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.


Craig Sorensen said...

I think that is a good realization, Janine. Sounds like the class was a worthwhile venture.

Janine Ashbless said...

It was a really good class, Craig - I learned more in eight hours (although admittedly about a narrow genre) than I ever could have on my own. And the tutor was down-to-earth and succinct and smart.

One of the nice things I learned was that I'd actually been doing some of the stuff right, just by instinct or osmosis or whatever. The King's Viper is almost dead on track.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Oh, wow, did you create that cover down at the bottom? Hahahahahaha...

Janine Ashbless said...

Not me Jeremy - though I'd love to claim credit for that book!

More here

Jo said...

Ha, I thought that head/breadknife line was a link for a second and was rather relieved when I clicked on it and nothing happened. Hahhahaha.

Class sounds great. I would LOVE to go do a how-to-write-whatever course for a day. That would be so fun.

Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

There are so many rules, and so much reader expectation - I know exactly how you felt, Janine.

But like you say - a lot of it does come more naturally than you think!

PiecesOfMe said...

oh feck:-(

"The Italian Billionaire Surgeon's Secret Christmas Baby by Janine Ashbless

was exactly what i wnated to read next weekend:-((((( janine seriously..but not writing it you screwed up romance novels forever:-( i might never will be able to look at a romance cover again without crying and wheeping...sigh*

no..seriously...when will the romance flood be over? i mean...i try so hard to understand romance writing..but i dont..i trie dto write romance..for kristina and shanna..but no..i killed myself during it an dstill there was nothing usable..i even read a few of these..romance know..the ones with a bare chested man on the cover and a woman pressing her face against his abs searching for a romancy feeling inside me...maybe..i m not romantic enough...damn..

Janine Ashbless said...

Heh, I think your problem with romance is the happy ending, isn't it Danielle? I gather you like a good miserable weepy ending to a story ... but that's so not in fashion!

Janine Ashbless said...

I thought that head/breadknife line was a link for a second

lmao! no, that's, er, beyond even me :-)

Janine Ashbless said...

There are so many rules, and so much reader expectation

Charlotte, romance readers scare me. But don't tell anyone ... The smell of fear sends them into a blood-frenzy

PiecesOfMe said...

yes it is..i confess it..i HATE happy ends..seriously..i know its totally unsocial to dislike happy endings but..what can i do???

Jo said...

They ARE scary! They're steely beneath their love of hearts and flowers and conventional monogamous hetero relationships! And they know what they like.