The R Word. Again

So there I was, happily browsing the #WriterCommunity tag on Twitter, when I saw The Question. Someone wanted to know if a Romance needed a happy ending.

Life happens! HEAs are unrealistic! And her story is So Much MoreTM! All the things anyone who writes Romance has seen argued over and over and OVER again. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. Especially when said person knows so little about the genre they’re writing that they don’t understand why it’s frustrating and infuriating to have the BASIS OF THE GENRE questioned.

No one ever asks if a murder mystery needs a dead body.

Okay, let’s look at how RWA defines romance:

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.

Endings can be Happy For Now or Happily Every After. If you’re writing a series, you want a HFN ending where the pairing is in a good place, though they don’t necessarily have had to made a commitment. Break-ups can happen, but they should occur during the narrative and the make-up should happen before the novel’s end.

Thing is, the author can absolutely put their couple through the wringer. It’s actually kind of expected. Opposition can come from outside, from the characters’ own beliefs, or both. Romance readers want love to be something that’s hard-won. That’s where the satisfaction comes from. (That, and we like the sex scenes*)

If you’re going to write Romance, READ Romance. Know the rules. Know what your intended audience expects. Most importantly know what publishers expect, because the quickest way to get a rejection landing in your inbox is to pitch a Romance that isn’t.

Dark Attraction – Loving the Bad Boys

Cliff Simon says he likes playing the bad guy because “they’re more fun.” This is true because, even in a fantasy world, being ‘good’ means following rules, be that official ones or the character’s moral code. The bad guys aren’t constrained by those rules and so their characters are freer.

I mention Cliff because he played one of my favourite bad boys – Stargate SG-1’s Baal. Right from the beginning, he wanted to play Baal against type, and it shows. And it’s why he drew my attention (that, and he’s pretty hot.) I wasn’t the only one and fan demand meant Baal ended up becoming the major bad guy.

This also meant his character saw the most development; though he never became ‘good’, he did help SG-1 – after a fashion – on a couple of occasions, each with little moments that hinted at depth. When events forced him to hide out on Earth, we were privy to a glimpse of humanity which only served to make him more interesting.

Baal is not the only bad boy to grab my attention. I have a penchant for them that goes back so far, I’m not even sure who started it. Doctor Who’s Master was one of the first. I don’t even have the defence that he had some redeeming qualities – his being gleeful about his wickedness was what drew me, but then I was eight at the time. Naughtiness is appealing when you’re that age.

Skip many years and the airing of Farscape. I can still remember the two page spread in the Radio Times that announced this weird sci fi show. I was captivated from that moment because it looked so different from anything else. Yet it wasn’t the blue-eyed all-American hero that I fell for. Captain Bialar Crais had me from the second he stalked onto the bridge of his ship. British TV was still by-and-large white, but Crais (played by the fabulous Lani Tupu) was not and I was breathless. Then That Old Black Magic gave him a Tragic BackstoryTM and I was a goner.

I maintain that Crais has THE best character arc in sci fi. He goes from a cold, slightly unhinged commander to a man willing to sacrifice himself for those he’s come to care about. It’s not an easy route. There’s pain and loss, but his strength shines through and honestly just thinking about it makes me tear up.

Lately I (and many others) have been falling for the ultimate bad boy – Lucifer. Devilishly handsome and completely irreverent, Luci is a hell of a lot of fun. Yes, I am making these puns on purpose. Yet despite the supernatural premise, Lucifer has a more basic plot – it’s about someone finding their true self and how they fit into the world. It’s relatable and if there’s one thing a bad boy needs to be good it’s relatability.

Loving the bad guy might strike some people as warped, but I refer you, dear reader, to my original point – that bad guys are more fun. They’re the heroes of their own stories and often want the right thing, though they might not go the right way to achieving that goal. Some are just after acceptance – I will emphasise more with those characters who don’t fit somehow. Who are searching for something.

And yes, often the hero is doing those very same things, but I like my characters intelligent, mischievous and just a little bit snarky, and the good guys tend not to be like that. So on the dark side, I will stay.

Writing the Enemies to Lovers Trope

Enemies-to-lovers is my favourite romantic trope. There’s nothing more satisfying than reading about/watching two characters who are polar opposites* reluctantly fall for each other. Yet writing this trope can be tricky – you want to make their love seem improbable without making it impossible.

* There are exceptions that I don’t believe are romantic and this can be summed up as any potential relationship that has an unequal power balance (eg Nazi-Jew or slave owner-slave.)

Oil and Water

Make your characters as different as you can: the jock and the geek, the con and the cop, the god and the mortal; and so on. Yet despite all their differences, they need something in their pasts that means they’ll eventually be able to relate to one another. You can hint at this through internal dialogue but don’t let them mention it out loud.

Lock In

Have something happen that forces your characters together, otherwise you have no story. Whether it’s a fight against the elements or against a bigger enemy, what they’re facing means they have to work together in order to survive. Though not before they have several arguments, of course!

Heightened Awareness

Every little thing one character does annoys the other no end, and vice versa. They snore or chew their nails or twist their hair. These habits are a source for further fights but should also show that the characters are paying attention to each other.

