Forum: Writing Mary Sue: the Mother of Challenges

Discussing: How do you write romance?

How do you write romance?

Without it falling into cliche?

What is cliche romance anyways?

Yes, I'm serious.



Re: How do you write romance?

I actually think that if you're writing about real characters with complex and realistic personalities, it's harder to write a cliched romance than a good one. Some of my least favorite romantic cliches:

"Love at first sight" - it's more likely pheromones.

"Cinderella/Pretty Woman" - will the prince really want to stick around once she doesn't need rescuing anymore? If, however, one were to switch the genders, that could be fun.

"They hate each other, then fall in love/They hate each other because they're in love and neither will admit it" - I've seen this done well, but that was Shakespeare.... ;) Actually, I think it could be done well more often than it is.

Here's a romance I think works, without a great deal of conflict - it's beautiful and believable, I think (and if you left the author a review, that'd be great - I'm trying to get her to write more):

The reason I point out that one, instead of some of the lovely romances here or elsewhere, is that it's fairly short, and it sets up several situations that would allow for a character to believably fall for someone. In a way, it's like a series of little lessons in what, to me, works in romance fiction.

I could wirte a lot more on this, but I've got to get to work. I hope this helps!




Re: How do you write romance?

And here are my least favorite romantic cliches:

Human falls in love with Elven woman because she's beautiful.

Sweet girl falls for troubled guy and solves all his problems just by loving him.

Stereotyped description of beauty - long golden hair, slender waist, anything else that sounds like it describes a barbie doll rather than a person.

I agree with Rachel that writing romance is mostly about writing convincing characters. We need to see what about them makes them good for each other, or at least drawn to each other. We also need to see how being in love (or lust) affects them. We need to see her staring at him, shaking (or feeling happy) when he gets too close, nervous (or very relaxed) when she speaks to him. If they're in a relationship, we need to see her doing things that show their closeness - casually putting her hand on his arm, bringing him coffee just the way she knows he likes it, making private jokes.

And to do this, you need to think through what kind of relationship they have. Saying they're in love isn't enough, even saying they're passionately and romantically in love isn't enough. You need to think through what love means to these characters in this relationship, and how they would naturally express it. It's that old writer's advice - show, don't tell. Don't tell us they love each other in a particular way, make us see it.

And another thing that seems to me important - what's at stake in this romance? So, they love each other. So what? What effects, positive, or negative, is that going to have on both their futures, and on the world? How does it add to our understanding of LoTR or the Sil to know they loved each other in this particular way?

Good luck!




Re: How do you write romance?

Also: how does the society affect the love/its expression? You can tell a lot about a social group from the way it treats its lovers.




Re: How do you write romance?

hoo hoo! Good topic!
How do you write romance?
Well for me it starts with one's own experience. If you've never been in love, never had that dry mouth feeling, or those butterflies in your stomach then you're already onto a loser. Imagine yourself there, imagine what you feel, remember what it was like for you, and use that for your characters. The more experience you have of love, in all its forms from that first fall, though obsession and loss, to something strong and hard, the better you will write it. That's one reason why I think so much romance, especially by younger writers, is flat - you know the author is just making it up. They're rehashing someone else's words without ever having been there. They can't get into the mind of the character to know how they feel, and so they can't make you feel it either.
Now, how to avoid cliche? When you're feeling what it is you want to describe, be imaginative in your use of words. I'm not saying get too flowery but just use something emotive and evocative, and yet slightly unusual. There are only so many words to describe something, and the obvious ones will have been used many times.
An example? Umm...
"he took her in his arms and kissed her passionately" - blech!!
"he caught her to him, fiercely tender, and surprised her with his stormy kiss." Which is about the best I can do before breakfast



Re: How do you write romance?

Thank you, I believe you may have just saved my life! I so needed someone to tell me such things, now I know I can write it! You see, I have had this idea for a year at least and it just wouldnt work! Now it will. Thank you so much. Naraya



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