Posts Tagged ‘romance’

 

Authors, who are usually as human as the rest of us, are as prone to mistakes and insecurity as the rest of us. That said, sometimes authors worry about creative decisions when it comes to their stories. We’ll look at a scene, or a character, or even a whole plot, and think to ourselves, “Is that the right thing to do here? Should maybe we change it?”

We end up second-guessing ourselves.

Actually, some pretty famous names have second-guessed their creative decisions in the past. JK Rowling went back on her decision to have Hermione end up with Ron in Harry Potter, and that Harry might’ve been a better match for her, which still has the fandom in a tizzy (personally, I still ship Harry and Cho and wonder what could’ve happened if they’d actually gone to the Yule Ball together). Stephen King has expressed regret of ever writing the novel Rage, which has been connected with several incidents of gun violence (I’d still like to read it someday). And Anne Rice has actually said she’s not proud of the crossover novels she’s written with her vampires and witches.

And they’re just a few among many.

I’ve been having this problem at a lot of points in Rose, including last night. I’d just finished editing the latest chapter (only nine more to go!), adding over a thousand words of material while I’m at it, and I find myself thinking, “Wow, there’s a lot of just high-tension moments here. Very little time where the readers and the protagonist can just take a moment and breathe. This whole chapter, it’s just boom! Boom! Boom! One thing after another. I wonder if that’s maybe too much excitement in the story. Maybe I should add some more quiet moments, where we can explore the characters?” And then I find myself arguing back that plenty of great horror movies and novels, such as Annabelle: Creation and Gerald’s Game, that are like this, where there’s very little breathing room and just one thing after another of scares and high-tension scenes. And there are scenes that are “quieter:” they are usually exploring the protagonist’s past, which is a mystery to even her. They’re not moments like in It, where the main characters are just building a dam or something, but they’re slightly calmer and do develop the characters a bit more when they happen.

This argument went back and forth in my head even after I went to sleep, making for some interesting dreams.

But it’s not just this whole “are things too exciting?” issue that’s got me second-guessing. I think I’ve mentioned before that there are scenes in Rose that I would like to expand. Most of these are in the final third of the book, and one particular scene, a flashback scene, has me wondering if I’m making the right decision in what I want to do with it. On the one hand, there are about a hundred ways I can push the envelope with it, and I’ve already set up in previous chapters clues that point to the importance of this scene. But at the same time, if I were to push the envelope on this scene in some ways, it might be indulging in certain cliches I prefer to use sparingly at best. Also, I worry that if I were to go in those directions, it might actually take away from the main reason for this scene rather than reinforce it for the audience. It’s something I’ve been worrying about since well before I started this draft of the novel.

So yeah, authors do a lot of second-guessing. And it can cause a lot of headaches, anxiety, confusion, and the occasional burst of anger. Is there any solution for when this happens?

Not really. Yeah, I usually have solutions for stuff like this, but I think it varies on situations and stories and authors. I think every author will second-guess themselves at several points in their careers, sometimes during the writing, sometimes before, a few times after. And sometimes solutions will present themselves. While writing this post, I’ve figured out one of the problems I’ve been second-guessing in this post, which I honestly didn’t expect.

Honestly, I guess the best advice I can give is to try one way. If you don’t like it, try another if the opportunity is available. If you’re still unsure, let beta readers give you some much needed feedback. That’s what they’re there for.

Honestly, I’m probably going to encounter this issue throughout my writing career. I’m second-guessing some possible routes for a novel I haven’t even written yet, if you can believe it. And if you’re a writer, you’ll probably going to deal with it too throughout your career. All I can say is, you may argue with yourself plenty. You may have to try more than one way to write the same story so as to see what works. But eventually, hopefully, you’ll work through it, and come up with something great.

And if not, there’s always a chance that people will still like who the characters end up with (I hear Harry and Ginny are great spouses and parents. Especially if you don’t read/see the play. Also, Ron and Hermione’s storyline actually mirrors a lot of anime couples, so I guess if it works in those shows, why not?).

What are your experiences with second guessing? Any tips for fixing this problem?

