I’ve attended four different workshops given by fellows who’ve taken a calling writing screenplays and morphed it into guidance on how to write a romance. Invariably, these men do not write romances themselves, though they are long on charm, full of great ideas, and well worth the price of admission.
The first time I heard one of these fellows, I felt that sinking, I-don’t-get-it feeling familiar to me from junior high math classes. All around me, talented, eager romance writers were nodding happily and scribbling away, or typing on their spiffy little notebooks, while I sat in the corner with Bertha–who is missing three keys, and weighs more than seven pounds because I can’t see those dratted little screens–and tried not to look lost.
When the same thing happened a second and third time, I stopped fretting long enough to think about what was happening, and a salient fact presented itself: These knowledgeable, helpful, articulate and enthusiastic presenters were all… guys. Every one of them referred to their stories as having a hero, usually of either gender, but one per book. The person of the opposite gender (apologies to LGBT readers) was “the love interest,” and their role in the story was to serve as one of several factors propelling the hero along the arc of personal growth that made the drama more compelling.
The last time this happened, I was attending a workshop in Atlanta, which meant about a 600-mile drive home. Somewhere in southern Virginia (of which there is a deuced lot) it occurred to me; Most men don’t get romance. Why should these plotting gurus comprehend that in a romance novel, there isn’t a hero and a love interest, the relationship is the main character.
What happens in a romance is whatever is necessary to develop, try, and forge that relationship into its concluding form. The characters are the personalities necessary for the same exercise, and the settings, and secondary characters likewise.
The rubrics put forth by these helpful gentlemen are useful to me as diagnostics, to assess pacing and structure in a completed manuscript, but their plotting road maps yield me no insights when it comes to how a particular pair of characters must find their happily ever after.The nomenclature doesn’t help, their graphics provide so many blanks I will never know how to fill in.
But what a relief, to realize, not for the first time, I’m not stupid, I just follow a different process. Has the same insight ever befallen you? To one commenter, I’ll send along a signed copy of Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight.