Wednesday, 25 May 2011
The Rules of Romance
Okay, I write erotica and some erotic romance, but I've felt for a long time that I'm on shaky ground with the romance side of things. Writing simply what I like, I've often felt like I wasn't quite speaking the right language to editors and readers. I've felt like there were secret expectations that no one was telling me about.
So it was back to college for me at the weekend: learning the unwritten rules of writing category romance novels in a full-day intensive workshop run by Jessica Hart, who has written over fifty novels for Harlequin in the last twenty years. She was great.
Inside ten minutes:
"Romance novels are not, despite what you may think, stories about how two people meet and fall in love and overcome obstacles, in order to live happily ever after. They are about how two people, who are powerfully attracted to one another and may even be sleeping together, cannot bring themselves to say 'I love you.' Only when that finally happens does the story reach a conclusion."
"Oh," I thought, as the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the light. "Oh, right. Bloody hell. That makes sense."
There was much more of course. We did Standard Plot Hooks and Backstory Wounds and Incompatible Goals and Scene Functions and all sorts of stuff. And of course this is all based on the pared-down, 50K Mills-and-Boon-type paperback, not the big sprawling historical blockbuster or the tripped-out-crazy supernatural thriller. But it's still important stuff when it comes to writing the emotional tension of the romance thread. I can still apply these lessons to my own peculiar work in future, for that extra zing.
Which is good, because another thing I learned is that I'd rather saw my own head off with a breadknife than switch to writing category romance. I'm sorry to disappoint, but "The Italian Billionaire Surgeon's Secret Christmas Baby by Janine Ashbless" is just never going to happen.
No matter how much you beg.