Writing Wrongs

August 18, 2006

So yesterday, Mary said she was sending my post on publishing to “everyone she knows.” One thing is clear. Mary knows a lot of people. Jump over to her blog, The Bandwagon. She’s working on revisions to one of her books and is posting pictures of George Clooney for inspiration.

She also poses an interesting question. If you’re writing a romance/love story, what attracts your two characters to each other? In the romance genre, we get a lot of the emotional (Oh, I’ve never felt this way before) and a lot of the physical. Honestly, there are so many burning and branding touches going around, I often think the characters should lie down with a cold cloth on their heads, because, obviously, someone’s running a fever.

Seriously, what makes a couple? What makes us think of them together, not separate? Like Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Moose and Squirrel.

Sorry. I will be serious. Honest. Even though you could classify what I write as mainstream and/or mainstream with romantic elements, I actually think what I write are love stories.

So what makes a love story work? I know lots of writers build in needs for each character, so that, in effect, they complete each other--to quote from Jerry Maguire (while tiptoeing around he who shall not be named). I’m not sure that’s enough. It’s a start, but not enough.

I think the couple should share some sort of common ground, something that is absolutely unshakeable, even if it’s our job as writers to make it look like it’s crumbling at times. They have a certain belief, see something a certain way, something important, although it doesn’t have to be religious or political.

I also think you should be able to take all the sex out of the relationship and the couple would still have a rapport. Think of buddy movies. Okay, think of good buddy movies.

In this day of hot ‘n steamy (no, not a new sandwich at McDonalds), it’s almost an anathema to suggest one take the sex, or sexual tension, out of a book. And hey, I have only the greatest admiration for well-written sexual tension.

Problem is, I think there’s a lot of confusion about what provides the “tension” in “sexual tension.” Just because Jane Heroine thinks Joe Stud is OMGHOT in a sequence of sexual imagery, doesn’t mean I will. Fine. Go have a fling. Leave. Me. Out. Of. It.

Why? Because I don’t care. Show me that these two unlikely lovers really need to be together. Convince me the world will freaking end if they’re not together. Then show me everything keeping them apart.

I’m not sure this is something you can state concretely. You can’t mix three parts of OMGHOT with two parts Sensitive Male plus one part Still-A-Real-Man and cook up a perfect hero for your heroine. I’m not sure giving them complementary sets of his ‘n her emotional baggage will work either.

I’m often amazed at writers who switch out couples with a seemingly casual, “Oh, he was the wrong hero for her.” Huh? This makes the synapses in my brain go haywire. (I initially wrote that sentence as synopses in my brain, hehehe. Same results.)

The second my stories come to life for me is when one character barges in on the other (and they always barge in) and says, “Hi, honey! I’m here to screw up your life!” I’ve made a lot of changes to my stories, but I’ve never done a partner swap.

I think craft can carry you far in this quest. Study, read, write, learn. But I think part of it comes down to art. In a sense, a couple’s chemistry is just like art--I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 10:53 a.m.