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    Default Lesson Eleven: How to Write Romance by Kelleo

    Time for another article, just in time to count as the July lesson! @Kelleo has written this amazing article for us, so I hope you all enjoy and find it useful!



    Heya, fellow Writer’s Workshoppers! Your local romance and pairing nut, Kelleo, is here for the eleventh lesson, on how to write one of the most difficult story genres in existence, if not the most difficult. Romance! If you’re having a hard time writing one of these even in a story where romance isn’t the primary genre, this lesson is for you. I’ll be providing all the tips and tools necessary for building up a lovely romance! Pun intended.

    Anyway, the main reason why writing a romance can be difficult is that it may be hard to keep the couple from appearing Mary-Sueish and having a realistic reason for being in love, especially if you’re going for a love-at-first-sight concept. Personally, however, I would not recommend going this route. It is entirely possible to write a romance effectively this way, but it is much harder to do and not as realistic as having a relationship develop gradually. I don’t actually believe in love at first sight myself, but that’s me. But anyway, let’s begin! I’m not actually that great at writing articles or essays, so bear with me.

    Introduction


    So, first things first. What exactly is the romance genre all about? We all know what romance itself is, don’t we? It’s the strongest possible relationship two people can have together. They’re so attached to one another that they exhibit affection such as hugs, kisses, cuddling, going on dates, all that stuff. They care about one another so much that they would give their lives up for each other and spend their lives together. Writing a romance story is about the development of this relationship and/or any hardships the characters in said relationship go through. The chemistry exhibited between the couple, how the supporting characters react to them, and the events in the story are all a part of this as well. I’ll be talking about how to effectively write all of these throughout the lesson. Here are a couple of sources I found reliable enough to use quotes from as I go on.

    How to Write Romance Novels (with Examples) - wikiHow

    Harlequin.com | How to Write the Perfect Romance!

    Now, the first thing you need to know about writing romance is the foundation of one. What exactly is required for it to be a romance story? You need three main things.

    1. Two main characters, aka a couple. These are the people what will be in love. Note, they don’t have to be of opposite genders, even though that’s undoubtedly how most main characters in romances are written.

    2. Conflicts. This one can apply to any story, really, but it’s especially necessary for romances. Relationships aren’t all fields of flowers and butterflies. They come with their share of troubles too.

    3. Friendships. All romances start out as friendships, even those people call love at first sight. Why is this so? Because not even people that fall in love at first sight will say right away that they’re in love. They act like friends first before spilling the beans. Would you walk up to a random person that you find attractive and say “Heya, I’ve fallen in love with you!”? And not to mention that they don’t know each other well enough yet to have their relationship to really qualify as true love.

    These characteristics are the foundation of your romantic tale and if all are done well, you’ll have an excellent story to tell! Disney romance classics often have some cheesy and/or common concepts and happily-ever-after type endings, but you know why these movies are so good? Entertaining plots and characters, and nice development of both as well as neat spins on said concepts. But how can we do all this ourselves? That’s what I’m here to discuss!

    Your Couple and True Love


    Firstly, let’s talk about how to define true love exactly. Don’t mistake crushes, infatuation, or other such things for true love. They are not the same. A crush or infatuation is normally temporary (if it isn’t, we have a problem) and goes away over time. It’s also usually the beginning of a relationship, however. If a boy and girl that develop crushes or infatuations with one another continue to get to know each other and grow close, said crushes/infatuation will become real, true love. True love, everlasting love, is a strong bond of affection between two people. They care about one another endlessly and as I stated earlier, they’d give their lives up for each other. And of course, spend the rest of their lives together. Nothing breaks the bond of true love. It sounds cheesy, but true love really is powerful enough to see a couple that exhibits it through anything, no matter what the situation.

    But what about the characters themselves? I’m not going to go into an in-depth explanation on creating good characters, as that’s an entirely different lesson, but I will say a few things on the matter. Firstly, one problem that I think a lot of romance stories have is that one of the main characters feels like a self-insert or character the author dreams of being, and the other feels like the author’s ideal lover. This is the problem I’ve heard that the infamous Twilight series has. Many people say Bella is basically what the author, Stephanie Meyer, wishes to be, while Edward is her idea of a perfect lover. This makes the characters seem Mary-Sueish and unrealistic (people say this is especially the case with Bella).