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At the beginning of the year, I said I was going to try publishing more of my shorter works in as many places as possible. This included Wattpad, which for those of you who don’t know is kind of like the YouTube for writers: anyone can upload and share stories. I fulfilled this promise somewhat earlier this year by publishing Gynoid, a science-fiction novelette I’d been trying to publish on and off for quite some time. I published that story’s first part on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, and if you are good at math, you can tell that it’s been six months since the story was first published. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to go over how Gynoid was doing and what plans I have for the site in the future.

Update on Gynoid

When Toby Crimson orders a gynoid, a robot designed to look and act like a human girl, he knows he shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Gynoids are for perverts and losers, after all. But Toby has told a lie, and he needs the gynoid, named Ariel, to keep that lie up. What he never expects is to actually like Ariel being around. Or that Ariel is going to change his life. Whether he likes it or not.

I published the first part of Gynoid on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, for a very good reason. The story is a romance in a science-fiction setting, but it’s also a kind of anti-romance story. There are dark sides to stories about forbidden love that I don’t always see portrayed in fiction, so I used Gynoid to explore those dark sides a little, in particular to the idea of male fantasies.

And so far, people have responded. In those six months since publication, the number of people reading Gynoid have gradually increased to 132 reads. It’s still not a huge number, but it’s a good-sized number for someone who’s still building an audience and who publishes sporadically on Wattpad to begin with. And there has also been a few votes, which is the equivalent of likes on YouTube for this platform.

What really interests me though is the comments. I’ve received some comments on this work, and not only is just one of them from my mother (a whole new record!), but the other comments have been very telling. One commenter was very happy that the ending was, in their view at least, a good one. Another recent reader finished the third part of the story on or around August 3rd, username LadieFace, published that she hoped there would be more to the story (I assume based on the name it’s a she). A week later on August 10th, she comes back and comments that she hopes there’ll be a sequel.

Now, I do have ideas for a sequel, and I did tell her as much when I saw the comment, but that’s not the point. This story stayed on this person’s mind so much that she felt the need to come back a week after her first comment and ask if I had more. When a story makes someone do that, you know it really resonated with that reader.

This gives me hope that, in time, Gynoid will continue to be read and people will come to enjoy it. Maybe they’ll even come to like it to the point that it’ll push me to write a sequel story. Anything’s possible.

If you’re curious to read Gynoid, I’ll include the links below. And if you do check it out, please tell me, here on the blog or on Wattpad, what you think. As I always say, I love reader feedback.

Gynoid: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

What Happened Saturday Night is getting published!

What Happened Saturday Night is another story I’ve been trying to get published for quite some time, and now I’m happy to say I’ll be publishing it on Wattpad next week. Like Gynoid, this story has a heavy romantic element, but this time it’s more of a paranormal romance rather than a science-romance. Here’s the blurb I’m using on Wattpad:

High school is hard enough. But Louise is different from other teens her age. For one thing, she has feelings for her best friend Nicola. Feelings she knows she shouldn’t be having.

Another thing: she’s going through changes, but these aren’t the sort of changes teen girls normally go through. Louise is a werewolf. And her biggest fear is what might happen if an episode like what happened on Saturday night happens in front of Nicola.

So as you can tell, the story has a big LGBT element along with the paranormal one. These two genres actually work pretty well together, actually: they both deal with things that are outside the norm, at least to some people, so putting them together is kind of a natural fit.

I’ll probably be publishing this story either on Monday or on Tuesday next week, so keep an eye out for the announcement post. In the meantime, I’d like to thank friend and fellow novelist Joleene Naylor, who also did the cover art for Gynoid, ffor this beautiful artwork for the tory. It is so powerful and expresses everything I want in a cover. I can’t wait for people to see it and want to read the story inside!

Will I publish anything else on Wattpad?

Good question. It depends on a number of factors. I’m still trying to get stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as trying to put some in a collection of short stories I’m keeping on the back burner for the moment. Depending on the story, as well as whether I feel it ought to be in a collection, a publication, or on Wattpad, anything could happen. If I do publish anything, it’ll probably have less of a romance element than Gynoid or What Happened Saturday Night has.

So if you’ve been reading my stories on Wattpad simply for the elements of love and romance, I’m sorry to disappoint you on that front.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I might have another post out later this week, but it’ll depend on time and motivation, among other things. Until then, happy reading, and pleasant nightmares.

