Tag Archives: romance novels

Shannon’s Top Three Tips for Writing Romance

7 Feb

It’s February, so romance is in the publishing air. Whether or not you write romance novels or have romantic subplots in your work, almost every writer has had to think through a couple’s relationship in their work. 

Here are my top three tips for writing romance.

1. Read Romance: As Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the tools to write. Simple as that.” Reading romance novels, or novels that have romantic subplots, will help you learn the beats of a romantic plotline. (You should also check out Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes. It’s a nonfiction craft book dedicated to understanding romance beats.) My favorite go-to romance books are Harlequin. Why? Though the various imprints have particular expectations, every book is focused on romance, and it’s so easy to spot tropes from the cover, title, and synopsis. They tend to run very short, too, so you can read a bunch very quickly. Even with a shorter word count, you’ll be amazed how tight these plots are. These authors will really inspire you to find ways to cut to the chase. Keep in mind that the romance books you read don’t necessarily have to be in the same genre that you’re writing in. I primarily write fantasy and, while I definitely read enough fantasy to study those romantic subplots, I’ve found contemporary romance books have actually helped me understand writing romance more. Probably because there is less distraction (world building, war, magic, etc.) Basically, make sure you’re reading romance in your genre, but don’t be afraid to branch out either. 

2. Requited love is nice, but it doesn’t make much of a ballad. Cassandra Clare’s character Will said that when referring to why characters are put through so much hardship in stories, and I’ve never heard such a true sentiment. Listen, you’re writing a story. Stories require tension and excitement. A what if. In romance, that what if is will they get together? You have to string that question out in some way. If your characters famously get along, your reader will wonder why they aren’t together. Some writers take that to mean that a couple must disagree or not communicate, and that’s not true. There’s lots of reasons people stay apart. Beliefs. Expectations. Distance. Responsibilities, such as taking care of their family. Work that doesn’t allow them time to date. Fear of rejection. I could go on and on. You can definitely still have tension even if your couple is communicating well. But there must be tension somewhere. Your couple is made up of different people with their own goals, who happen to cross each other’s path. I think every romance novel benefits when those paths hit a crossroad in some way. Do they choose themselves or their love for each other? Bam. Tension. At the end of the day, something in their lives is unrequited

3. Couples should complement each other in some way. Is he shy and her outgoing? Is she struggling to find the last piece of the puzzle and her lover has it in her hands? Take a look at your favorite bookish couples and you’ll see that they often complement each other’s personalities and goals. They push each other to be better people or to look at the world in a new way. They experience personality traits of the other that their friends/family do not get to see. When you’re revisiting your favorite couples, ask yourself why they appealed to you. What scenes made your heart pitter-patter? Make a list. You might see a pattern emerge of tropes you love, such as the one-bed trope, brother’s best friend, enemies-to-lovers, etc. Once you know what tropes you want to work with, it’ll be so much easier to form your story.

Honestly, though, I could go on and on about romance. If you love reading romance, I’d love it if you check out my young adult paranormal romance, the Timely Death trilogy. The first book, Minutes Before Sunset, is currently free! It’s set in Kansas and follows two magical teens, who realize they’re fated to fall in love… and die.

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~SAT

Insta-Love isn’t Instant

3 Nov

Announcements:

Everyone can expect a cover reveal of Death Before Daylight on November 6th – this also means I will not have a blog post on the 5th. I need an extra day to prep everything, but I hope your excitement will make the wait!

My latest interview and review has been posted on the Book Gannet! I talk about future works, current works, and why I dislike prophecies despite having one in The Timely Death Trilogy. Click the links to check them out!

Insta-Love isn’t Instant

The other night, I was browsing Facebook when a few readers brought up the discussion of insta-love. If you are unfamiliar with the term, “insta-love” is more-or-less love at first sight, and it is becoming widely debated among book blogs, readers, and authors alike. There are even entire lists on Goodreads dedicated to insta-love books. (Funny fact: “Instalove” started as a hashtag on Instagram for new couples. The reason I’m using a dash will make more sense as we continue on.)

Now, I may be sticking my neck out by saying this, but I don’t really think “insta-love” exists. But – please – hear me out.

I think insta-love is sometimes confused with insta-lust and insta-infatuation. Yep. I said that. Just because two characters are interacting, holding hands, kissing, or even sleeping together, does not mean the book is full of insta-love. I would even go so far as to say just because two characters say “I love you” does not mean they are, in fact, in love. How many people do you know that were in a long-term relationship, said, “I love you” a hundred times, and eventually broke up only to say they knew they didn’t love them? How many people get “swept off their feet” or think, “that’s the one” only to later realize that neither were true in the first place.

Before calling it “insta-love”, let’s talk about real life scenarios that happen in books. In fact, I’m going to give three:

Scenario One: (The meet-and-greet love)

Two characters walk into a bar. They meet, hookup, and go on for the rest of the book loving each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean it was insta-love. It just means it started off as insta-lust and turned into love eventually. I feel like this happens often in books – two characters meet quickly but they are not seen as characters that grew over time because they did something that society deems inappropriate for two strangers to do. This happens in various forms, but I think the most common “insta-love” complaint is when two characters immediately open up or lean on one another when they are complete strangers. Why? I know plenty of people who open up to strangers the second they meet someone. In fact, I’m fairly certain there are entire groups of people out there that are more likely to open up to strangers than friends. Trust me. I used to ride the city bus every morning and evening. It happened more than I could ever explain.

insta

Scenario Two: (One-sided love affairs)

A guy is head-over-heels in love with someone who barely cares about him back. One might call it love, but many people label this as infatuation. I think this happens a lot in “insta-love” scenarios – where one character has very intense emotions for another character without it being reciprocated until later on. Think Fifty Shades of Grey. Many people have said it is insta-love, but in reality, he literally pushes her away emotionally for most of the novel until she breaks up with him. That isn’t love. That’s lust, infatuation, and confusion mixed with novel-drama.

