Tag Archives: writing romance

Character creation: attraction and repulsion #amwriting

This week we’re continuing our dive into character building. I’m putting my beta reader’s comments to work, trying to iron out some of the rough patches, and one that I must work on is attraction.

WritingCraftSeries_romanceWriting emotions with depth is a balancing act. This is where I write from real life. I think about the physical cues I see when my friends and family feel emotion. When someone is happy, what do you see? Bright eyes, laughter, and smiles.

And when we’re happy, how do we feel? Energized, confident. We’re always slightly giddy when we have a little crush coming on and even happier when it blossoms into a romance.

The trick is to combine the surface of the emotion (physical) with the deeper aspect of the feeling (internal). Not only that, but we want to write it so that we aren’t telling the reader what to experience. We allow the reader to experience the emotion as if it is their idea.

Fantasy is a popular genre because it involves people. People are creatures of biology and emotion. When you throw them together in close quarters, romances can happen within the narrative.

I’m not a Romance writer. I write about relationships, but Romance readers will be disappointed in my work. My tales don’t always have a happily ever after, although most do. Also, while I can be graphic, I’m usually a fade-to-black kind of writer, allowing my characters a little privacy.

I flounder when writing without an outline, and even though I’m in the second draft, I’m floundering now.

Writing intense, heartfelt emotions is easy for me. I begin to have trouble when I attempt to write the subtler nuances of attraction and its opposite, repulsion. I find myself at a loss for words.

The problem is, if you write intense emotions with no buildup, they come out of nowhere and seem gratuitous.

So, how do I foreshadow these relationships and show the buildup? I go to Romance writers and ask questions. I’ve attended workshops given by romance writers and learned a great deal from them. However, being autistic, I understand more from pursuing independent study.

Verbalize_Damon_SuedeAlso, I’m a book junkie—I can’t pass up buying any book on the craft of writing. I bought two books on writing craft by Damon Suede, who writes Romance. These two books show how word choices can make or break the narrative.

In his book Verbalize, he explains how actions make other events possible. Even gentler, softer emotions must have verbs to set them in motion.

Emotions are nouns, and so I need to find and use the right verbs to activate them.

Therefore, matching nouns with verbs is key to bringing that romance to life. I must get out the dictionary of synonyms and antonyms and delve into the many words that relate to and describe attraction. ATTRACTION Synonyms: 33 Synonyms & Antonyms for ATTRACTION | Thesaurus.com

So, now that I have all these lovely words, the next step is to choose the words that say what I mean and fit them into the narrative.

This novel was accidental, so I didn’t plan the relationships out the way I usually do. I have five people in this convoluted tale. I’m a bookkeeper, so doing the math, if we end up with two couples, one character will be left out.

Now my beta readers tell me that while the final matches work, I need to hint at sexual tension from the opening pages on to better show the attraction.

Also, they pointed out that the odd-one-out creates endless opportunities for a real roadblock to the final event. This is something I hadn’t seen, but wow–what a great way to inject some power into the finale.

poetry-in-prose-word-cloud-4209005Each of us experiences emotional highs and lows in our daily lives. We have deep-rooted, personal reasons for our emotions, for whether we are attracted to or repulsed by another person. Sometimes those interactions can be highly charged.

Both the protagonist and the antagonist must have legitimate reasons for their actions and reactions. There must be a history of some sort. Failing that, there must be an instinctive attraction/rejection.

Our characters must have credible responses that a reader can empathize with, and there must be consequences.

For me, this is where writing becomes work.

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Creating Romance #amwriting

Normally people don’t look too romantic. On weekends they hang around the house in comfy clothes and only get cleaned up to go somewhere. Come Monday, they dress a certain way to go to work–dressing in whatever is suitable for their business.

However, no matter how they dress for work, people always dress in their fanciest clothes if they’re going out nightclubbing, or to dinner in a fancy restaurant, or going to a party. People want to look their best, especially if they are single and hoping to find love.

