Friday, May 3, 2013

In Romance Writing, Let The Romance Grow - Don't Force It

Just as in the real world, a relationship cannot be forced upon two individuals. We cannot make people like each other and we certainly can't push them to the point of falling in love and developing a strong relationship. This is something that takes time and, as an author, you have to give the characters a chance to get to know each other. Let them discover each other throughout the story.

Now, don't get me wrong. We cannot extend this romance over several novels just to let the characters learn to love each other. We do have time constraints here. We do have a limited word count to do this in. What I am saying is that, as an author, you cannot make the characters fall in love with each other too quickly. They need the time to fall in love.

Let's look at this in a theoretical framework here. Mark Knapp outlines a model of relationship development that I do believe works great when we look at constructing a romance novel. Please note that Knapp is looking at the entire relationship from beginning to end. In a romance, we are not going to be going through the entire process. For this reason, we are going to look at just the elements through STAGE 5

The following is a tangible example of the model of relationship development
created by Knapp.
Process Stage                                                  Representative Dialogue
                                                                                                                                                                         Initiating                                                              "Hi, how ya doin'?"
                                                                           "Fine, you?"

Experimenting                                                    "Oh, so you like to do I."
                                                                          "You do?! Great. Where do you go?"

Intensifying                                                         "I...I think I love you."
                                                                           "I love you too."

Integrating                                                         "I feel so much a part of you."
                                                                          "Yeah, we are like one person. What
                                                                           happens to you happens to me."

Bonding                                                             "I want to be with you always"
                                                                          "Let's get married."
When it comes to many romances I see, we have characters that are simply moving through the relationship far too quickly. Somehow, after the first meeting, they move to STAGE 3 immediately. Somehow, in the first chapter or two they have moved immediately to knowing that this is the person they are going to marry. Slow down there! Give them a chance!

Part of the thing that makes the romance genre work so well is that the well-written romances really do mirror what it is like to fall in love. As readers, we get to go through all of those tough and awkward first steps of the relationship building.

Our responsibility as an author is to give the reader that believable journey. When we do rush things too quickly, it becomes so unreaslistic, that our readers will turn away from the story and call it flat and lacking the depth we so wanted.

Now, does this mean there can't be elements of lust? No, feel free to add that into the story, but make sure to not confuse lust with love. These are two different things.

As you plan your next romance, take the time to plot out how you're going to move your characters through Knapps' model. What you may find is that the story now has a clear sense of direction and the depth of the characters and the plot will be ten times as strong!

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