Scenario Three: (Love Triangles)

Oh, the all-too common emotional toll in books: love triangles. This is when one character (generally the protagonist) is confused about their love toward two different characters. This might be a personal thing – I can admit that I am not a fan of love triangles – but I cannot fathom calling it “love” when a character cannot pick between two people. To me, that is something else. That is having very strong and caring emotions about two people but not love. (And perhaps having one word in the English language for romantic love is the major problem here.) But I’m aware that this is a personal opinion of love, not necessarily everyone’s opinion, but that brings me to my next point:

In the end, I honestly believe insta-love is based on the readers’ personal preferences of what love means to them, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I want to clarify that I believe there is nothing wrong with mentioning insta-love in a book review, especially if the reasoning is explained for future readers to contemplate. It’s a widely accepted term, after all.

People fall in love differently, at different times, and often with different people or even without knowing who they have fallen for. We’ve all heard of the couple who saw each other from across the room, fell in love at first sight, and seriously stayed together for the rest of their lives. And we’ve met the couples that thought they were those couples until they became heartbroken and separated. Love shifts overtime. It changes and morphs and grows and – unfortunately – dies for many, but love can be a wonderful emotion to read about because it resides in hope and trust. Love is an emotion of acceptance. So why should we judge love at all?

Insta-love or not, love is different for all, and perhaps, that is why it is so beautiful.

~SAT

Writing Tips: Lovers

16 Jun

Writing Tips: Lovers

Read my latest interview by clicking here. I talk about fellow Indie authors who’ve inspired me, Take Me Tomorrow, and so much more!

The protagonist lover characters seem to follow these molds:

  • Gorgeous, mysterious, heart-striken male who cannot communicate his feelings until death is threatening separation, because of some past that has caused him to reject relationships in any form until he falls in love.
  • Stunningly pretty female who doesn’t seem to realize she’s beautiful, therefore causing her to be more desirable despite having no capabilities in regards to physical strength or mental strength. The only appealing part of them is their love and how they can support the male with their love.  

So I wanted to share three basic tips to deepening characters within their relationships, but the basic rule I follow is to show why they are uniquely beautiful in the inside and out to the narrator and to the reader. Let the “beautiful people” stand on their own beauty, let them define what “beauty” means to them, and create a beauty that is 3-D, that is rounded and deeply set inside of the characters’ hearts. This includes their unique features, gestures, speech, and more, but here are three examples:

1. Scars, injuries, birthmarks: 

Physical descriptions can, in fact, have a rounding out effect on a character, but these descriptions go beyond “brown hair and blue eyes.” For any character, scars and birthmarks can show a history written on their skin, but you can show this as an intimate thing between lovers. Maybe a lover is the only who has seen a scar or maybe everyone has seen it but the lover is the only one who knows the true story behind it. These little marks of history can be very telling. Someone may have beautiful eyes, but that time they fell out of a tree and broke their arm trying to save a cat tells about how caring they are of animals and others’ lives. It might even insinuate how they have a lack of fear of heights (or, perhaps, explain why they now do.)

Ex/ In November Snow, Daniel has a huge scar on his back, but no one knows what it is from until much later in the story. Serena isn’t the first to see it, but her curiosity about it showed a deeper concern for his past and health than other characters expressed toward him.

This reminded of Eric and Jessica from The Timely Death Trilogy.

This reminded of Eric and Jessica from The Timely Death Trilogy.

2. Gestures:

How do your loved ones show they love you? Think of the small things–the daily “How are you” can make all the difference. Maybe, in a time of danger, a lover would place a hand on the other to remind them they are present. It’s small, yet it tells so much. It says, “I am here. I am listening, and I’m aware that you are, too. I am here for you.” There is an endless streak of gestures – big and small – that people do to show how much they care, and gestures are a great way to define emotions in a relationship between people.

Ex/ In Seconds Before Sunrise, Eric automatically makes Jessica tea without asking her if she wants some or if she likes it. He already knows she does, but a part of him does this without even thinking about it because it comes naturally to him.

 3. Speech: 

Choose their conversations carefully. It seems to me, in young-adult especially, the characters are undyingly in love, yet they never have a conversation about their feelings, insecurities, and/or questions. They never ask the other what the other is thinking. I’m not saying that your characters necessarily have to do this literally. (Ex/ “Do you love me?”) I get it. There is normally a sense of tension in novels, so discussing love is removed for many reasons, so you don’t have to have a discussion about love, but let the lovers have deeper conversations. (Ex/ life, hobbies, past memories, etc.) Most characters – like people – will talk out loud, and choosing what characters discuss can define relationships early on – it may even define their relationship before they even realize they have one.

Ex/ In Minutes Before Sunset, in their human identities, Eric talks to Jessica without even realizing he is opening up about topics he doesn’t discuss with other people. He doesn’t act like it’s a big deal, but Jessica isn’t sure what to say because she realizes he doesn’t talk about it. On the contrast, Jessica tells Eric how she doesn’t like opening up to people. Ironically, admitting that to him was her way of opening up. She doesn’t admit this to anyone else. But in their shade identities, they both open up fairly quickly. Going back and forth between the two identities, their discussions become the main growing aspect of their relationship.

These are only three places to start, but there are endless possibilities to round out characters and their relationships with one another (lovers or not.) A great question for aspiring writers to contemplate is who their favorite book relationship included and why. Write down a list and figure out how to incorporate unique ways into your own stories.

How do you round out relationships? Who are your favorite lovers? Why? And if you’re feeling extra open, have you ever used real life inspiration for a fictional character’s love interest?

~SAT

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