    Having one or both of your main characters share a few things in common with you is fine, as this is the case in real life. We all share some things in common with others. Just don’t make any characters too much like you. It’s also perfectly fine for the characters to think their lover is perfect. This is natural as well, and I even encourage it, because it shows how they care about each other enough to see past their flaws. But obviously, the characters must still have flaws, as nobody is perfect in real life.

    As for creating the main character of the gender you are romantically interested in, don’t think much about what you find to be an ideal lover. Think about what the other half of the couple would want in a lover in accordance to their personality. That’s right, it’s easiest to focus on one character at a time. Since I’m a woman, I usually start off with the female and then think about what kind of man she’d love the most. There are exceptions to this, however, such as Bryan and Faline in my Fire Emblem fic, Dawn of Darkness. In this case, I created Bryan first because he’s one of the two male leads and romance isn’t the main genre of the story (yet there is a good deal of it because in Fire Emblem, romance is actually kind of a big thing). So don’t feel that you should always start off with a character of the same gender as you. It may even improve your skills to try creating the opposite gendered character first.

    But either way, what would this character want in a girl/guy? For Bryan, the first thing that came to mind was a cute pink-haired girl with a long ponytail. But appearance is only a part of it. Think about the character’s backstory, flaws, everything. Bryan grew up hated and lonely aside from his father and a single friend, so he needed someone that would look past the fact that just about everyone hated him and he tended to be a bit of a crybaby. So as I worked at Faline, the cute pink-haired girl with a long ponytail, I then went to her own history and what she wants in a guy. She’s fed up with a bunch of idiot men trying to woo her for her appearance and trying to impress her with their fancy armor or some such. She wants a man that gives little thought to appearance, that wouldn’t constantly try to flirt with her, and if they’re in the army, a guy that fights for honor and respect instead of just money or looking attractive. Bryan is pretty much just like this (in fact, he doesn’t even know how to flirt). He’s her ideal man as a result, and she is his ideal woman. So they could have great chemistry.

    You also need to think about the ages of your characters. Depending on what sort of audience you’re going for, the ideal ages can vary. A teen romance needs teenagers, a more adult one might want people in their twenties, and so on. Romance stories are read mostly by young adults and teens though, so keeping it around late teens to early twenties works best. The ages should also make sense in accordance to who you’re pairing up as a couple. It’s unreasonable to put a 25-year-old man with a 15-year-old girl, for example.

    Conflicts in Your Story


    Next, we’ll discuss creating the conflict, the most important part of the plot of your story. Oh, there are so many ways you can do this for a romance story. And there are two kinds of conflicts: internal and external.

    Internal conflicts should be the main focus in a romance story. These are the emotional situations that occur within a relationship and can be defined by either member of the couple. The sample in the first source I linked has the conflict of the male character being torn between his first wife and a new woman that came into his life after his first wife left him. This occurred when that first wife came back. Another possible conflict could relate to the families of the two people that make up your couple. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has the families of the two main characters feuding and not approving of the two being together. It’s really all in how the supporting characters react to the couple that your story is about. The plot of a romance story is normally character-driven, as it deals with the emotions and feelings of the characters.

    External conflicts should be brought in to add additional support and development to the story’s plot and relationship between the characters that make up your couple. They can be defined by misunderstandings, circumstances, and a supporting character’s role.
    Every romance story needs some kind of conflict, because as I stated in the previous section, a relationship has its share of troubles it goes through, no matter how big or small. A simple, short wedding story I also wrote for Fire Emblem still has some conflict. The groom, Frederick, is afraid of embarrassing himself or others during the ceremony, as well as his parents embarrassing him in general. The bride, Kelli, is worried about what Frederick’s parents would think of her and such because she knows little about her past. There’s also an external conflict, an accident that occurs during the reception that literally makes a complete mess and even leaves one of the guests injured, and we see how the newly wedded couple handles all of this.

    You can even have the conflict prevent the couple from actually being in love until the end of the story or until they die. I once read this ballad a long time ago, about a man that repeatedly bought drinks for every lady in a bar except one of them. I don’t remember why, I think it might’ve been because he didn’t have enough money or something. But anyway, this leads the guy and the girl to get into a conflict about it. Near the end, both of them are killed (I don’t remember how or why…gosh, this was so long ago), but buried next to each other. Vines grow up their gravestones and at the top, they form a heart shape. This is showing that while they were rather at odds with each other in life, they are now together in death.

