Before I begin I just want to say that this post was running long so I divided it into two parts. Part two will be available here in a week from today.
Romance. It’s a loaded word. There’s a whole genre given that word as a label and it takes many different forms. Some are light and uplifting, others are dark and twisted. Some are somewhere in the middle. It’s a very intriguing part of the human experience, which is probably why it’s such a popular device in writing stories of any kind. I know I kind of talked about it in my Tainted Love post, but I feel like it needs to be addressed in an over arching sense, so here I go.
Part 1. Initial Meeting.
Ever hear the saying you never get a second chance to make a first impression? Well, it’s true. The moment we meet someone we have a strong, and usually unchangeable idea of who and what they are. It’s actually really ridiculous. First impressions can be formed from across a room after only catching a glance of a person. What can you really learn about a person from that?
As ludicrous as it sounds, it’s true. So we must accept it, move on and find a way to use it. Like in our writing! The first meeting between love interests is a powerful thing. Are they both looking their Sunday Best? Does one look fantastic while the other looks horrendous because they just climbed out of a wrecked car? Is one sick with typhoid fever?
This is important for one reason and one reason only. Not only does this first impression set the initial opinion that each character has for the other, but at the same time it sets the initial tone for the whole story.
Say it’s a romance novel. One character is a nerd, and the other is in the popular crowd. This could be an excellent set up for the emotional through line (something I will cover later in more detail) of a coming of age story for the nerd, or a story of redemption for the popular girl. Now that’s only one very narrow and limited example, but at the same time this concept is limited by your imagination.
You could use this in any way that you want.
You could use this in any genre with any gender/ethnicity/race/alien species of characters. You can create or bolster the emotional tug of the entire story based on one small, yet very significant scene in a story.
One example is in my novel No Rest for the Wicked. I have the two love interests meet on the street where Nico is pounding on the front door to Isabella’s bar hoping to find a job. I chose this type of meeting specifically because I wanted Isabella to get the sense that Nico was a good guy who was down on his luck who was doing his best in life.
That is a very positive first impression for Isabella to have about Nico.
I did this because as the story progresses you see more of Nico’s personality and other baggage emerge, and you realize that he’s not as wonderful as he seems. Granted, he’s not a terrible or bad person, but one who has simply made some terrible mistakes. Without that first impression and the initial interactions where Nico behaves like a good dude, could their romance have blossomed?
In my opinion, that answer is no so I felt the need to craft it in such a way.
2. Create Differences.
Why you ask?
Opposites really do attract. And besides, who wants to read a romance in any story where the relationship goes smoothly at all? No one does. It’s boring. It’s perfection, and perfection alienates.
I’m not saying you have to make them polar opposites. I mean you can if you want, but that’s not necessary. Personally, I like to make a slight philosophical difference that they just can’t reconcile, or a love triangle is always fun as well. I love the drama created in the story as they love interests bounce off each other and get all irrational.
Again, this one is only limited by your imagination. This is the fun part of crafting a romance, this is the part where you really get to let your creativity shine.
Going back to Nico and Isabella from No Rest for the Wicked, I made their difference very subtle for a few reasons. One, I initially created them as very similar people for a reason. I wanted them to bond over that similarity. Granted there are huge differences between their back stories and origins, and while they have a similar outlook on the world I gave it this one difference.
Nico tends to veer more toward the cynical side while Isabella tends to be a little more optimistic. Each were crafted realistically on their life experiences. Even in this sense, I made it very, very subtle. One because I didn’t want to turn Nico into tall, dark and broody or Isabella into Pollyanna.
That’s just not good character crafting.
I added just enough so that they could disagree and argue and almost fight their way over to each other through understanding and mutual appreciation. As silly as that sounds, I really can’t think of a better way to say it.
Now, like I said above this post was starting to run long, so while you’re digesting the first half of this series I want you to think about the points I raised.
I’m curious how you’ve already used and/or thinking of using them in the future!
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think I’m nuts? Whatever you do think, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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