I wanted to get at least one more blog post out before I go off to Boston (spoiler alert: the trip is imminent), and because I didn’t have time to watch and review a movie I’ve been wanting to see for a while, I thought I’d do another post about romance in fiction. Why? Because my last post on the subject did very well, well enough that a writing blog associated with Columbia College in Chicago listed that post in a Valentine’s Day-themed article last year (that’s staying power!), and because I’ve had some thoughts since then about the subject. And those thoughts revolve around this simple idea: for a romance story to be truly successful and compelling, there has to be a conflict of some sort. Let me explain:

A couple of months back, I tried watching this anime I discovered on Hulu. The idea for the series sounded interesting, it was a fantasy series with a big romance element, and it was loosely based on a popular fairy tale. I decided to try it (I’d found anime and manga I loved on less than that), and settled down to watch a few episodes. It had a good first episode…but then the problems set in. One of the major ones was that after the first episode, when it’s pretty obvious that the two leads are attracted to each other, there’s nothing really to make the romance aspect exciting. They just settle into this rhythm that says, “Oh yeah, eventually they’ll get together.” Nothing that came up really served as a threat to their relationship, and because the story’s main focus was the romance aspect, I kind of lost interest.

Thus this post. Every good fiction story has some sort of conflict, something for the protagonist(s) to overcome and aid them while they grow as people. These conflicts can be outer and/or inner conflicts. In Harry Potter, it’s Harry’s battle to stop Lord Voldemort and protect his friends. In Stephen King’s It, there’s a shapeshifting evil clown and the desire to hang onto childhood wonder while also accepting the inevitability of growing up. In When Marnie was There, it’s Anna accepting that she’s the one isolating herself, and that if she only comes out to people, they will accept her. In romance, it’s often the main couple realizing and struggling with their feelings for one another while something tries to keep them apart.

Every good story has a good central conflict.

I’ve read a few romance-heavy novels (not many, but some), as well as watched a few TV shows and taken in several anime and manga with strong romance storylines. What always makes them good or memorable to me is the journey for these characters to fall in love with each other and get together, and all that can potentially tear them apart. Without them, like in the anime mentioned above, the story quickly becomes boring. In The Mammoth Hunters by Jean Auel, the two main characters start out in a relationship, but they nearly lose it when a new suitor tries to sweep the female of the pair off her feet (the outer conflict), as well as the couple’s vastly different cultures/childhoods and their communication issues (the inner conflict). Part of what made that novel so exciting was watching those issues affect their relationship, feeling the mistrust, heartbreak, and anger this couple went through. It was thrilling, because you really felt for these characters and wanted to see them together in the end. And getting to that end and overcoming their issues in the process was what made the novel as a whole good.

Arata the Legend: great example of how a story can have a compelling romance without that being the main subject of the story.

But this post so far focuses on stories that are mainly romantic. What about stories where romance is secondary? Same concept applies. You see this a lot in manga and anime. Take Arata the Legend by Yuu Watase (highly recommend, by the way), for example. The story revolves around a teenager named Arata who ends up in an alternate universe, where he becomes a messiah figure in the process. Arata ends up traveling around the universe with a band of magical warriors to gather magic items and save both worlds, while also dealing with his own fears and insecurities. These are the main outer and inner conflicts of the story. However, a sub-conflict in the story revolves around a love triangle between Arata and two girls who travel with him, a warrior girl and a healer. Both are attracted to Arata, Arata’s attracted to one of them, and because of various misunderstandings and past experiences, they’re unable to be honest with one another with their feelings, genuinely thinking that one might be better with the other or that one doesn’t like the other. This subplot is a major ongoing part of the story, and one of the reasons I always look forward to new volumes coming out (waiting on #25 since August last year).

As you can see, a story with a romance but no challenge to that romance is more often than not less exciting than a romance with challenges to it. The exceptions, in my experience at least, would be stories where the romance is a minor element in comparison to other issues in the story (the anime Code Geass definitely comes to mind in that aspect. Also highly recommend that one), but if that’s the case, then the romance probably isn’t a big part of why you’re into this story, right?

But when a story’s romance is a major aspect of why people would want to check the story out, having a conflict would definitely make it a more interesting aspect of the story. Otherwise, all you’ve got is an anime where you’re just watching and waiting for these two obviously-attracted-to-each-other people to take that first step and kiss each other and that’s about it.

