In between answering your questions on Ask a Witch a Question, fulfilling the many random needs of my degus and working in a bank I somehow find the time to write romantic fiction.
In honesty I get a little bit teased for it, I think my friends would rather I was struggling with some Kafkaesque piece of serious literature. They suffer that oft believed misconception that writing romance is easy.....
But you know what, its really isn't easy. There are probably more rules relating to romance writing than there are my job at the bank. And these rules are cast in stone, no wiggle room, you stick to those rules or you fail. Simple as that.
For example in my new novel I needed to come up with a good name for the hero. Well to start with I had to eliminate all foreign names, modern names and names not around in Tudor England. This reduced the list down sharply. Then I had to eliminate all names with less than or more than two syllables (you use this name a LOT, you don't want to be repeating four syllables every time. And one syllable names don't have the impact when your heroine cries it out at the height of her passion....)
I had to take off the list the name of every man I have ever slept with (that was a blow for some really good names) and the names of all my male relations (you don't want to be visualising your own father's face during the writing of a hot scene of passion). I whittled it down to five names, removed Edward for obvious reasons and rejected Edmund because nobody, just nobody, could find that name sexy. So down to three suitable names. And I used one of those in my first novel :(
Then my female character. I like long flowery french names for ladies. Fine but I had to rework half my plot to explain what my pretty French virgin was doing in the middle of the Tudor court.
And this was before I'd even started writing......
The big problem with romance however, the really hard to write stuff is the sex scenes. We all leave them to the end. There are only so many ways to make a description of sex even vaguely original and if you've managed it once you'll find yourself staring at a blank sheet of paper and wondering how the hell you can describe it all again using different words.
And you have to be so careful with the language you use. Medical terms are not sexy, modern language isn't accurate, crudities won't appeal to your intended audience. Is it any wonder we refer to his "engorged masculinity," or his "swollen manhood...."??
And when finally you hit on a phrase that really works, you read back on your novel and realise you've been using it over and over again. So you have to go and write it all anyway!
Its euphemism city, but you try finding a better solution. Mind you, I've read romances so full of euphemisms that to be honest I wasn't even sure what was going on. The best was one book where the hero bent down to tend the "rose" of his heroine while assuring her "You'll be ok, I'm a gardener......." ("Lol, fortunately mine aren't THAT bad!)
Then there's the psychology of your hero and heroine. This is particularly tricky in the bodice ripper type of fiction I write where the hero is dominant and brooding and the heroine helpless and a little tragic. Get the balance wrong and you alienate your audience. Not enough coercion on the part of the hero and he's seen as weak and your book as a bit dull. Too much coercion and your readers start talking indignantly about your rape fantasies.
And you can't change your mind mid novel either. If you introduce a new character and think, you know what, this bloke's better than the one she started with, I'll stick her with him.......Forget it. Your heroine's primary relationship must be with the first man who kisses her. And it MUST be the man who takes her virginity. Don't even dream of breaking that rule, every romance reader in the world would promptly throw your book in the bin.
But the golden rule, the one that supercedes all others is the happily ever after. With the one and only exception of Gone with the Wind (and I've never worked out how Margaret Mitchell got away with it......) your novel MUST end up with your hero and heroine getting together. His faults must be redeemed and he must truly love, worship and adore his heroine. Its the strictest law of romance writing.
The thing is, as a writer you actually don't want the happily ever after. Once you realise your book is heading toward that inevitable conclusion you start to realise that you haven't written a great and insightful masterpiece that you can choose to end any damn way you want to. You start to realise that you actually have no choice at all about how you end your book. By the end of all the writing you might even be a bit sick of your characters, you may well fancy letting them drift off into the pageless oblivion of misery. But you can't. You've come too far to question the rules. Its as inevitable as that sense of euphoria when you finally get to write those magic words "The End." You have no choice. And you may well sigh crossly as your hero and heroine drift off into that sunrise but my advice is to wish them well and get on with it. These rules have stood the test of time and you'll never write a romance novel without them...
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1145614 (Zoofitheji)
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