Tag Archive | romance

Confessions of a Genre-Confused Writer

I’m not sure where I learned this, but I had it in my head that you write what you read.

That is, if you read a certain genre or enjoy a certain type of story, chances are that’s what you’re going to write in.  At first I followed this notion-my favorites stories were set in Middle Earth and Narnia, so when I started writing, fantasy was the genre of choice.

But then time passed and I found myself getting, well…confused.

Because as I was writing my epic fantasy adventure, my characters started to change.  My plot began to take shape.  No longer were my kings and knights and princesses going on epic quests.  No, instead they started falling in love with each other and got involved in drama.  Lies, betrayal, a villain who started off as a background character suddenly deciding to manipulate herself to center-stage…yeah, it was a mess.  My carefully planned epic fantasy started turning into a romance!

That’s when the genre-confusion first began.

I found myself scratching my head as my story changed genres.  How did this happen?  I read one romance novel in my entire life (a Christian prairie story I got for Christmas from a friend).  Aside from that, I knew nothing of the genre.  I didn’t watch soap operas.  I never really got into romantic comedies.  Even my personal life was void of inspiration for chick-lit gold (no shy girl dating the popular guy here!)  And yet somehow, someway, I ended up writing a romance series.

How it happened, I’m not sure, but I can’t help but think fate is laughing that I’m writing in the one genre I swore I could never learn to write in.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned in my genre-confusion.  Despite my setbacks, despite my willingness to run the other way and write a story that would make Tolkien proud, I found myself (dare I say it) enjoying my new genre.  Sure, I may have entered it with no clue as to what I was doing, but as I continued to write and grow with my characters, I found that switching genres can actually be fun.  Writing romance has taught me that experiencing a new genre can be a great learning experience, teaching me how to be a better writer by challenging me and making me step out of my comfort zone.   Not only that, but I’ve learned that romance can be so much more than what I thought it could be.  I’ve learned so much just by practice, and in the end, I found myself wanting to write more.

It hasn’t stopped there, either.  I struggled with poetry in school, and through years of misinterpreting meanings of words and being the only kid in the class who didn’t get it, taking a poetry class and writing my own poems has made me appreciate an art form I (unfortunately) grew up loathing.  I’ve learned to enjoy it so much that I’m actually starting to write poems to put in my books!  And (slight spoiler here) I’ve been playing with other genres for future storylines, too.  Mystery, suspense, action and adventure…there’s no limit to the worlds that can be explored and created through imagination.

But none of this learning, none of this adventure in writing, would have ever began had I not been a genre-confused writer.  Sure, it was messy in the beginning when stepping out of my comfort zone.  It was scary jumping into the unknown and not knowing how it was going to all turn out.  But in the end, I learned more about myself as a writer and what it is I like to write.  There’s still some genres I’m still hesitant to try just because I’m not sure I’ll be good at it or not, but that’s the adventure.  It’s constantly learning and making yourself grow in your craft.  It’s learning your strengths and weaknesses and growing in them.  It’s learning who you are and striving for who you want to be.

So in the end, do I write what I read?  Apparently not, but I guess that’s just me and my genre-confusion.  There are writers out there who know their genre inside and out.  They read what they write and they write what they read.  Sticking with your preferred genre isn’t a bad thing, and many fantastic writers are made that way.  Call me different, though.  Why I read and write in different genres is beyond me, but that’s how it ended up.

And frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  🙂

Romance in Story

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.

Love Triangles (and Why They Are Driving Me Crazy)

When I first started writing, I thought I knew the difficulties ahead of time.  Editing?  Dealing with grammar and syntax is rarely a person’s cup of tea.  Fighting writer’s block?  I haven’t met a writer yet who seems happy with not knowing what to do next.  Marketing and advertising your story?  For many introverts like myself, that’s terrifying, because we’ve worked to be writers, not business people.

But after about a decade of writing and learning the ins and outs, I’ve realized it’s not editing, writer’s block, or business that makes me groan in frustration.  No, it’s actually figuring out the plot, because unlike other writers I decided to complicate things and not just write a romance about a guy and girl and keep things nice and pretty.  Instead, I decided to write a romantic love triangle where the girl doesn’t have just one guy to choose from-she has two!

I honestly didn’t think love triangles would be that complicated.  Looking at other stories, authors seemed to resolve things well on their own.  Han won over Leia because…well…Luke was her brother.  Peeta won over Katniss because Gale didn’t exactly make some decisions Katniss was fond of.  Arwen won over Aragorn as they were together in the first place (but at least Eowyn ended up with Faramir in the end, so it all worked out.)  

When it comes to my own characters, however, I find myself struggling to choose which man is the better choice for my female character.  Both men have their own strengths and weaknesses, and yet despite their weaknesses neither one of them have a fault so great as to render one of them alone and the other as getting the girl in the end.

Perhaps it’s been poor planning on my part to be having such a difficult time in choosing who-ends-up-with-who.  Perhaps I’ve been seeing too much of myself in the female character I write about, and if I were in her shoes I’d have a hard time choosing, too.  Perhaps I’m just over-thinking a simple plot point that will eventually work itself out in the long run and I should just let the story run its course.

Or perhaps this is how love can be.  Sometimes the choice is simple and “Mr. Right” or “Ms. Right” is standing right in front of us like there’s no one else to choose from.  But other times, at least in my own experiences, love can be quite complicated.  Sometimes “the one” isn’t so clearly seen and it boils down to a choice.  As I write this story and decide how other plots, characters, and events connect with each other, the simplicity of “boy meets girl” suddenly becomes much more intricate than just two people coming together because they like each other.

I find myself asking about the effects of the relationship itself: will my character grow more with Person A or Person B?  How will other characters react to this relationship-will there be support, jealousy, or indifference?  And what about the characters in the long run?  Will their relationship last, and if it does, what comes out of it?  Do they find themselves working together or fighting?  Is their relationship smooth and without conflict or are they constantly bickering because they’re so different?

Had I realized that writing a romantic relationship (and love triangle) would be so complicated, I’d almost be tempted to go back in time and warn my future self, “You’re going to go nuts about this plot line!  It’ll keep you up at night and you’ll constantly be changing your mind and questioning yourself!  Don’t go down that rabbit hole!  You’ll never get out!!!!!!”

But as frustrating as figuring out the end result has been, at the same time I’ve found myself learning that story is often a reflection of life, and as much as I’d like things to be simple and cookie-cutter-clear, they often aren’t.  Sometimes hard decisions need to be made.  Sometimes fate intervenes because what we think is best may not actually be the best in the long run.  With the love triangle, I’m finding the important question isn’t “who goes better with who”.  It’s actually “what’s the bigger picture?”  In the context of the story, it’s the end result that matters most, because a story isn’t about plot points being scattered to tell a good tale.  A story is about plots connecting in the end to show an entire picture instead of just a little piece.