    Friendships and Romantic Development


    Ah, this is where we talk about character interactions and how their friendships become romance! Let’s go back to Bryan and Faline. They met when Bryan rescued Faline from pirates and he escorted her home. They bonded through the journey and became friends. Yet, Faline found that she enjoyed Bryan a lot more than other men she had interacted with in the past and she grew very fond of him as a result. Bryan began feeling warm and fuzzy inside around her and enjoying her company. This is the friendship-to-crush stage of their relationship. Except in Bryan’s case, he doesn’t know he’s in love, as while he can define the word, he never knew what it felt like at all.

    Now let’s check out Leyon and Azura, another couple from FE: Dawn of Darkness. Leyon finds Azura to be a much different woman than others he has met and is attracted to her characteristics as well as her appearance. Azura, however, dislikes him at first and doesn’t want anything to do with men in general, aside from the few she has managed to befriend and the ones she’s battling alongside. However, something about Leyon still gets to her, and she admits that she thinks he’s handsome as well. But she keeps telling herself that he’s nothing but another man that thinks she’s too weak to fend for herself just because she’s a woman. She soon becomes unsure whether she really likes him or hates him (there’s that internal conflict!) after some other events in the story. It’s eventually apparent that they both always considered one another friends and did, in fact, fall in love with each other unexpectedly.

    Lastly, Marc and Leona, yet another couple in this story. These two were originally matched up as partners by Leyon, who believed they’d make a cute couple. Marc and Leona wound up bickering like an old married couple a lot, yet still tolerated one another and could never bear to partner up with anyone else. They grew to care for one another that much, but didn’t like admitting to it. It took them a good while to finally realize and admit that their friendship grew into love.

    These are just three examples of entirely different ways a romance can develop out of a friendship. The friendship stage can last a long time or a short time, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s realistic. By the way, ever heard the saying “opposites attract”? It’s not exactly true, actually, but it’s not entirely false either. It’s quite possible for two people that have a good deal of opposite views and don’t seem to go well together to end up marrying and spending their lives together. Marc and Leona are actually an example of this, as the two have rather contrasting personalities. It really depends on what those opposites are, exactly. Bickering about food or pet or game preferences or other silly things works great. Heck, even bickering about each other also makes for good development to an extent.

    Having a lot of things in common works just as well, however. Liking a lot of the same things can result in great bonding as well as some more bickering. Say a guy and girl are good friends and they went to a store to do some shopping together. They see a game they both like, but don’t have. However, there’s only one copy left. They could start arguing over who gets it. Arguments and bickering are a natural part of a relationship. It helps the bond between the two people grow stronger. If they can still care for one another despite some angry argument they had, it shows that they have a strong relationship going. In fact, they say that if there’s practically no arguing or anything within the relationship, it’s a bad one.

    Events and Dialogue


    Good events and dialogue must apply to any story, but for romances, you want events relating to them, like dates, heartbreaks, weddings, honeymoons, and so on. Think about your setting as well. What would be a romantic spot in this place? Perhaps a hill where a gorgeous sunset is viewable? Or maybe a lake the moon shines upon often. Dates often happen at the movies, restaurants, and other sorts of places. The time period your story takes place in also affects what your couple can do. My Fire Emblem fic is a medieval tale, so obviously, movies aren’t possible there.

    It’s also good to do family-related events too, like a pregnancy or one half of your couple falling ill. You can make these more dramatic by having the pregnancy be totally unexpected and/or miscarried or have the illness occur at a particularly bad time, like shortly before the wedding. Events like these create conflicts, which help your couple’s bond grow stronger as mentioned earlier. And it makes the readers want to cheer them on and support them!

    As for dialogue, as with any story, it needs to be believable and in character with your characters. Since this is a romance story we’re talking about here, feel free to add a bit of cheesy wording too, like “I love you with all of my brave and knightly heart!” or “You have the most amazing eyes.” Just don’t overdo it, or it’ll turn your readers off. Cheesy can mean boring, so yeah.

    Lastly, notice how I have not used the word “sex” anywhere in this article so far. A common misconception is that having sexual intercourse also shows that someone loves their partner, but this is not true. Except if the characters are married and trying to have a child. That’s completely different, because in this case, the couple wants to raise a family together and is very close. But otherwise, a person can love someone without sex. In fact, you don’t have to use any mature themes at all to write a good romance. Just look at the popular Disney movies that involve a romance story.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t use any of these themes at all, it’s perfectly fine if you want to. It’s just not reasonable to only show two people screwing around in their bed merely for the sake of it all the time.