Deny Everything

Both characters ought to have a pained moment where they realise how much they’re noticing about the other. Extra cookies if they have a moment where they actually manage to work together without griping and then pull back in shock.

Rocky Common Ground

This is where your characters know they have to work together to solve the problem but don’t like it. Yet the moments of genuine partnership are increasing. Let them talk and start to get to know one another. One or both may believe this glimmer of friendship is fake/contrived.

Hungry Eyes

Doubt doesn’t stop them noticing more and more. Add offhand touches and sideways glances. Or even deep, longing stares. Erode their reasons for not getting together.

Going Green

One character mentions someone they know of the opposite sex. The other gets flustered, because they want to know who this person is – and how important they are. Yet they can’t come out and ask as that shows the information matters. Let this situation simmer; maybe have this third wheel mentioned often and the character continue to be tied up in knots. The first character can either remain obvious or realise what’s going on and use it.

Pinch, Punch

The sexual tension goes off the boil in the opposite direction by your characters having a physical fight. This can be anything from a shove to a full on drag down.

Have the characters end the fight without no clear winner in order to maintain the power balance. Or, if one must win, have them do it by cheating. You can certainly let this expand into angry sex. I loves me some angry sex.

Solid Common Ground

Let your characters take care of each other in the aftermath. If their issues weren’t aired during the fight, do it now. You want them to move to being friends now. Let them talk and find something they have in common other than the need to survive – this can be anything from a love of kittens to flunking the same class or maybe they were once in the same place at the same time but never met. They should acknowledge out loud that they need each other to win against the odds.

Sexual Healing

Your characters are back to work… and back to making physical and eye contact, but this no longer by accident. Fingers brush and gazes long and sooner or later, they give into the mounting desire. If you don’t want to write a sex scene, then don;’t force yourself, but your readers need to know that line’s been crossed. If nothing else, let them have a nice little cuddle afterwards as they go to sleep in each other’s arms.

Back Off Ya Bastard Or I’ll Break Ya Legs

So now your characters are lovers! Yet they can’t celebrate just yet as whatever brought them together in the first place still needs dealing with. If it’s an antagonist, well they probably thought they were going to deal with one or the other. That they’re fighting as one? Oh, boy.

After all they’ve been through neither wants to lose now, so let them fight for, and protect, one another. This is where both are going to stand there ground and say to the Big Bad “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” Maybe they don’t get out without being injured, but they ought to emerge victorious and more or less in one piece.

Big Damn Heroes

The day is saved! Voldemort is dead, the Empire is defeated, and Winter is over. Now is the time for celebrations, whether that’s them being awarded something or riding off together into the sunset. Let them gaze into each other’s eyes or snuggle down together. Or both – both is good.

In short, let them get gooey and romantic. Have them recount the first time they saw each other and laugh about how ridiculous they were. Most importantly, let them declare their love. Fade.

Ahh, nuts

The pup has wrecked my thumb drive. This has everything on – photos for my business, invoices, con photos… and all my writing. I can’t access any of it which is not good. Really not good.

I’ve been writing a romantic suspense with magical elements. I got just over 5K done for Camp NaNo when this happened. I think the drive is salvageable, but with it being Easter, my tech guy is unavailable. So I can’t work on this particular story for the moment.

Yet I’m not about to roll over and give up. I discovered that I’d saved a sci fi romance series to OneDrive, so I’ve gone back to that. It’s had a few attempts, always dying out around chapter two, but on reviewing the last iteration, I realised I was approaching the story wrong. Now I’ve a firm direction and am writing from first person POV, it’s whipping along nicely.



Future-Proofing Your Writing Time

“Write every day” is advice that gets banded about a lot in the writing community, usually with several rebuttals because it’s ableist AF. It doesn’t take into account people with physical and/or mental illness. If you’re low on energy or in mood, then the last thing you want to hear is that writers write. Continue reading Future-Proofing Your Writing Time

WriYe Blog Circle ~ Romance

Is romance necessary in all fiction? Why or why not?

All? Of course not. However, I prefer my fiction to either be romance or at least have an element of it. And not just an aside to draw in romance readers for their dollars – a properly filled out romance, which means that aspect of the plot has a happily ever after. Continue reading WriYe Blog Circle ~ Romance

The Longest Month

I am slowly creeping my way back into the writing community after… well, let’s rewind to mid November.

My attempt at NaNo had died a death, mostly because I’d been very distracted by woodworking and plans that I and my husband were making at having our own business. We’d even found a premise in Manchester. We were deciding on a product range and choosing power tools to buy when his insurance money finally got paid. In short, 2019 was going to be OUR YEAR.

Then on 30 December, with no warning whatsoever, H had a stroke.

It was fairly major and we were told to prepare for the worst. I couldn’t (and honest still can’t) get my head around it. He was 45, and had been fit and healthy. How on earth had he had a stroke?

He survived but he was on ICU for two weeks. He’s now in Trauma Rehab at Salford Royal and facing a long road of recovery. Thankfully, he’s still very much himself, but had no movement on his left side. At this point we still don’t know what his long-term prospects are.

What this all means is the woodworking business is on hold. I’ve gone back to crocheting and am building that instead, and I’ve started writing again – albeit small amounts rather occasionally.

Everything is very, very uncertain.