Tag Archives: romance novels

Without the Cheese, Please: Creating Non-Cheesy Romance

 

8685962293_e0500d9d14_zI’m all for those sappy romantic scenes full of stereotypes and tropes, however, there’s nothing fresh or exciting about those types of romances. And if I’m not in the right mood for a more chick flick oriented romance, the romance is going to annoy me endlessly. Sometimes, I’ll take my annoyance out on the entire book.

Why?

Because an over-the-top romance takes away from what may have been an otherwise well-written novel. One of the best examples I have is from a young adult novel, where the romance seems thrown in. It was as if the editor and writer agreed that because the book was YA it needed a romance between the protagonist and her male lead.

It didn’t.

Remember that scene from “Silver Linings Playbook,” where Bradley Cooper’s character chucked that book out the window? I was sorely tempted to mimic his actions with this particular YA novel. The forced romance killed the rest of the book, and made the protagonist, who would have been awesome, into some lust-filled whiny girl, who made idiotic decisions.

So, how does one avoid the stereotypic romance?

  1. Keep characters acting like themselves. If your character isn’t the type to trust strange men, then why would she suddenly let a guy she’s known for less than a week make all the decisions for her? If your character is incapable of talking to the opposite sex, then he shouldn’t suddenly be Mr. Charming. Be consistent with your characters. Your characters quirks are what will make the romance unique and believable.
  2. There’s more to a story than just romance. Even romance novels have more going on than just the romance. Something has to keep the two lovebirds apart. When plots get lost in the romance, the story falls flat. There’s only so many times people can read about a cute, shy girl who falls in love with two guys, where guy A is the obvious choice and guy B is there because…why?…because he’s supposed to add drama. (Hint: he only adds irritation and makes the protagonist seem like a dolt.)
  3. It’s about the relationship. Too often romance is focused too much on the physical. Yes, physical attraction is important… when you first meet a person. You’ve probably had this experience: you see someone you find incredibly attractive, you have a very physical reaction, and then that person opens their mouth, and – bam! – that attraction is gone. A person’s looks gets you interested. It’s the personality, and the ensuing relationship, that makes you stay.

How do you avoid clichéd romances?

(Photo courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simoes.)

Believable Romance: No Random Sex Scenes, Please

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When reading a story, one aspect that always sticks out for me is bad romance. Done well, a romantic plot/subplot can add to a story. Done poorly, romance can destroy what could have been a great novel.

Romance is often based on emotion rather than logic. There’s the sense of intuition and imagination, the mysterious and subjective, rather than reason and rules. This can make romance chaotic and rebellious. It can create conflict, which, in fiction, is extremely important.

Conflict is what motivates readers to keep reading. It’s what causes them to care about the characters and what happens next.

In romance novels, there are usually outside forces keeping the protagonists apart. This can be done in novels where romance is a subplot as well. However, in novels whose main focus isn’t romance, the characters’ personalities can also make a romance difficult.

The important thing to remember is to create enough buildup to make the romance believable. If it’s not, then the romance is awkward and, many times, laughable.

The Guardian gives a Bad Sex Award to one author every year, along with a shortlist of other authors. This link includes sexually explicit details, so be forewarned.

One of the great aspects of fiction is that the stakes are usually raised very high. There’s a ton of tension. Think of novels dealing with revolutions. When there’s so much tension and threat of death, failure, etc. emotions are ramped up too. This makes it easier for two characters to fall in love. Now, after all the tension is gone, their relationship might fall apart, but novels typically end before that happens, and the emotions the characters are feeling in the present feel real to them.

In most novels dealing with romance, whether as the main plot or a subplot, there’s a typical progression:

  1. The two characters meet and dislike each other. Yet, there’s an unspoken attraction. I.e. – The Mortal Instruments, Darkfever
  2. An external event forces the two characters together and they fall in love.
  3. External events try to keep them apart (or, in some cases, one of the characters believes it’s better for them to be apart, but can’t resist the other. I.e. – Twilight). Their love grows as they bond over these events and fight to for each other.

(For a more in depth version of this progression, see How to Write Romance.)

What do you think of romance in novels?

(Photo courtesy of ALhanouf AL- abdollah.)