    Ending Your Story


    Your plot and story can be excellent overall, but if your ending isn’t good, the whole story will just be thought of as okay. People will say “I liked it, but the ending was bad.” The most important thing about ending a romance novel is to have the main couple be together in the end. If they aren’t, it kind of defeats the purpose of it being a romance story. Also, your readers will want them to be together!

    However, this doesn’t mean the story should have a happily-ever-after ending. Look at Romeo and Juliet again and that ballad I mentioned earlier. Just beware, however, as tragic romances may not appeal to some as much as happier ones do. I’m one of those people that can very rarely, if ever, like a tragic romance such as Romeo and Juliet. I did, however, like the ballad I mentioned. So it’s possible to grab romance fans of any kind, whether they prefer tragic romances or happy ones. You can’t please everyone, obviously, so you should focus mainly on your target audience.

    But whether you’re going for a happy ending or not, don’t write something like “and they got married, had two children, and lived happily ever after.” That’s just incredibly generic and boring. A romance story needs an emotional, matching romantic ending! I ended that Fire Emblem wedding story with Frederick and Kelli sharing a romantic kiss atop Frederick’s horse on a hill in front of a gorgeous sunset. I then added that the horse snorted as if to say “are these two lovebirds seriously making out on my back?” You’ve got to make the ending totally worth reading the whole story for! Especially if it’s a long story.

    Conclusion


    And this is where I end my lesson on writing romance! The last things you need to write a good romance is love for your characters and story as well as some motivation. I’m not going to say I’m the greatest romance writer ever, or argue if you think this article could’ve been written a little better, but I hope you all found this advice helpful anyway. I also hope that this has made you want to write a romance yourself!
    Last edited by AceTrainer14; 31st July 2013 at 05:15 PM.

    ^^^^ The GalacticVerse Bibliography (Thanks to Blazaking for Banner) ^^^^

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lesson Eleven: How to Write Romance by Kelleo

    Gah, I forgot to underline "Ending Your Story" xP

    There are also a couple other little typos, but no big deal. I'm glad this was so well-received, I was never confident about my article/essay-writing skills. :3

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    Default Re: Lesson Eleven: How to Write Romance by Kelleo

    I'm curious, how would you recommend handling same-sex couples? I tend to treat them no differently from any other pairing, but that's just me.

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lesson Eleven: How to Write Romance by Kelleo

    Eh, I've never actually written any homosexual couples (because it's not my thing), but I wouldn't handle them any differently either. Romance is romance. xP

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    Default Re: Lesson Eleven: How to Write Romance by Kelleo

    Ironically... Half (or maybe 3/4) of the reccomendations you made? I was planning to use some of those on a project (on the forums) involving some writing. Guess we think alike! :b

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lesson Eleven: How to Write Romance by Kelleo

    Well, they say great minds think alike. ^^

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    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Lesson Eleven: How to Write Romance by Kelleo

    I swear I replied to this xP

    Great lesson, Kelleo! I'll definitely keep this in mind as I slowly introduce romantic elements into my writing. In the past I didn't feel that my characters were developed enough to be really comfortable with it. On a similar note, do you have any other tips in regards to pre-established relationships? That is, relationships that didn't develop over the course of the story, but existed at its beginning? I'm having trouble showing that depth exists without having shown the development of it. I'm trying to avoid flashbacks, but that might be my only option.

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lesson Eleven: How to Write Romance by Kelleo

    @AetherX;: Ah, thanks so much, AetherX! That really means a lot to me, you know, since as I had said, I've never been an expert at writing articles or essays.

    As for your question, I actually don't have as much experience writing already established relationships, unfortunately. But what I would recommend here is to look at the backstory of these characters. Have conversations reveal how they met, when they got married if they're married, how long they've been together, things like that. And show how much they love one another.

    For example, I had an already married couple in that Fire Emblem wedding story I had mentioned, this couple being the parents of the groom. I couldn't add a whole lot of depth since it was a short story, but I did reveal when they had gotten married and when their son was born and such. And they said that the love and affection between the bride and groom reminded them of themselves when they were younger. This shows that they have a deep and developed relationship too, methinks.

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