Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to Heighten the Romance in Your Romance Novel

Hi everyone, Audra here. How about that Seekerville birthday month? We had a great time, didn't we? Coffee, cake and all sorts of goodies, compliments of Yankee-Belle Cafe. Watch out Starbucks, you've got competition! Okay back to today's post. Y'all know our guest for today (hee, my Southern is peeking through), she's been sprinkling fairytale dust over us and keeping us sighing over the tales of the Medieval kingdom for quite a while now. Today, Melanie Dickerson has romance in store for us. Isn't this a great way to usher in November??
Thanks so much, Audra, for inviting me to be here! I love Seekerville and all the Seekers and Seeker friends. What a birthday bash you guys had here this past month! Thanks for letting us all celebrate with you, and for giving US the gifts. But we can keep celebrating, since they don’t announce the last of the winners until Saturday!

On that note, let’s discuss how to heighten the romance in our romance novels.

I don’t know about you, but I want to make my readers sigh with happiness and satisfaction at the end of my romance novels. Have you ever gotten to the end of a romance novel and said, “Where was the romance? When did they fall in love? Because I think I missed it.”

This is not what I want. For me, it’s all about the romance. I want my reader to get to the end and say, “That was the most romantic story I’ve ever read.”

So, let’s talk about what romance is—and what it isn’t. Romance is not sex, and romance is not kissing. (Sorry, Julie!) I love Julie Lessman’s kissing scenes. They are very romantic, but as much as I love her Kissology courses, I think the reason her kissing scenes are romantic is because of the situation Julie has put the characters in, the prelude to the kiss, and not so much the kiss itself. Kissing is physical, but romance is emotional. The reader feels something because of the emotional factor in the kissing scene, because of the way Julie has set it up and brought her characters to that point.

And what is the goal of any novel? To make the reader feel something.

The two novels that I think are the most romantic and most satisfying of all time are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, which does not have a single kiss or kissing scene in the entire book, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, which does have a few kisses, but they aren’t described in any detail. What makes these novels so romantic?

I believe what makes them so romantic are: 1) The situations that the characters find themselves in, or the premise of the novel, 2) The heroic and yet realistic ways they act in these situations, sacrificing for the person they love and overcoming great obstacles to get to their happily-ever-after, and 3) Having these actions reflect their character, their past, and their feelings for each other.

The romance battle is two-thirds won if you have a premise that has great potential for romance. In other words, you should come up with a premise, or story situation, that lends itself well to including the three things listed above. And you will need to make sure you put the hero and heroine into a situation where they’ll be forced to interact with each other often.

Which brings me to three mistakes we must avoid. 1) Not letting the characters interact enough, 2) Letting them move too fast instead of letting the romantic tension build, and 3) So many terrible things happening, or so many subplots, or too much of anything else, that it overshadows the romance.

I hope you don’t mind if I use my book, The Fairest Beauty, to be released in December, as an example of a romantic premise. The basic premise is that the hero, Gabe, wants to prove himself by rescuing his older brother’s betrothed, Sophie, from her evil stepmother. His brother has always overshadowed him with his overachieving, so this is his chance. The heroine has always longed for belonging and a happy family. So she is excited at the thought of being betrothed, even if it is to someone she doesn’t even know. So when she and the hero make their escape from her murderous stepmother, they find themselves on a trek across country, being pursued, with no one to rely on but each other.

So here I have the hero and heroine in close proximity, forced to interact, and also in a situation where they “can’t” fall in love. Lots of potential for conflict and romance. And conflict is essential to a romance story, because you have character arcs, but you also have a romance arc, a progression of the romance. Conflict is what keeps the romance from going from 0 to 60 in the first three chapters.

Another example … in The Merchant’s Daughter, Lord Ranulf has been scarred inside and out by life, and especially by women. At first we see him as a gruff, angry, harsh person. But as we get to know him, we realize that he is actually very gentle and sensitive. Annabel, his new servant, is the most educated person in the entire village, and also the kindest and gentlest. He is drawn to her, but believes a romance with her is hopeless. At the same time, romance is the farthest thing from Annabel’s mind. Lord Ranulf truly has no hope in winning her if he was to pursue her—he would only push her away.

So in this situation, you have lots of conflict—a lot of inner conflict but also outer conflict, which I haven’t mentioned—and conflict is completely necessary in any novel, including a romance novel. There must be obstacles to overcome or there’s no satisfaction in the happy ending.

However, there is a danger for romance novelists in thrusting in tons of conflict but leaving out the romance.