I found out about this novel on Facebook, which was billed as a Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos-meets-YA sort of story, and wondered how that would work. When the opportunity came, I downloaded it onto my Kindle and started reading. And my, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Awoken follows Andromeda “Andi” Slate, an average teenager who isn’t to thrilled about living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire but deals with it with the help of her good friends. One night, she has a dream about seeing a giant tentacled monster and being rescued by a handsome youth. The next day, she and her friends get their hands on an infamous book of eldritch magic known as the Necronomicon, and do some reading from it. Within a day, a new teacher arrives at Andi’s school, as well as a strange new student who looks like the handsome youth she dreamed about. What happens next will not only change her life, but will decide the fate of the universe.

So if the handsome youth bit didn’t clue you in at all, yeah, there’s a pretty big romance aspect to this story, bigger than what I’m used to reading (especially in a Lovecraft-themed story). However, it’s a romance story between a human girl and a Great Old One (basically an ancient demon-god, if you don’t speak Lovecraft), one trying to balance the desire for the end of the world with his newborn desire for a human girl! I’ve never seen that before!* Romance isn’t something you normally associate with the Great Old Ones, who are notorious for seeing humans only as snacks (when they see them at all). It’s so weird, it kept me interested even though I don’t usually go for romance! Definitely one of the good points of the story.

So what were the other good points? Well, I liked Andi for the most part. Besides one or two problems, she was a very likable character, even when in the middle of an annoying teenage mood. The story was also very well-written, with very few typos and a distinct voice for Andi that kept me wanting to keep reading. I also liked how Elinsen made the works of Lovecraft accessible for her audience, who probably wouldn’t be big fans of Lovecraft and his Victorian-era speech patterns, though she manages to slip some of those words in, like cliquant and voltaic. Despite a few changes here and there, the Cthulhu Mythos is pretty much intact and treated with reverence, and the usual tropes that Lovecraft fans enjoy are there: cults, ancient beings, the idea that certain truths cause madness, Azathoth threatening to wake up, etc. The author also manages to slip in references to HP Lovecraft and his works (Portsmouth is secretly Innsmouth, Andi fears water, a reference to a racist writer from Rhode Island, Cthulhu’s relationships with the opposite godly sex, a cat, etc.), as well as references to Stephen King and even one reference to Supernatural that made me laugh out loud.

However, I did have some problems with the story. A major one was the male lead Riley (name based on a famous underwater city), and his relationship with Andi. Look, I know that in romance the asshole with a secret heart of gold is a popular trope (I’ve seen it in a few manga), but Riley is super-unlikable. And yeah, he’s secretly a terrible god who sees most humans as ants, but I can’t help but hate him as a protagonist. And his relationship with Andi is so abusive for a good chunk of the book. It’s supposed to come off that he’s protective of her, but doing things like commanding Andi to do things and intimidating her with his mood shifts just scream abusive creeper. What’s even worse is that Andi, once she falls for the guy, can’t extricate herself from him. It’s like an unhealthy obsession, to the point where she’d rather die or go completely mad rather than live without him (and that’s not teenage histrionics, she really feels that way at one point). It’s almost like she’s the ultimate worshipper for a Great Old One, and I just want to tell her that even taking out the god part, her relationship isn’t normal or healthy! How crazy is that?

I also wanted more from the main antagonist. We only see what she does in the name of her apocalypse, but I could’ve used more from her. Who was she really? Why did she do what she did? How did she become a worshipper of the Great Old Ones? I would have loved to see that explored a bit more in the story, and sadly we didn’t get that.

Ultimately though, Awoken is a different take on the Cthulhu Mythos, and I enjoyed myself despite the issues I had with the story. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the novel a 3.2. If there was a sequel, I’d consider reading it (though four years after publication and no updates from the author on her social media since October 2013, I’d say that’s not going to happen). If this sounds like your sort of thing, take a dip into the madness and see for yourself.

Now if you need me, I’ll be playing Hide n Seek Across the Dimensions with Nyarlathotep. Hail Cthulhu, and I’ll see you around.

*Please be aware, I haven’t read all of Lovecraft’s bibliography, so if this does happen somewhere in his stories, I haven’t gotten to it yet. So don’t spoil it for me, okay?

