Valentine’s Day naturally makes us think of romance. And what could be more fitting than a good romance novel?
When I first decided to write a novel, I decided to write a romance, Hard Amazon Rain. After all, what could be easier?
I discovered that romance is perhaps the most difficult genre to write. Romance readers are…. well…picky.
They have clear expectations, “rules” if you will.
- Boy/girl meets boy/girl
- They fall into attraction,
- Love is thwarted,
- Maybe there’s some danger to the heroine involved,
- They overcome the obstacles,
- And they live happily ever after.
That’s as close to a formula as I can imagine. But there are great love stories that don’t follow this “formula”: Romeo and Juliet and the movie, Love Story.
How boring romance rstories would be if we wrote them all to some imagined “formula!”
In an RWA (Romance Writers of America) critiquing class I learned to ask five questions of my characters:
- What do they want?
- Why do they want it?
- How do they plan to get it?
- What’s standing in the way of their getting it?
- What will happen if they don’t get it?
When those questions are answered, you have Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. This is what makes stories memorable, but it’s by no means a “formula.” These are just the ingredients that make your romantic story memorable.
So, is Goal, Motivation, and Conflict a “rule” that can be broken? I don’t think so—at least I can’t figure out a way to do it, or why I would even want to, when it works so well.
The trouble with life is that it gets in the way.
It comes along just when we’re planning to jot down that great line or write that poignant scene. Life comes in every form imaginable: a child with a last-minute requirement for school, an aging parent with special needs, a job that consumes at least 40 hours a week, a husband (say no more).
Often all of the above at the same time!
On the other hand, without those sad-glad-mad experiences of our own, would we really be able to get in touch with the motivations and feelings of our characters? Would we really understand what love, pain, jealousy, hatred, ambition and guilt feel like? Would we meet those interesting people who inspire our most colorful characters?
No, I think “life” is something we need to support our creativity.
One of my goals last January was to complete a series of online courses by the end of 2016. Now I see it aint-agonna happen. . . My excuse? Life just got in the way. There was the publication of another adult coloring book, teaching real live classes, family obligations, a renewed interest in watercolor painting and unexpected travel for work.
Now I get to make new goals and resolutions for 2017… but first, I’d better figure out how to balance my responsibilities so that “life” becomes my friend, my source, my inspiration, my sustenance—so that I can’t say, “Life got in the way.” But rather, “Without ‘life’ I wouldn’t be who I am, think as I do, write as I must. I welcome ‘life’ as a part of the universe that will not only build my character, but build my characters, too!”
Onward to 2017!
Wishing you another year of writing, fun, and creative inspiration!