The thing about writing love stories when you’re a naturally cynical person with disastrous relationships in her past is that achieving the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to convince the reader that they all lived happily ever after is really difficult. I have found, in trying to do this, that the most useful thing to remember is that we’re writing to promise mature love. Immature love/infatuation is easy to write, but everybody knows that doesn’t last. Mature love, the connection beyond conditions, is hard to write, but if we can get that promise on the page, it’s what powers the romance.
So when I turned back to Nita and thought, Okay, it’s a romance, but they’re only going to know each other five days, how the hell am I going to foreshadow mature love in that time?” And then I was reading the Gil Cunningham mysteries which made me think of Renaissance poetry (those mysteries are pre-Renn, but still, ye olde times), and I remembered my favorite love poem of all time, John Donne’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.”
Somewhere around my third or fourth viewing of this series, while I was still trying to figure out what the hell went wrong with such great stuff, I realized that I was staying for the romances, both the romantic couplings (and tripling) and the romance of the ensemble. I stayed because I loved the characters and I wanted to see them come together (not a double entendre). So I looked closer at the four love stories in the series and at the building of the ensemble. Ensemble later; let’s talk about how amazingly good the love stories in this series are. I used the four basic steps of building a love story (a vast simplification of a vastly complex human emotional arc) as a rubric for this post. This is entirely arbitrary and should not be interpreted as The Only Way To Structure A Love Story. It is, however, a pretty good approach for arcing a relationship. Continue reading
I’ve been e-mailing with Pam Regis, Argh’s Academic in Residence, about the romance contract, the agreement that romance writers make with their readers. From Pam’s first e-mail:
The unspoken contract in romance fiction is that the parties to the courtship will end up together. They’ll overcome whatever barriers there are to that ending-up-together and commit to each other. For most of the genre’s history, the outward sign of that commitment was marriage–no longer a requirement, although still quite common.
First meets are crucial in making a romance plot work, and an excellent example of a successful first-meet scene comes from a non-romantic interaction on the TV show, Arrow, done in one minute and two beats. Continue reading
Sometimes one character can upset a whole story plan. Continue reading