Romance! Romance! Romance!

Have you ever written, or tried to write a romance novel or short story? Personally, it’s not my thing. The closest I come to a romance write is in my latest story, Cadeyrn’s Tale, but I’d hardly call it a romance story.

Still, there are some things to consider when writing romance. I think it goes without saying, you need two characters that fall in love. Along with the characters, there needs to be a major obstacle that lies in the path of their love. Quite often, the two don’t even realize they are in love until that obstacle reveals it to them.

For some reason, I think of Hallmark romance movies. I don’t mind saying they are too predictable, but they do use the elements of good romance. Consider the following:

  1. One of the characters is in a relationship with someone else.
  2. One of the characters’ family disapproves of the relationship and threatens to cut the character off.
  3. One of the characters misunderstands the kind of person the other character is and initially dislikes him/her (e.g., character is very shy or nervous but it comes across as rude and arrogant).
  4.  Character X suspects that Character Y is planning or has committed a crime — the more Character X finds out, the more dangerous the situation becomes. (rarely used in Hallmark)

 So you’ve developed your two characters and given them a sizable problem to overcome. To make a story, one more thing is needed – a reason for them to work with each other to overcome the problem and work things out. Many times in real life situatios we see couples simply give up and move on. This is a sad situation, but it really doesn’t make for good reading – or writing. There must be a common goal of sorts for them to overcome.

Often one of the two characters is in love with someone else and it must be drawn out to reveal the true love between your characters. However, often there are outside circumstances that intrude upon the lovers. Think about these.

1. One of the characters works for the other (Think the overused nanny falls in love with her employer).

2. Character X is a detective investigating Character Y. The possibilities here are without number.

3. Character X has an accident or is in danger and Character Y has no choice but to take care of him/her.

The trick is make the story unique. These examples have been used over and over and given the first few chapters, the end of the story can easily be concluded. But again, that doesn’t make for good writing. Create your unique characters. Give them a unique obstacle. Give them a unique reason to stay together, and you’ll no doubt have a winner.

Searching for Conflict

As important as character development and plotting may be, without a conflict to drive the story forward – well, there really is no story. So here are some ideas to help you find a page-turning conflict.

Consider what kind of conflict your story will include. Although some may overlap at times, there are seven basic kinds of conflict. You’ll need to know what your driving conflict is as much as you know your characters and the plot. No doubt, your story’s conflict will fit into one of these categories. When planning the conflict for your story consider one of these areas.

  • Man vs. Self – This may arguably be the most intense form of conflict, but yet most can identify with it. Everything rides on the outcome.
  • Man vs. Man – No doubt, this is the most common form of conflict, and the odds are increased as there are more than one person placed at risk – even if that person is the villain of your story.
  • Man vs. Society – A much bigger scope with much to lose if your character is unsuccessful.
  • Man vs. Nature – Raw nature is very powerful and must be overcome by an equal if not superior power to survive.
  • Man vs. Machine – Of course somewhere along the line, a man invented the machine that is causing conflict. It pits intelligence against intelligence. In today’s world, technolgy is hard to beat.
  • Man vs. Fate/Supernatural – This leaves the door opened for so many possibilies. What will be will be – or will it?
  • Man vs. the unknown – Think outer space aliens. Think unexplored wilderness, which may also include nature. Think about the future.

If readers care about the result of your story conflict, they will keep reading to find out what happens. So the obvious question is, What makes readers care? I believe this is the reason your readers will care. The readers identify with your character — in other words, readers imagine themselves in your character’s place. Readers tend to identify with the viewpoint character and feel as if they’re resolving the story’s conflict along with him or her. They’ve not resolved the conflict until your character does.

Here are some ways to turn a character idea into an idea for conflict. And the good thing is you can use these ideas over and over in different combinations to create new characters and conflicts. 

  • Is there something your character desires or wants to accomplish? Imagine that  your character is in a position to obtain his desire, but what are the roadblocks that easily prevent him/her from doing so.
  • Give your character an important goal to reach, and give her/him a deep-seated fear that s/he will have to face to make the goal. 
  • Give your character someone to hate. Then involve the two in a struggle (possibly a struggle that will change both of them).
  • Imagine the opposite. Who is someone your character loves?  Imagine a situation which threatens to cut your character off from this person.  What is the response of your character?
  • Give your character a major weakness. Then involve him a pursuit that if he is to acheive it, s/he must overcome the weakness.
  • Put your character in a situation that s/he doesn’t know about himself  or herself and s/he is about to ruin his or her life, unless the character is capable of making drastic changes.
  • Give your character two or more people to deeply care about. What happens when you introcuce a situation in which your character must choose between one or another.

Give some things a try. Let me know how you make out!

A Little Character Goes a Long Way

Things are back on track. I apologize for not being here the last couple of weeks. I just needed a little time to regroup and get my thoughts straight. Anyway, here are my thoughts for this week. I want to talk to you about making characters lovable.

Most of the time, you want your readers to love your characters with a possible exception being your villain. Let me give you three things that will help your characters be likable in your readers eyes. The simple truth is if your readers care about your characters, they will certainly care about what happens to them, and they’ll feel invested in your story.

You probably don’t want your protagonist coming off as sickening sweet, but we certainly want our readers to like him/her.

Perhaps the obvious way to show off your character as likable is to show them doing something kind for somebody. It could be something as simple as showing sensitivity in a conversation with another character. But if you really want your character to shine, show him giving in a self-sacrificial way. Maybe put him in a position to take a beating for someone else, a physically weaker character – maybe have him take the blame for a crime she didn’t commit to spare someone else the pain of prison. But be careful. Your reader also expects justice to be served.

A second way you might make your character likable is to make him an underdog. Everyone loves an underdog. Page by page you can stack the odds against her, and when she comes shining forth as gold. your readers will love her all the more. A possible twist might allow the character to lose his own life in the process – self-sacrificing kindness and the underdog rolled into one. Samson in the Bible, an underdog at the time, sacrificed his life so justice could be served against his evil antagonists.

Thirdly, giving your character, especially your protagonist, a great ability to love usually endears him/her to your reading audience. Certainly, a romance novel would fit into this category, but I’m talking so much more. Perhaps it could be an inseparable friendship. The biblical Jonathan and David fit into this category. A deep love for animals or pets will also work – but please, no Lassie.

These are just some quick thoughts to get you on your way. See what you can do with the ideas and let me know what you think. Have a great week!