The point is, no one looks good all the time in real life. In many novels, the events and action leaves them dirty and disheveled for a large portion of the story, which in real life isn’t that pretty. But what if you want to give these unkempt, stinking heroes a romance? When it comes to injecting romance into an action adventure story, the author’s task is to make the protagonists ignore the dirt and seem attractive no matter what the circumstances. There is a bit of escapism in all readers. A grand adventure with a good romance is the sort of story I will gravitate to in a heartbeat.

I love an author who manages to take her heroes and heroines through rough adventures and still make the romance between them special. Sure, let them get dirty and sweaty, and make their lives hard. That makes them feel like real people.

Just please, make any romance between them a part of the story that advances the plot.

Writing romance into a scene and not going off the rails requires skill.  Do we keep it restrained or get graphic? Would my characters really get graphic? And how much graphic is too much graphic? When do we cross the line of writing fantasy and venture into erotica?

I don’t really see myself going into that area of writing, although I understand there is a large market for it.

As for what is too much, it depends on what story I am trying to tell. In my current work in progress, innuendo and allusion are the means to convey the deeper story. In my novel, Huw the Bard, a certain amount of graphic detail was required to advance the plot, although not as much as in many other authors’ books. Because these scenes were such a small part of the story but were defining moments in his life, the romance scenes of Huw’s book required many revisions to get right. They had to be important, but couldn’t overshadow the larger story.

For me as a reader, there is a fine line between enjoying an erotic scene and feeling like a voyeur. It’s easy to write graphic details, but are they romantic? Quite often they read like the assembly instructions for a set of bookshelves from IKEA—insert tab A into slot B.

Certain words repel me, especially if they are applied with no finesse, emerging from the prose with force of a jackhammer.

The lead up to romance is critical. Are you going to have them together forever? If so, make the road to happiness difficult. We must show longing, wondering, hoping, and there must be roadblocks to instant happiness. A trail of hints and innuendo creates a sense of growing connection between two characters. Each tiny connection between two characters raises the emotional stakes, and emotions are the key to a real romance. The chase is the story—‘happily ever after’ is the epilogue.

If the romance is a brief moment of respite in a sea of chaos, a long chase is not needed. With that said, the romance between two characters who are not destined for each other must be central to advancing the plot. Whether you choose the ‘fade to black’ method (which I usually do) or get graphic (which I have done on occasion) is up to you. You must consider your intended reader and what they will expect.

When I contemplate how to portray a love scene, I want the reader to feel like it was worth the time they took to read it. I want them to care about what happens next in that couple’s relationship—if anything does. Just as in real life, sometimes true love is not meant to be.

I want to be able to stretch myself as a writer and learn more skills at telling a good tale. I try to do that by finding the works of other writers that moved me and discovering what it was about a scene (regardless of whether it involved romance or not) that made me glad I had read it.

When I write, I’m like every other author—words fall out of my head, some good and some not so elegant. And if I have written something awkward, my beta readers will graciously (or bluntly) tell me so.

Being an author isn’t always roses and wine. Sometimes it’s weeds and pickle-juice.

Writing something worth reading is hard work. It’s striving to meet the expectations of people you’ve never met, which is not easy. By working closely with a circle of trusted author friends, I have gained a better ability to step back and see my work with a less prejudiced eye.

If they don’t see the charm that I do in a certain passage, I ask myself why. Sometimes, the answer lies in the fact they don’t enjoy the sort of work I do, but very often the answer is that what I wrote was not ready for someone else to read it.

That ‘proud child’ urge to display your work in its raw stage is one we all combat. Nevertheless, for me, having the opportunity to do this full time is living the dream.


Credits and Attributions:

Galadriel and Celeborn, by Araniart [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons|Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Araniart – Galadriel and Celeborn.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Araniart_-_Galadriel_and_Celeborn.jpg&oldid=262862472 (accessed April 1, 2018).

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