Everybody preaches conflict, right? You’ve heard, “Think of the worst thing that could possibly happen and make it happen.” That’s good for a thriller or a speculative novel or a family drama, but not a romance. Don’t get me wrong; you must put obstacles in the way of love. Something must come between the hero and heroine that seems almost insurmountable. But for a romance novel, you have to put extra thought into your conflict and not beat your characters up TOO much, because you don’t want the conflict to overpower the romance and keep them too far apart. After all, they need to fall in love. If you have one devastating catastrophe after another, and they’re constantly dealing with those, they don’t get a chance to interact romantically.

You’ve all heard that plotting is just asking the question, What if? Well, creating wonderfully romantic situations and scenes involves asking certain questions too, basically all of them variations of, “What would be the most romantic thing that could happen in this situation?”

In The Merchant’s Daughter, I’ve set up this difficult situation that I explained earlier, but I’ve also come up with a way to get the hero and heroine together and make sure they interact quite often. She is his servant, she is the only servant who knows how to read, and he wants someone to read to him every night. This is what throws them together, the trapped-on-a-deserted-island scenario that forces them to interact frequently. But how to make it more romantic? That is the question I asked myself.

I will have the gruff, scarred hero who is sure he’ll never fall in love, irresistibly drawn to the sweet-and-innocent heroine. Since he loves her but believes she will never love him, I will force him to have to save her, more than once, from a lecherous bad guy. This will make Annabel grateful to the hero, Lord Ranulf, and attach him to her even more. She has no interest at all in romance, but I will make her see, quite clearly over time, just how good and kind this man is. The reader already sees that the two of them couldn’t be more perfectly suited for each other, but I have to bring my heroine to that point gradually, culminating in a dramatic realization at the end. In the meantime, I keep asking myself, “What is the most romantic thing that could happen now?” How will he break down her fears? How can I make it harder for him to stop loving her? How can I have her, gradually, cause him to open his hard heart until it breaks with love for her? Most romantic thing that can happen: He will be forced to sacrifice everything, possibly even his life, for her, all the while believing she couldn’t ever love him. And then, at the very end of the book, I will cause her to be willing to give up her greatest desire, her life’s goal, for him. And as an added twist, at the end SHE will rescue HIM.



Plot twists.

Dramatic realizations.

These four devices are common in all genres of fiction, but as a romance writer, you can—and should—use these to heighten the romance in your story.

And you must make all those things happen feasibly and believably, building on the characters’ own goals and motivations, traits, fears, and events from their past.

Here’s another example. In The Healer’s Apprentice, the hero and heroine can’t be together because he, Lord Hamlin, is betrothed to someone else. What makes this obstacle doubly insurmountable is that the thing Lord Hamlin values most is duty and honor. He will never do anything to violate his sense of honor, which tells him he must marry his betrothed, Lady Salomea. I have the character’s own characteristics interacting naturally with the situation. There is built-in conflict, there are also other conflicts that come into play, but at various points in the story, I asked myself, “What is the most satisfying thing that could happen now?” And I think that led me to a lot of very romantic scenes in the story.

I already knew how I wanted to end the story. I had already asked myself “What would be the most satisfying ending to this story?” and I had that scene burned into my brain. So at every point of the story I asked myself, “What is the most satisfying thing that could happen now?” but I also had to be aware of how it would affect the rest of the story, especially the ending, and I had to be careful of two things:

1) I couldn’t sabotage my ending or any key plot points I already had in mind to get the characters to this “perfect” happily ever after, and

2) I couldn’t violate my characters’ personalities or make them do things they would never do, based on their character traits. In other words, it has to be plausible.

Two things I came up with after asking myself “What would be the most satisfying thing that could happen?” were 1) The hero would be willing to let the heroine marry his brother if he thought his brother would love her and protect her, as love and protection were two things she needed. And 2) The hero would decide to give up his right to rule and allow himself to appear dishonorable—the worst thing that he could imagine happening to him—in order to marry his true love, Rose.

Of course, his plan didn’t succeed, but it was important—and romantic—for him to show that he was willing to give up everything for her.

Sacrifice. A device you should use for extra power—and extra romance.

And this works best when the characters’ own traits, values, and their pasts come into play, which adds power and believability. Don’t be afraid to draw on your characters, every part of them, to heighten the tension, the conflict, and the romance.

Something that I touched on earlier: Make your hero and heroine perfect for each other. No other person will do, for either one of them.

In Pride and Prejudice, one of the things that makes it so romantic is how Jane Austen shows how perfect Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are for each other. He is the perfect match for Lizzie’s wit and sense of humor. Contrast him with her other suitors: Where Mr. Collins is awkward and ridiculous, Darcy is dignified and polished. Where Wickham is unscrupulous and dissipate, Darcy is utterly scrupulous and honorable. And even Mr. Bingley, whom we love, is indiscriminate in his friendliness and warmth, while Darcy is wise and reserved. Bingley is perfect for Lizzie’s sister, while Darcy’s only match is Lizzie.