One of the nice things about being a writer that doesn’t often get talked about is that when a friend/colleague of yours has an achievement, you get to be part of the celebration. Which is why I’m very excited to invite my friend and fellow novelist, the wonderful Dellani Oakes, back to the blog for another interview. She’s got a new book out, Maker, Book 3 of the Lone Wolf series, and I’m looking forward to asking her some questions about it.

RU: Welcome back, Dellani. Now, you’re coming out with Maker, the third book in the Lone Wolf series. Tell us a bit about the series in general.

DO: It’s set in the distant future in the year 3032, and begins on a small mining ship in deep space. Marc and Matilda are working there when something goes horribly wrong. Someone has brought a load of Trimagnite on board. This is a semi-liquid ore which is highly toxic and extended exposure will cause madness and death. Enter the Lone Wolf, Wil VanLipsig. He’s sent to collect the ore, but finds himself highly attracted to Matilda Dulac, who proceeds to aim a pistol at his head because he’s lying to her. Who can resist a woman like that?

Unfortunately, Commandant John Riley of the Mining Guild is determined, not only to discredit Wil, but do as much damage to the Mining Guild as he can. It’s up to Wil, Matilda and Marc to stop him before he brings his plans to fruition.

RU: What about your series would attract readers to the characters and story of the Lone Wolf universe?

DO: Lone Wolf isn’t a Star Wars or Star Trek type universe. It’s unique, I feel, because the characters make it so. There are insectoid characters, giant mercenary cats, sentient ships and AI’s housed in special rings. The main character, Wil VanLipsig, is an 86 year old Colonel in the Galactic Marine’s black ops. Funny thing, though, he looks like he’s in his mid-twenties. The Marine doctors played genetic games with him and a few other select people, stopping their aging process. That doesn’t begin to describe what else was done to them.

RU: What can we expect from your new book, Maker?

DO: The Maker brings in a variety of new characters, as well as following the original ones from books 1 & 2. They discovered in Shakazhan – Book 2, that their planet, Shakazhan, is an artificial construct. What they don’t know is that there is an entity buried deep within the planet, who has many secrets and he’s loathe to part with them.

RU: Ooh, an entity. How HP Lovecraft! Next question: you normally write straight-up romances. Did you find it challenging to change to a sci-fi setting?

DO: I really don’t find it challenging switching genres. There are elements of romance in the sci-fi series, though they are minimal. My original idea was to write futuristic romance, which I suppose the first book could loosely be labeled, but the romantic elements fade out and the action takes over. I love constructing a whole new look at the universe and those in it. An author can do so much with sci-fi that can’t be done with more conventional genres. I had a great time thinking up new planets and races, giving them names and characteristics. Sci-fi is a blast.

RU: It most certainly is. And since it is a blast, here’s a question: how long do you see the Lone Wolf series going for?

DO: There are 6 in the series – plus 1 finished sequel, though at least 2 others are in the works. There is also a companion book, Lone Wolf Tales – A Lone Wolf Companion, which is a collection of 9 short stories and novellas associated with the series. I used them to explore various characters and incidents from the series.

RU: Sounds like a very involved sort of universe. And speaking of universes, what were your biggest influences in writing this series and crating this universe?

DO: Years ago, when I was newly married, we played a role playing game called Traveler. This was rather like Dungeons and Dragons, only sci-fi based. Friends of ours, and I, participated in a game my husband led and the characters of Wil, Matilda and Marc were created. I was going to chronicle their adventures, but it soon became apparent that the characters didn’t want that. They took off running in another direction and I just hung on for dear life. Aside from the character names, nothing remains the same.

RU: I notice characters do that. It’s very hard working with them sometimes. So, you’ve written romance, sci-fi, historical romance, and even some YA. What genres are you planning on diving into next?

DO: I’m not sure where I might venture next. I’ve been challenged to write a murder mystery, which I did (with a heavy romantic tone—what can I say, I love romance!) There are so many genres out there, permutations of one another, it’s hard to pick. One thing I’m fairly certain of, I won’t write horror. I scare easily and I usually write late at night and go to bed after everyone else. I don’t need to see ghoulies and ghosties in the dark!

