Friday, May 21, 2010

A Tip For Keeping The Relationship Going

I had the chance to listen to Mary Jo Putney at the WisRWA conference and she brought up a fantastic idea that I think romance writers, too often, tend to forget.

She was taking the time to discuss how to keep the reader moving through the story and brought in the discussion of the relationship and the moment that the characters decide to finally move it to the next level. What she noted was that too often, she found that many characters were sleeping together and committing themselves to each other too soon in the story. The problem with this, especially in the area of romance, is that now the story has no where else to go. Since the ultimate goal of the story is to get the characters together, and you have done this too soon, what is there left to do?

I have to agree with this 100%. The idea of sexual tension in a story is not how the characters deal with the morning after, but the tension building up to the wanting and final release of all that tension. We want to see that frustation in the part of the characters. We want to see those first unclear feelings as the characters grapple with emotions they may not have experienced to that level before. Yes, I said emotions and not "physical responses." We then want to see the characters move into this feeling of wanting to do more but not sure how to progress. When they have figured this out, the question then becomes not how to progress but should they progress.

Sure, hot stories are great. I am not saying to hold off on those emotions. Just find a way to slow those characters down some and give the reader a chance to get to know them before you move them on to that next level.



  1. That's great advice. I think trying to work up the tension until the last third of the book and have a relationship bond after the "black moment" always makes a story better for the reader.

  2. In my stories, the actual coming together is in the last third even quarter of the book with the black moment usually following. Which leads to a question about "black moment". Before or after the coming together, Scott. Does it matter?

  3. Barb,

    I really don't think there is an exact answer for this. Remember that the black moment is the time when we think there is no hope left. If you do it before, then we are seeing this as "no hope for the relationship AND the HEA". Putting it after means "no hope for the HEA."

    Just something to consider.


  4. How characters relate to romance and the physical part is often dictated by their age and life experiences. I'm writing about a 50-plus couple who do jump into bed quickly, only to wrestle with the emotional realities and that black moment until the HEA. Is it possible to keep readers interested in an older couple or do all characters need to be newbies to romance?

  5. It always bothers me when the H/H jump in the sack too soon. Then again, I've pounded out 180 pages and there's still no kiss, no sex I'm wondering if I should rework the outline. Hmm..maybe not!

  6. Scott says:
    If you do it before, then we are seeing this as "no hope for the relationship AND the HEA". Putting it after means "no hope for the HEA."

    I like that. Although I tend to think that the stakes are higher when the h/heroine have already formed an emotional/intimate relationship prior to the culmination of the black moment. Because, once that happens, the question becomes how will the LOVERS get past it together - to earn their HEA.

    Hmm...I guess if I were going to do it the other way around - I would want one of the main character’s flaws/fears/wishes or desires to be an integral part of the black moment resolution - so that there would be an established growth or change that frees that character up to pursue an emotional or intimate relationship with the other main character afterward.

    Hey, am I wrong to assume that to have the h/h experience a physical/emotional relationship before the black moment - allows both to face the black moment with something collective to lose - that the reader has connected with and is rooting for - as in their new relationship? They’re dealing with the black moment together so really it establishes a dual kind of journey, right? As opposed to the other way - that seems kind of singular to me. Interesting. I’ll have to give this some more thought.

    Thanks Scott.

  7. Judith,

    I think the issue is not the ages of the characters but the conflict you have created. We can certainly stay interested in the characters if the conflict is worthwhile. If the conflict is only "we really shouldn't have" or some other trivial misunderstanding, then we will lose interest.