Tag s | Romance

Romancing the Readers

I had a conversation with a writer friend a few weeks ago. She was telling me that the book she’s writing is, at the core, a romance, and no one was more surprised than she. “I don’t know a thing about writing romances,” she confessed. “Any tips?” I sent her an email with my thoughts, and that was that. Then she emailed me a few days ago:

I just re-read this [email] as I’m still struggling through the end of my ms. This is an unbelievably beautiful note! It would make a great blog post on how to write romance….”

Well! I took a look at it, and I think she’s got something there. It does lend itself well to a blog. So I did a little editing, and here you go. If you find yourself writing a romance and you’re not quite sure about it, here are some things to keep in mind about the hero and heroine:

* The reader needs to see their attraction as believable. In other words, Not just because he’s handsome and she’s beautiful. As with real romance, let their feelings surprise them, then show those feelings growing as an organic part of the story. That’s not to say they can’t be immediately attracted to one another, or that one can’t be immediately attracted to the other. That instant spark does happen. But make sure readers see good reasons for romance—and love–to grow between them. Think about it. What’s more romantic than a man who treats women and children with respect? What’s more appealing to a man than a woman who honors and respects him? It’s not about Tarzan meets Jane, it’s about character and integrity and true strength and beauty.

* It’s vital that the conflicts between them are authentic and believable, not contrived. Too often romances just have the protagonists getting mad at each other for no solid reason, just to keep the tension going. Let the tension flow from the natural conflicts in the story. And believe me, there’s no more natural source of tension than the whole man-woman relationship!

*Use external tension as well as internal, especially when their love for each other becomes clear and accepted by them. What obstacles keep them apart? What do they have to overcome to finally be together? Give the reader a sense of celebration and victory when they’re finally together for good.

* Remember that any romance/love, real romance/love, is a reflection of God’s love for us. There is dying to self involved, looking to the good of the other first, sacrifice and struggle. Real romance isn’t easy. But oh! It’s amazing when it’s right!

* Show passion. Not graphic passion. Not the easy, physical lust. But that inner passion that somehow weaves another person into the fabric of who we are. The passion that brings the image of their face to mind, taking our breath away. The passion that makes the sound of their laughter like a long, cool drink on a parched day. The passion that leaves us feeling as though a part of us is missing when they’re not with us. The passion that, when we see how their eyes light at seeing us, sends a shock from head to toe. Oh yeah…that passion is what drives us on. It’s what lasts, even when physical passion may have ebbed.

* Last but not least, do not disappoint your reader! Don’t know if you’ve ever seen Sommersby, but I loved that movie. That movie has an awesome love story, amazing romance. Right up to the last 5 minutes. And then I HATED it. Will never watch it again. The ending was such a betrayal of the wonderful romance and the promise we were given up to that point. I understand why it ended the way it did, but that didn’t matter. I was actually angry at the end. I mean, boiling mad. If what you’re writing is a real romance, then deliver on the promise if that for the readers. Let the hero and heroine be together in the end!

And above all, have fun!

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Fresh Formulas

Some have a hard time appreciating the talent involved in writing genre fiction. By genre fiction, I mean novels that fall into a defined category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, or cozy mystery. Many of these novels are published by mass market publishers (like Harlequin) and fit in lines they have formed for the sole purpose of selling the genre.

These are distinguished from Trade fiction where there isn’t necessarily a specific line that has been formed to sell a genre, although there are exceptions to that “rule” like the “Love Finds You” series from Summerside Press. In publisher’s lingo “trade” means a 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ trim size and is probably between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length. “Genre” or “category” fiction can mean the 4″ by 6″ trim size (also known as mass market) and between 50,000 words and 70,000 words.

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The Superiority of Christian Romance Novels

A dedicated reader of the blog (Thank you!) posed an excellent question in response to a recent post:

 Recently, I heard a female Christian marriage counselor/speaker say that women should avoid Christian romance books. She stated there was no such thing as Christian romance. Since she was speaking on the topic of pornography, I assumed she was referring to fiction that leads the reader’s mind where it ought not to go. In my opinion, most romantic Christian fiction does not fall into that category.

My question for you: How would you respond if someone told you Christian romance was sinful, or that there was no such thing? Has that happened to you before?

Last week I responded to the idea that there is no such thing as Christian romance. “Christian Romance – Fact or Fiction?

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Christian Romance — Fact or Fiction?

In response to a recent blog post, “A Matter of Taste,”  a reader asked what I would say if someone claimed there is no such thing as Christian romance.

In fact, I have been confronted with this question before. At a Christian writers’ conference a few years ago, a woman told me in a snide manner that romance is a “fantasy” and walked away before I could respond. I felt especially sad that the woman was no doubt a fellow Christian, but it sounded like it had come from a jaded secularist. I believe this woman’s attitude reflects her own experience rather than the state of Christian publishing. True, not all real life endings are happy, and Christian romance novels traditionally end with the premise that the couple will enjoy a bright future. That is the hope and promise these books offer. Indeed, isn’t that the hope and promise of weddings in real life?

The Lord never promised Christians perfect unions. My heart aches for anyone in a miserable marriage. Hurt people hurt people, so no amount of convincing will change some minds about romance. But God is bigger than any situation, and He heals willing hearts.

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A Matter of Taste

I always enjoy reading comments on our blog posts. Recently a reader posted a provocative question:

In this time of great emotional upheaval, instability, and unrest, aren’t we ready for something more solid and inspiring than just different types of romance novels?

Those of you familiar with my career know that I am the author of many romance novels and stories — and Bible trivia books!

And while I represent a variety of authors in fiction and nonfiction, my list is weighted heavily to romantic stories. I do realize that not everyone has the same taste — nor should we.

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To Romance or Not to Romance

According to St. Teresa of Avila’s biography, the battle over romance novels has been going on at least since the 1500s:

Teresa’s father was rigidly honest and pious, but he may have carried his strictness to extremes. Teresa’s mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to these fanciful books, she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle — especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong.

Those of us who write, represent, and publish Christian romance novels can be made to feel the same way when our brothers and sisters in Christ object to our efforts to provide readers with God-honoring entertainment.  I have spoken with authors whose pastors have derided their writing, read negative blogs, and heard conference speakers criticize Christian romance novels.

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