RU: There goes that collaboration I was going to ask you about, LOL. Now Dellani, you release chapters of your books on your blog. How has your readership reacted to that?

DO: People don’t comment, for the most part, but I am finding more folks following and liking my stories. That seems positive to me. I wish people would comment and let me know what they like (or don’t) but I’m pleased to see new avatars on the page. I hope they enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoy writing them.

RU: Yeah, the commenting thing affects everyone. Final question: what’s next for you and for your writing.

DO: I have a lot of unfinished novels, and I’ve set myself a goal of finishing one a month. I’ve been doing that for the last 2 ½ years, and am pleased with my progress. My goal is to get more of them published, but getting covers, paying copyrights, and all the other fees associated with self-publishing books, adds up quickly. I plan to send another book in to Tirgearr Publishing, who has already released four of my books. I’m working on getting a good, clean edit before sending it in. I have also begun preliminary edits on The Kahlea – book 4. There’s been action up to now, but this book takes the reader and knocks their socks off. More new characters, action, battles, and a little romance. I finished reading through it recently, and it left me breathless. I’m hoping it will do so to the readers as well.

RU: So do I, Dellani. Thank you for joining us.

If you’d like more from Dellani, please check out her interview here. Also check her out on her blog, on Amazon, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

And if you’d like to be interviewed on my blog, check out my Interviews page, and we’ll see what magic we can work.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time!

 

Raymond Esposito, a horror writer and acquaintance of mine (check out his website here), recently started a video series with romance writer SK Anthony (check out her website here), Writers After Dark. The purpose of this series (besides a fun excuse to drink, that is), is to discuss the various qualities of their respective genres. The topic of their first video was which of their genres was the more like life. Or not.

And because it’s fun to watch them just go at each other in a good-natured way. I’ve posted the video below. Enjoy:

 

Okay, if you didn’t have a half-hour to watch the entire video (too bad, because you’re missing out), here’s the conclusion: both of them think that their genre is the one that’s more realistic, though I think they both poke a lot of holes in each other’s arguments. And maybe spend a bit too much time on if love is real.

Anyway, after watching this video I thought I’d give my own opinion on this subject. I actually think I’m in a unique position to talk about this subject. Yes, I write and read mainly horror, but I also read a lot of romance mangas, read a book series that went from prehistorical fiction to prehistorical romance fiction in the later volumes, and watched one or two movies (10 Things I Hate About You is still considered romance, right?). Plus a lot of my stories, even ones that I haven’t written yet, have heavy romance elements. Snake is a horror-thriller with such an emphasis on romance, and my thesis/novel project Rose is a horror story about a really twisted love story (among other things). I kind of live in both worlds (though I prefer the one with deadly hotels and evil spirits and Lady Gaga in a leading role).

 

So which is more realistic and which is totally out there? Well, I think that’s kind of a trick question. In terms of horror, I’ve seen evidence of the supernatural and I’m well aware of the evil mankind is capable of (check out current events of the world to see what I mean). However, last I checked zombies were still a fiction and when a serial killer dies, they usually stay dead. And we still haven’t discovered any mummies that have come to life once unearthed or come across any pizzerias with killer animatronic bears.

At the same time, I’ve seen my fair share of long-lasting and happy relationships, and I’m sure you have too. Still, I’m not sure I believe in the concept of unconditional love. All relationships, especially loving ones, are built on give and take, on trust and communication. No two people ever say to each other, “I will love you no matter what and you never have to do a thing for that to continue”. All relationships take work, and romantic ones most of all. And true love? Same answer: all relationships are based on work. I don’t think you can meet a person and within minutes know they’re the one for you. Maybe after thirty years and you still care deeply for them, then maybe we have something there.

 

So which is real or unreal?

I think, in the end, both fear and love, the bases of horror and romance, derive from the need to survive. Horror is the result of the fight or flight response, and romance is the result of our desire to find the mate who will give us the best offspring. Neither one is truly realistic or unrealistic, because both speak to the human experience. Sure, some cliches and tropes are pretty silly and unrealistic (the virgin girl is most likely to survive, the couple overcome all and live happily ever after, etc.), but it’s the stories themselves that speak to us and keep us coming back for more, not the various elements that may or may not be realistic.

