lead into some of the most beautiful of human experiences. Too often times love is tarnished by lust and pride, but I think that we can choose to let the purest of love win in the end.
I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day, whether married, coupled, or single, and I hope that the day serves you well. Whether you are with someone you love or are waiting for the right one to appear, I wish you the best for today and always.