by Susan May Warren
I love a great romance with a lot of tension and conflict, something with spark and romantic tension. But, if we don’t believe these two are meant for each other, then the fear that they won’t find true love (which is what drives a book) won’t matter. If their happily ever after isn’t at stake, we won’t care if they achieve it.
We must believe that a hero and heroine are perfect for each other.
Beat 8: WHY. Why are these two perfect for each other? The core reason they belong together saves the day. Along the way, you’ll be showing each of them WHY they belong together. But at this key moment, after the breakup, they’ll realize why they belong together, and this is bigger than the WHY NOT of the breakup. You should be building this element as you go, but it rises to the apex at this moment.
Here are three elements that draw people together:
1. Their essential values. We like people who hold our values dear to their hearts. At the end of the day, they need to see the core values of each other and have that draw them to each other.
2. Their vacancies. We like people who “complete” us – who can do the things we can’t do. What can they do for each other that the other can’t do?
3. They make each other better people. We like people who can see the best in us and draw it out. What do they see in each other that they draw out, and how do they become better people when they are together?
The WHY’s are at the core of a person—think of why you love your significant other…they are often the glue that holds you together despite your misunderstandings.
As you write your romance, you’ll give your characters glimpses of those core WHY’s, until you see one that is simply inescapable. When you figure out the WHY, then you have the final major component.
Beat 9: The Big Gesture/Sacrifice: The Hero or Heroine are able to make the Big Gesture/Sacrifice to stay together.
I often talk about finding that thing that your hero can’t do at the beginning of a book…and then showing him overcoming (because of the heroine’s love, or some truth) and doing it at the end.
So—what is the Big Gesture/Sacrifice they make at the end, for love, that they can’t do at the beginning? It might be letting go of something, or doing something brave…
Ask: What can they do at the end of the book they can’t do at the beginning?
Beat 10: Happily Ever After—they find the love they’ve always longed for.
Romances end happily. Something that makes the reader GLAD they just spent two days reading your romance! (as opposed to weeping and throwing the book across the room).
The Notebook works because they are together at the end, even if she is losing her mind. She remembered!
The romance has to have changed them, forever, and made them into better people. Now, I like romances that actually have people ALIVE at the end, so I can have a sort of romantic scene. And I try and find something that epitomizes their romance.
The key is, they have to do something that makes us understand that the romance has impacted them, and they are better off for it.
Now, take the ten components, put them on note cards, and you can move them around to fit your story…what you want, when. Then, write your story summary. No, you don’t have all the layers yet, but you have an idea of where you are going, and all the essential parts.
As you are writing your synopsis, you also have the “checklist” to make sure you have all your elements.
*Article series first appeared on Book Therapy Voices blog in October, 2010. Used by permission.
To learn more about Susan, visit her website. Her latest release, Point of No Return, is a romantic suspense. Here's the blurb:
An American boy and a warlord's engaged daughter have disappeared—together—in an Eastern European border country. Only one man can find them in time to prevent an international meltdown—Chet Stryker. But Chet is taken aback when he realizes the boy is the nephew of Mae Lund, Chet's former flame. When Mae insists on rescuing her relative herself, Chet knows he has to protect her from the enemy on their trail. Yet can he protect himself from falling for Mae again?