In honor of St-Valentine’s day, this month’s writing article will cover the literary genre most fitting of the celebration of love: Romance.
For many writers, composing a romance story can be a difficult thing to master, because it is a genre they may not be familiar or comfortable with. Any discomfort from the writer will be reflected in the text, resulting in story that will feel forced and awkward. The truth is, romance is not only a genre robust enough to stand on its own, but is flexible enough to be combined with any other category in storytelling. For those who believe their style does not work well with romance, they can certainly ease into the genre by finding a way to incorporate it in a story that suits them better.
The basics of a story is a plotline which follows the exploits of the main characters as they attempt to resolve a conflict while making their way to their intended goal. So how exactly does Romance differ from other genres? In romantic movies, the mood is set through actors performances and their interactions with each other. The same can be said for romance novels, however in books, the audience have the added benefit of being privy to the characters innermost thoughts, feelings and sensations (for more information see my post Showing and Telling).
In order to be successful, Romance stories must explore the protagonist's innermost feelings, their interactions with their love interest and a source of conflict which puts their desires in jeopardy. Let us see how these elements contribute to the Romance genre.
The characters internal feelings.
As I have mentioned before, the characters are the writer's most important tool. This fact is especially relevant in romance, since at the heart of great love stories are two strong, three-dimensional individuals. These people are the link between the reader and the story, serving as the translators of the world around them.
For the characters to properly serve their purpose, they must be appealing and sympathetic, to the point where readers will care for what happens to them. This is vital, as their feelings are the central part of the story, taking importance over all else.
A key component to the romance writing process, is that the audience is privy to what goes on in the protagonist's internal thoughts. Romance is best reflected through character reactions in three ways: the mind (with reactions such as daydreaming or thinking about someone obsessively), the heart (with feelings such as love or yearning) or the body (with sensations such as heart palpitations or jitteriness).
Ultimately, all good love stories are about the journey between two people and the relationship that blossoms from it. But to be convincing, the writer must succeed in making the bond between the protagonists seem plausible. Keep in mind that in real life, no relationships are perfect 100% of the time, so the same should apply to fiction as well.
A romance requires deep internal bonds between the characters, so work on their interactions. Some novels focus on passion and the heat of the moment, but relationships are about commitment and the long term. To make your story seem real, have your characters live through a wide range of emotions. Couple should get angry at each other, get anxious about the others feelings, or act corny to make each other laugh. If you go with real, down to earth feelings instead of overly exaggerated ones, it will make it real the audience and will be enjoyable to read.
Another key aspect to relationships is communication. This also applies to fiction, where dialogue helps the characters share their thoughts, not only with each other, but with the audience as well. Good dialogue should show the relationship between characters, move the story forward and increases the tension in the story, but remember to always keep it relevant and consistent to your characters.
As I mentioned earlier, Conflict is the obstacle which hinders the progress between the protagonist and their goal. It is an essential element in literature, because it creates tension and excitement, and without it, a story has no purpose other than to be informative.
Unlike stories based on genres like action or horror, the conflict in romance is based on the emotional turmoil of the main protagonist. Two types of conflict can be used in romance: internal and external.
Mostly, internal conflict focuses on the main characters struggles related to their personality, motivations and aspirations. Being intimately knowledgeable of the characters point of view or their inner dialogue works well in romance, because it allows the reader to better sympathize with them as they live their life and find love.
Falling in love can be a challenge for certain characters. One example could be a person incapable of approaching someone out of fear of rejection. Another could be a character not wanting to fall in love as they are still dealing with a recent loss.
External conflict happens outside the main characters control, originating from situations, the setting, or other characters. External conflict should only be used in tandem with internal conflicts, and never draw attention away from the main characters point of view or their inner dialogue.
Relationships are often subjected to a variety of different conflicts from outside sources. It can be anything from misunderstanding someone's intentions, an embarrassing incident during a social event or a jealous lovers interference.
A good romance is heavily descriptive, breathing life into scenes, emphasizing on the thoughts, feelings, and sensations characters are experiencing. From intimate moments to hot and physical lovemaking, the writer must master the level of intensity needed when describing these scenes.
This was not an easy post for me to write, as I felt my inexperience in the genre was obvious. The most important thing I learned today, is that if you are going to be writing romance, stay within your comfort zone.
Until next time!
**All images in this post were taken from Pixabay, and are considered public domain under the Creative Commons law (CC0)**