Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ask O Wednesday: Key Elements of a Romance Novel? Characters. What else?

 Happy Wednesday, my writing friends. Last week we started a series I called, "Falling in Love with Romance." 

Today we look at the first key element—characters.

What I Like About You
Who are your favorite “love interests” in books or movies? Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennett? Romeo and Juliet? Kermit and Miss Piggy (hee hee)?

My favorite romantic comedy is You’ve Got Mail, so let’s look at those two characters, Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox. What about their personalities makes us want them to be together?

First, they’re a lot alike—both are easy-going, fun-loving, laughing, a bit sarcastic, optimistic, and positive.

I don’t think we should skim over this point. For characters to fall in love, commonalities must exist! You wouldn’t want a dour, serious whiner to marry Tom Hanks’s Joe Fox. Immediately, we’d know she wasn’t right for him. Perky Meg Ryan fits much better.

So, when I first think up my characters, I give them a good hunk of stuff in common, at least four or five major or minor details.

I Can Do Without You!
Second, as much as the lovebirds need similar interests, they also need opposite characteristics. This is the fun part. Kathleen Kelly’s fatal flaw (as I see it) is lack of ambition. She doesn’t want to change, but to stay in her boring relationship and keep working at her bookstore even though she has dreams for more.

What’s Joe Fox’s fatal flaw? Too much ambition! Isn’t that cool? Their fatal flaws are opposite. This keeps them apart and draws them together at the same time. Yay!

Joe’s mega-ambition causes him to force Kathleen’s store to close. Kathleen’s passiveness causes her to follow bad advice (ironically from Joe, although he doesn’t realize it). And these opposing flaws create a world where they can’t possibly get together.

But the flaws also compliment each other, right? Joe needs to learn to care about people more than business. He can learn this from Kathleen. Kathleen needs to stand up for herself. She can learn this from Joe.

They really must get together, don’t you think? The perfect couple.

A Dry Well
Third, they both must possess a dry well. In other words, the hero and heroine long for something more. Their love barrel is empty. Throughout the beginning of You’ve Got Mail, we see both Kathleen and Joe in blah relationships, as if rambling around in Dorothy’s black and white Kansas. But every time Kathleen and Joe meet—vibrant Technicolor!

This emptiness creates desire in readers. It makes us hunger for them to get together, to find each other, and thus, find happiness. (As Christian writers, we know we can’t ultimately find happiness in anyone but God. I have certain ways I deal with that. Perhaps another blog.) For the ending to satisfy, a mighty longing for love must be established early on.

So, as you can see, a strong hero and heroine make up the key component to writing romance. We still need a few other elements, though. Tune in next week for fun with longing, suspense, and conflict in romance.

How do you create awesome romantic characters? I’d love to hear.

God bless and happy writing,