What makes a good romance? Is it the physical appearances of the characters? Is it where they live? How they interact?
Think about how romance is in real life. If you’ve ever been in love, real real love, you’ll know that love is never perfecto. Therefore, a good love story will have that same characteristic; it will be flawed.
But Lina, the awesome writer moans, I want my character to be a sex god and I want it to be like Fifty Shades of Grey
Gag. Gag. Gag.
Romance should be coffee bean over cliche. There’s a lot of smut out there. It’s gross. It’s not reality. And if I see the word “chiseled” one more time, I may barf onto the contents of the page, and then mail it to the author.
If you don’t want barf mailed to you, I suggest you tell a love story, not a pornography.
I’ve only been published in a few places, if you don’t count Eccentric Chai, or the small numbers I’ve done for write.com–so what I say may be taken at your own risk, but I do know a thing or two about love. Many of you know my story. I’m doing this the hard way, sending my work to Literary Agents and awesome magazines like Glimmer Train, which shows I care about the craft, my characters, and my story. I have been writing love stories for a very long time. I have been in love for even longer. How long? Eleven years long. Take it or leave it.
I have a motto: love is love is love.
Romance should be more like an ironed shirt, dimpled. People aren’t perfect. Your characters shouldn’t be either. Instead of rock hard abs (gag. gag. gag.), give your dude a little pudge. Instead of fantastic, flowing locks of blonde, give your chick brown hair with a set of bangs that never stay put. If you’re looking for what you read in many of today’s romances, then you’re not looking for LOVE.
This is the same with character habits. What do I see these characters doing? Flexing, walking like they’re on a reality show on the beach. I don’t want to know these people! Nor do I want to know about the small town girl who suddenly moved to the big city of Cliche. I want to know the guy who is so shy he pukes in front of people. I want to know the girl who once fell out of a five-story window, trying to save an injured pigeon on the ledge–and has the deforming scars to prove it. I want to see guys wearing babies in Moby wraps. I want to see women escaping a bad marriage through an open window. I’m looking for Romeo and freakin’ Juliet!
Once again, if you’re looking for flexo, you’re not looking for LOVE.
Don’t get me wrong, the recipe for love has a splash of lust in there, but do you have to run us by every detail? I, personally, want privacy in the bedroom. Can we not give this same luxury to our characters?
Can we not write about love…between the lines?
So what is LOVE exactly?
Love is coffee with too much creamer and not enough sugar.
Love is a song with poetic undertones and a weird drum solo at the bridge.
Love is eyelashes to eyelashes, not thrust to thrust.
Love is soft lips, a quiet gaze, and then suddenly bursting into laughter.
Love is finding the mole attractive and ignoring the six pack.
Love is a tumble down a soft flight of stairs.
Love is a starry sky, speckled with clouds.
Love is chopsticks in a Burger King.
Love is that Gotye music video (you know the one).
Love is something so crazy it makes you crazy.
Love, summed up, is perfect only when it isn’t.
Therefore, a great LOVE story, should be a poem of imperfection. I want to read romance and be moved, not read romance and be…ahem…
A college professor once attempted to critique my work by saying: it’s a little too Nicholas Sparks.
For me, that is one of my greatest accomplishments.
What do you look for in a love story? Are you looking for reality or something deeper? Are you a romance writer? What things do you like your characters to say? See? Do? Look like? I want to know YOUR experiences with love stories!