But what do you guys think? Is there one genre that’s more real than the other? Did I or the folks in the video miss something? Let’s discuss.

And let’s discuss it fast, I and six other people are being chased by a killer who died twenty years ago and we can’t seem to escape this haunted mansion no matter how hard we try! And in the meantime three of the people I’m with–one the crown princess of a kingdom of succubi, one a young woman with big dreams and a curse that’s slowly killing her, and one a very handsome young man with a dark past–have confessed their love for me at a really inconvenient time. I’m kind of attracted to all three, and I have to choose one of them before we leave this house! Strangely the killer takes five-to-ten minute breaks so that I can deliberate over my romantic predicament and let it take center-stage in my life when I should be more worried about where the killer is, how he came back when he was electrocuted in 1995, and why for the love of God there’s a convenient object in every room that could become some sort of murder weapon!

What a weird world I live in.

I just recently finished the second draft of “Gynoid”, a sci-fi love story novelette. During that time, I thought a lot about romance in fiction. Have you noticed that it’s everywhere? In fiction, you find a lot of time devoted to find your one true love, and in real life, you find people not just actively looking for their one true love(s), but even measuring themselves by fictional couples! Our music is rife with love songs or how love is betrayed (the so-called “Song of Songs” in the Bible is one huge erotic love song), and if you go back in time, some of our oldest stories involve love and lovers.

Heck, it’s in a lot of my fiction too! And I write fiction where “love” is more likely intense adrenaline and a shared peril being mistaken for attraction. Snake has a love story that’s central to its plot, Reborn City has a bit of romance in it here and there, and..well, you saw the description for “Gynoid” above.

But rather than speculate on why romance and finding it is such a big thing (I think we can all guess at the answer, right?), I think I’m going to share some of the trade secrets I’ve gleaned over the years from other writers and from my own romantic experience, both writing it and from experiencing it (do not ask me which I have more of. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone) on writing romance in your stories. Why? No particular reason, it’s just on my mind and in my stories so much I feel like talking about it. And I know I might not be the most qualified person to talk about the subject–I know I’m not a romance writer–but I know a bit, and since when has not being an expert ever stopped anyone from talking about anything? (*cough* climate change deniers in Congress *cough*)

So let’s begin on my tips for including romance in your stories:

  1. Give the characters personalities, make them fully-rounded and three-dimensional. I feel like often times some of our most celebrated romances involve people who are just good-looking nice folk and not much else. Romeo and Juliet were a sad emo guy with a thing for teenagers and Juliet was a teenager, Cosette and whatever her guy’s name was were good-looking and nice but they weren’t much else, and Katniss Everdeen…okay, Katniss was at least well-rounded. You knew who she was, what her problems were, what she stood for, and what she was willing to do to overcome those problems. Her love interests, on the other hand, just seemed there so as to add something to the story that the story might have done fine without. I mean, Gale is just handsome and angry with the Capitol, and I can’t tell what Peeta is besides sweet. One minute he’s skillful enough to manipulate the hearts of the whole Capitol, the next he’s too naive to tell that Katniss is using him for survival. Make him one or the other! Seriously, if you’re going to bother putting love interests in the story, I’m going to need a reason to ship either of them besides their attractiveness and professions of love.
    And that brings me to my next point:

    It took a long time, but these two became a wonder couple.

