Saturday, February 11, 2012

Kiss Already! What to do when the romance is slow going.

A confession: I wrote this a year ago as part of a string of pep talks for a romance-themed writing challenge. But I think it can still be relevant.

 It took fifteen chapters for Janice and Roland (Of "Bad Apples") to hold hands. Five chapters later, Roland finally kissed Janice on the forehead. A party was thrown.

It can be pretty frustrating when you’re writing a romance and your characters are making “chaste” an understatement.
The first thing to do is Make sure your characters are compatible. If they’re not compatible as a couple, there’s really no reason for them to fall in love, is there? In the case of Janice and Roland, I had almost given up hope on this boy-meets-girl teenage love story. After all, it was beginning to look like boy-meets-girl and girl-tries-to-save-boy’s-soul. Which wouldn’t have been bad if he was, like, a vampire or something.

That didn’t make sense. Forgive me, I’m writing this on my laptop while watching Ellen. So. Back to the topic. If your characters aren’t compatible, don’t crumple up the fifty or so pages you’ve written already. Sometimes characters surprise you. Sometimes it takes an illegal fire in the middle of the park for them to touch hands but slyly pretend it’s just a coincidence just in case the other person isn’t interested.

So what I’m trying to say is this: don’t try to tell your characters when it’s time to fall in love. If they’re compatible, they’ll figure it out on their own. You just write.

“But, Kristina! What if they’re not compatible? Am I wasting my time?”

No. You are not wasting your time, imaginary question asker. Sometimes a tale of best friends is better than a story of a romantic couple. The only case where this is not true is when you’re writing a romance novel. If you are, then maybe you should rethink your genre.

The second thing to do when romance is slow-going is to have a serious talk with your characters. Write a couple romance scenes away from your novel to test the waters. Don’t jump into the bedroom scene right away. That’ll just freak them out. Have them hold hands. If there’s no hint of a spark there, consider forgetting about romance.
Or, do what I did. Just keep writing. Keep writing, with a sliver of hope for love in the back of your mind, and maybe your characters will surprise you.

It might take 26,753 words for them to hug. But if they’re in love, doggone it, they’ll get there. Be patient and don’t try to force them into the bedroom. I tried that with Clarisse. And not only did they not fall in love, but now Clarisse is actually a jealous witch from another life trying to kill Roland before she has her baby (That scene...won't be published). It’s complicated writing, that could have been avoided had I not written that love scene, and Janice and Roland (Ranice? Joland?) could be living drama free lives having fun in college.
Before I go on a rampage now, I’m going to stop writing. Besides, my foot has fallen asleep. Maybe I should clean off my desk instead of writing cross legged on the floor.

To recap:

1)   Make sure your characters are compatible
2)   Test the waters with a one shot hand holding scene
3)   Don’t force the characters into the bedroom. Let them go running in there themselves.
4)   Just keep writing. Give up the notion that you somehow control your characters and let them find their own way.

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