Friday, February 12, 2010

A Touch of Romance

This week we discussed the differences between the romance genre and genres with romantic elements. Even if it isn't the main event, romance can be a great addition to a book.

Love's dilemmas bring another area of conflict, of emotion, and of showing off your characters' heroic and not-so-heroic qualities.

Romance is dramatic. The road to love is bumpy, rough. Who hasn't cried over love? Readers can relate to a touch of romance.

If your protagonist feels one-dimensional, try adding a love interest. The key to any romance or romance element, is to not make it easy for the characters. No one wants to read about the perfect first date, the perfect second date, the perfect declaration of love, and then the perfect engagement. They want to read about what's keeping them apart. They want to hop on the crazy emotional roller-coaster called love, so don't let them down!

On Wednesday, we looked at an example of a suspense with romantic elements. It featured Jack, a man desperate to save his sister by dismantling a bomb, who falls in love with Mary along the way. Let's take the romantic element, Mary, out of the book. It's now a suspense with Jack dismantling a bomb and saving his sister, but Jack's coming off as too...something. Let's brainstorm how adding a minor character as a love interest for Jack--let's call her Sheila--can add tension, conflict, and human traits to the story.

Here are some possibilities. Notice how each can add tremendous conflict and tension, while revealing Jack's human traits and vulnerable spots.

- Could Sheila be a dead ringer for Jack's ex-girlfriend? Conflict: he hates his ex-girlfriend because she broke his heart. She claimed he loved his family more than her. And now here's Sheila, reminding him of his past and his devotion to his sister, bringing the situation to a head.

- Could Sheila be his boss's daughter? He wants to protect her, but he also wants to keep her at a safe distance, or his job might be on the line.

- Could Sheila be his sister's nemesis? He's not sure he can trust her, but she's the only one who can help.

There's a million and one ways to add tension and conflict.

Here are a few scenarios that won't help your book.

- Sheila is everything Jack ever wanted in a woman. She matches his ideal. He feels nothing but excitement and adoration for her. He's thrilled she's working by his side to find the bomb.

Sounds good, right? Wrong. This makes for a boring read. She can be everything he wants and match his ideal. He can even feel the excitement and adoration for her. But he'd better want her as far away from danger as possible, or there's no reason to bring her in the picture.

- Sheila helps Jack find the bomb in an hour. When Jack tells her he can take it from here, and that he'll call her later, she meekly nods and trots off to wait by the phone.

Again, not adding any conflict. Sheila cannot meekly go home and wait by the phone. This is not the type of woman a guy like Jack needs. She'd better fight him, bring more danger his way, or pretend to sit meekly at home while instead working behind his back to help, or the reader is going to yawn.

What do you think? Do you add romance to your novels? Why? To add tension? To bring more conflict to your character? To show the areas your characters are vulnerable and need to grow?

Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Oh I love how you explained this Jill. I have added romance to my latest work and trying to add confilict all the time. I hope it is working! You've taught me a lot in the short time I've known you:))

  2. I think all those reasons are fantastic reasons to bring love to a novel. There is nothing like love to stretch a person, um, character. :)

  3. Jill: you posess and incredible teaching gift, my dear.

    Excellent advice and examples.

    Happy Valentine's Day!

  4. I think romance makes for a wonderful book. Though with MG I can't. But I have something in my head(and in a file) for when I'm pubbed and can write anything without worrying about staying in my genre.

    Love those scenarios. Thanks for a great post! Happy Valentines Day this weekend. Hmmm, hubby better have some books for moi. Uh, chocolate too. =)

  5. There's a little somethin' somethin' in the book I'm editing, but my MC acts like a did at age 15...stunted emotionally I guess. I feel for her.

    Love that yellow rose picture. I'll take a white rose, please (you can tell my husband). :D

    ~ Wendy

  6. Great examples! So many ways to say the same thing, but obviously some are a lot better than others. Have a great weekend! :O)

  7. I like the idea of romance actually being used as a tool to show conflict. Lots of emotions play out in romance, so it's a great way of illuminating the personalities and tensions between people.

  8. Great examples, Jill! I think we always need to keep in mind conflict. It's what keeps us wanting to turn the page!

  9. Good Morning!

    Terri: You're great at bringing romantic conflict in. Can't wait to read it!

    Tabitha: Those characters feel awfully real sometimes, don't they? :)

    Jen: Thanks! And you have a fab V-Day too!

    Robyn: Oh, yummy! I love anticipating another project.

    Wendy: The character sounds relatable and sympathetic--great! And I'm sending a telepathic message to your husband about the roses right now!

    Diane: Thanks! Have a great weekend!

    Joanne: Romance and love are great sources for conflict. They're such an emotional rush!

    Jody: Oh yes. It's what keeps me turning the page!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. I've really enjoyed reading these romance posts! I keep trying to figure out where my book falls in. These are helping!

  11. Lady Glam: Cool! I'm never sure if I'm spouting off general knowledge, so thank you!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  12. I love romance in my reading, and for sure in my writing. The course of true love never should run smoothly.

  13. Excellent post! I think you nailed it, especially with your great examples. :-)

    P.S. Gorgeous photo! Have a great weekend.

  14. I'm planning on adding romance to my novel. Great info, thanks so much!

  15. You do an excellent job, Jill, of inspiring, educating, entertaining!
    Life needs romance, doesn't it?
    Since I write about's a no-heart-er!!!

    LOL and Happy Valentine's!!

  16. My newest WIP is fighting to be a romance. It already had it in there, but it's demanding a prime role. I'm trying to figure out why and what's going on... still in the basics. :0)

  17. Oooh, great examples!
    I add romance to add tension, unless I'm writing a romance. Then it's because it's my entire plot. LOL

  18. Those are very good reasons to add a romance to the story. I had not thought of doing that. You make some very good points about conflict.

  19. Erica: Me too! I'm always rooting for someone to fall in love, even in a thriller!

    Shannon: Welcome! And thank you!

    Karen: Add it, add it!

    Patti: Thank you! Yes, life needs romance. I know I do, at least!

    Kristen: I say if it's fighting to come out, to bring it on. Romance is a hot genre right now!

    Jennifer: Romance, tension--oh yeah!

    Nancy: Thank you!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  20. Hi Jill -

    Love the rose pic!

    Thanks for this series. Every genre has its "rules."

    I write Suspense with elements of romance. Nothing heightens suspense like a desire to protect the love interest.

    Susan :)

  21. Can't go wrong adding a little dab of love!

  22. I love adding a touch of romance. I definitely need to work on more tension though. I tend to focus more on story plot and the romance is there but not "tense" enough :)

  23. Susan J: Romance definitely adds tension! Your books sound great!

    Angie: Just a little dab! Ha!

    Jaime: It's hard to juggle all the pieces. I usually catch that stuff when revising. The first go-round it slips through!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  24. Love romance? You betcha! I'm a mushpot. I read, write, and watch romance. When I break down and watch an action adventure with Gwynly, he heaves a sigh of relief.

    Your post spoke to me. I have to alter the mix on my current story. I added too much romance and not enough conflict. I think I misread the recipe. :)

    After watching a James Bond movie with Gwynly, I saw so clearly how to keep readers/viewers riveted: surprise them and ramp up the tension at every turn. Granted I won't have the same level of action in my inspirational historicals, but the idea is the same.

  25. You are so right about not making it "perfect" for them, Jill. The funnest novels to read and the ones that teach us the most are ones in which the characters have multiple hurdles to overcome one way or another.

    Since I write inspirational romance, yes, I add it to all my novels.


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