On Writing Romance

Heart and Soul

Heart and Soul

An original painting by Cheryl Owen-Wilson

When I think of romantic stories filled with eternal love I’ve always equated them with dashing men and perfectly coifed women, and as their story ends or the movie fades to black, I see them silhouetted in a passionate kiss against a brilliant sunset.  It’s February, a month where unless you never leave your home, you are inundated with these concepts.  It’s a time of year when people everywhere profess said undying love, in the form of large heart shaped boxes of chocolate, sentimental cards and massive bouquets of flowers.  Stores also feature every romantic movie or book ever written.  Which leads me to…have you ever written, or tried to write a romance? I’m talking a heart thumping, Harlequin, type of story.

I’ve tried to write such a romantic story.  I can hear a chorus of instructors in the many writing courses I’ve taken over the years. “Your assignment is to write a romantic story; not a sexually laden story. I want a tale filled with love. I want to hear violins playing; I want to not only smell roses, I want to see them strewn about. You have one hour, now get started.”  Well maybe they didn’t put it quite in those words, but it was implied. Yes, very much implied and I tried, I really have tried. I visualize a Fabio male character and add in an Angelina Jolie type female. They court or date, for a brief period of time, they have the major obstacles to overcome, finally their over-the-top passion for one another solves said issues and at that point the violins are cued and across the bottom page in frilly font I should be placing, “And They Lived Happily Ever After”. Right? Well, as I said I’ve tried and not just with the beautiful people.  I’ve attempted it with pimply-faced youth and average, slightly over-weight, non movie star types as well. But here is what ALWAYS happens in my attempts to write a Harlequin romance, type story.

I kill one of them. Yep, one of them always has to die. Until recently, this was most upsetting to me. My trash bin is filled with dead lovers.

Please note, I said until recently. Because just as I was berating myself for yet another deceased heroine at the hands of her knight in shining armor no less (accidentally of course), I had one of those “aha” moments.  I, in that fleeting moment, stumbled upon a most astonishing fact.  In most of my favorite love stories, someone dies.  Yes, I’m going to say it; think, “Love Story” with Ryan O’Neil and Ali MacGraw, or the classic Romeo and Juliet or how about a more current story, Downton Abbey?  We rejoiced when Lady Mary and Matthew finally overcame all their roadblocks; they were blissfully happy; new baby and all.  Then with the stroke of a writer’s pen, Mathew is gone. I could’ve written that; I have written it!  Thus, my “aha” moment, it’s so very freeing when we as writers, can overcome any preconceived notion we have about a particular genre, is it not?  Most of my fiction is considered “Southern Gothic”.  Hard to think about love when, a voodoo doll wearing your face, is being poked and prodded.  But I now realize that does not have to automatically exclude me from the romance of the month club. Yes, a most liberating realization.

So here I am once again, at this fluttering heart time of year, contemplating writing a romance.  But this time I’m not fretting or preparing my trash can for yet another failed attempt. No this year, if one of my lovers has to take a leap off the cliff, which always overlooks Lovers’ Lane, so be it.  Yes, this year I’m going to take my couple on an obstacle filled odyssey where their love will be tested, yet it will prevail. They may not prevail, but their eternal love will and who knows, maybe with this newly found freedom I feel in writing a romance, just maybe, it will all end with the flowery script, “And They Lived Happily Ever After”. But just in case, I’ll make sure I cue the violin and have plenty of flowers. Love is eternal after all, even if one of them doesn’t survive the Lovers’ Lane leap.