Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Writing and Romance

Due to a combination of factors, I've failed to make time to update. However, my amazing
sister (sometimes known as Netraptor) has kindly volunteered to write something for today. She is addressing an issue that I've yet to mention: Romance.
Thank you, Kess!

One genre that young writers tend to try writing, and usually suck at, is romance.
Every movie and book and story these days has some kind of romance in it, whether it's boy meets girl or girl falls for vampire. Swashbuckling movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or Lord of the Rings had romantic entanglements among the characters.
But new writers sit down with their posse of new characters, and eventually, couples will form. This can be a little troubling if you've never been in an actual romantic relationship and have no idea what it's like. And yet you've set up two characters to fall for each other. You need to write it. How do you go about it?

It's not as hard as you think. Just take a good hard look at your characters' personalities. If your characters are as developed as they should be by this point, they will have quirky personalities. Is the guy shy and introverted? Is the girl a social butterfly? If they are friends, just start constructing scenarios.
And make them funny. Real-life romance is fraught with peril and pain, and yet is hugely entertaining for onlookers. The guy embarrasses himself trying to ask her on a date. She misinterprets what he's asking and thinks he's mad at her. He locks himself in his room in anguish, and she can't understand why he's acting so weird.
Keep your characters in character, and think through all the awkward, silly things they might do as they get interested in each other. It helps if they have known each other for a while, or been friends, because you have an established relationship to work with.
I'll say it again: keep your characters in character. Young writers tend to hiccup on the characterization when it comes to romance. Their characters' personalities disappear and they become the writer just acting out whatever they want to happen.

Like George Lucas did that one time.

But your characters are not necessarily you. They are different people. They don't think the same way you do or react the same way. If you have already spent story space establishing this, don't throw all that away! Sit down and figure out how they would react to things given their personality, not yours.

The first romance I ever tried to write was a problem-fractured relationship between two characters who liked each other, but fought constantly.

At that time I had never been in a romantic relationship, but I studied them in books. Particularly the relationship between the main characters in the first couple of
Mitford books by Jan Karon. Their romance was so very real. No fluff, no nonsense, just the clash of personalities and loads of misunderstandings, often with painful or hilarious results. I made careful note of how it was written, then set out to write the courtship of my two characters.

I still think fondly of those two characters and the nightmare I put them through. Awful stuff to live, but wonderfully entertaining to read, everything from near-death experiences to way too many engagement rings.
But you don't have to hook up all your characters. If you are writing a one-shot story, it's enough to have them be friends, and imply at the end that they will probably get married later on.

Examples of good relationships and bad relationships are all around us. Everybody has friends who are dating, or breaking up, or some stage between the two. If you have had dating experiences, plug some of that emotion into your characters. Let your characters act real, because when you write honestly, your reader will know. And they will identify with your characters.

As soon as you have a reader empathizing with your characters, you have them hooked.

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