  2. What’s the reason they fall for each other? Please don’t say, “Oh, they’re good-looking”, it’s got to be more than that…or heroin-flavored blood. Take one of my favorite anime of all time, Sailor Moon (yeah, I’m a huge fan of that even so many years on. Moonies forever!): all of the main characters are good-looking. So why does Sailor Moon end up with the male lead, especially when in every adaptation of the story they start out fighting and disliking each other and in some he’s already seeing someone else? Leaving aside backstory exposition, I think they just grow comfortable with each other over time. They realize they can be honest with each other and that their faults are just part of who they are. Cute parts too. And it helps when they find out each other’s secret identities, which shows how courageous and reliable they are to one another, to the point they make a pretty good partnership, in love and in combat.
    Another example I’d like to use is Captain America and Peggy Carver in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is my only reference point, I was never much of an American comic books reader for some reason). Heck, at the beginning of their relationship, Cap’s a scrawny guy who doesn’t seem like much of a hero, while Agent Carter is…well, Agent Carter. What forms the basis of their relationship is that Carter likes that Cap wants to help out despite all the barriers facing him, and his sweet and loyal personality, while Cap likes that she’s a unique and confident woman who doesn’t need a man and who also doesn’t look down on him for not being tall and buff. Over time and numerous battles, their relationship grows closer and they fall in love, which ultimately doesn’t end well but I’m sure that if things had gone differently, it would have been a different story.
    Speaking of which, here’s point 2a. Shared experiences, especially combat experiences, can bring a relationship closer. Unless of course you and your supposed lover work really horribly together, in which case fighting will just highlight it and you’ll fall apart at the seams.
  3. There is no point where the relationship becomes perfect. Work is involved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships in the real world, they’re always a work in progress. Why? Because we’re all works in progress, so our relationships are too. There’s going to be rough times, where the characters struggle or worry that something or someone will come along and the good thing they have going will be ruined. Back to Sailor Moon for a second. Fans agree that the heroine and her man are a strong and stable couple (though whether or not it’s a good coupling, I find people disagree on the subject more than you’d think), but they do have to work at it. Besides enemies that threaten to pull them apart for whatever reason, they have the normal couple troubles: people who seem like better matches coming along, occasional misunderstandings, an unexpected child. Heck, they even broke up for a time during the anime’s second season. Just goes to show that even great couples have ups and downs.
    And the best part is, you can extend these meetings, character explorations, falling-in-love scenes, and ups and downs over several books. In fact, half of the fun of the TV show Scandal is watching the heroine Olivia have an on-again, off-again relationship with the (married) President of the United States. You never know how that one is going to work out. And as long as you can keep it going, the more you get to explore these characters and their relationships (provided fans don’t start to get bored, of course).
    And now that we’ve discussed what makes for a relationship, let’s discuss some content.
  4. Sex is not always necessary. Yeah, I know we live in a hyper-sexualized society where everything has a sexy component to it, and I know I included a steamy sex scene in Snake, but seriously, sex isn’t always necessary. In fact, some people prefer romance stories without anything racier than a kiss or two. There’s actually an entire sub-genre of romance like that, it’s called sweet romance, where the characters don’t have sexual relations before marriage (or commitment too, maybe) and it has a big and loyal following. Besides, some authors aren’t comfortable with sex scenes. I know I wasn’t at first, though I later got more comfortable with them. So if you don’t want to do one, there’s no law saying you have to.

    Love the relationship dynamics of this show!

  5. Also, you don’t have to just have one person love only one other. I know there are a couple of Buffy fans reading this blog. One of the best parts of that show is the characters had many different relationships over the 7 seasons. Buffy herself had three major relationships over the course of the series.  The writers could’ve had her with Angel, her first love, through the whole series, but they allowed her, Angel, and many others to explore other relationships and really mature through that. Same with Teen Wolf, which had two main characters being “meant to be forever and ever”, but gradually changed things up over time. So if you want to, you can have characters wait a long time and go through several relationships before finding the right person.
    Especially with love triangles. I hear there are quite a few series out there where a good dose of fun is trying to find out who the main character will end up with in the end, especially when there’s two really great, fleshed-out characters to choose from (though usually from what I hear it’s whoever the protagonist meets first).
    And this brings me to my final point.
  6. Don’t do it because everyone else is. And no, that’s not a drug PSA (though you shouldn’t do those either. Not even weed, that stuff will mess with your system). Yeah, you see people putting all these different things in their stories–love quadrangles, the other man or woman, unexpected pregnancies, even some sexual exploration. Only put those in your story if you feel they’re what the story needs, not what others say you should put in or what others are putting into their stories. Believe me, that’s how I avoided something really unnecessary romance-related stuff in Reborn City, and that worked out great for me.

I’m going to end it right here, but I have to say, there’s a lot more that I could include in this post. Suffice to say, there are a lot of intricacies to writing romance and love stories (point number 7, a romance has a happy ending, a love story doesn’t have to. Learned that a romance writer friend of mine), and you learn these things over time. But hey, in the end they can lead to some really great stories, and maybe melt a heart or two while you’re at it.

What romance writing tips do you have? Do you feel romance is important to your stories or not so much?