But that isn’t the only thing that makes the story romantic. The best part is how Lizzie, both justly and unjustly, accuses Darcy of some really ugly things—just when he has opened his heart to her and asked her to marry him! His pride is deeply wounded. How will their romance ever have a chance now? But in the end, they are both humbled, they both grow up, as it were (the character arc), and Darcy does something heroic, made more heroic because it violates his proud nature. The heroic act goes against all his sensitivities, and he does it just for Lizzie. Romantic! If Jane Austen had asked herself, “What would be the most romantic thing Darcy could do for Lizzie?” she couldn’t have come up with anything better. I like to think that’s exactly what she asked herself!

What about you? What is the most romantic thing you can think of right now for your characters to do in the novel you’re currently working on?

Please leave a comment to win a copy of your choice of my novels, The Healer’s Apprentice, The Merchant’s Daughter, or The Fairest Beauty, which comes out in December, and which you can pre-order now! I will pick three winners.

Blurb for The Fairest Beauty
Pre-order now available

Sophie has long wished to get away from her stepmother’s jealous anger, and begins planning her escape. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother. This could be her chance at freedom and happiness—but can she trust him?

Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: he is having feelings for the orphan girl, his brother’s betrothed. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother’s future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he vows he will keep her safe, no matter what.

Melanie Dickerson is a two-time Christy Award finalist, and her second YA novel, The Merchant’s Daughter, recently won the ACFW Carol Award. She is a graduate of The University Alabama and has taught special education at nearly every grade level, elementary to high school, and taught conversational English to college professors in Ukraine. She now lives near Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband and two daughters. Please visit her on her website, and friend her on facebook, and “Like” her facebook author page, Follow her on Twitter as melanieauthor and she promises to follow you back!

Thanks for sharing your romantic ideas with us, Melanie. There's nothing better than a great fairytale, and no one writes them better than you. By the way, all your covers are gorgeous!


Jackie said...

Hi! You're right, October was a great month of celebrating Seekerville's birthday.

Thanks for sharing how to up the romance. I love the part where you said in the end the heroine will rescue the hero. I'll go back & read this again when I get up.

I was so excited to still be up at midnight, that I wanted to go on and leave a comment.

Thanks again for sharing! This is a keeper!

Jackie L.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Hi Audra and Melanie and thanks to all you Seekers & guests for throwing such a fun party!

Melanie, I absolutely love both Jane Eyre and P&P and they ARE two of the most romantic pieces out there. BTW I just love both film versions that you pulled those pictures from. That version of JE was the film that got me hooked on Masterpiece and BBC films. My desire to watch British films and tv is now uncontrollable LOL!

Helen Gray said...

Blogger has kicked me out five times. One more try.

Coffee's brewing, so belly up to the bar, boys and girls!

Thanks for the in-depth analyses, Melanie.


Christina said...

Another keeper post. Seriously, Seekerville needs to make a book of all these great posts.

Melanie, you've made things click in my brain, now I have to think about your question and how it pertains to my wips.

Ink in the Book said...

So, romance books are all about tension? Tension between the two MC's in unique ways.
I love the advice about sacrifice. I've been thinking on that for a while, but not sure what type of sacrifice I want in my story.
Thanks for a lovely post. I enjoyed every word!

Abbi Hart said...

This is an awesome post! I have read books that have left me wondering where the romance was even though the couple end up together and I greatly dislike it! I don't write so I can't give any input into this but I absolutely love when they hero of a story gives the heroine an unusual present that might seem ridiculous and silly to him and maybe others but it means something to her and shows how carefully he was paying attention. I don't want to give anything away but near the end of Jody Hedlund's Unending Devotion there is a scene like I just described and I practically swooned! Anyone whose read it probably knows what I'm talking about!

Melissa Jagears said...

I have a list of questions I use to plot my romances, and one question I always make sure I figure out is: What would they never do, and how will they do it/sacrifice for their love interest's sake?

Kara said...

Excellent post, Melanie! I absolutely LOVED how you describe romance and how the characters have to slowly get there in the story.

I believe that's why God created romance, to be enjoyed and savored, never rushed.

One of my favorite books is The Merchant's Daughter; the reader experiences that relationship blossom and it stays with us after the book ends (sigh).

“What would be the most romantic thing that could happen in this situation?”
With this question I thought of the movie Beauty and the Beast (which your book is so similar to-I consider your book the Christian version of that movie). One of my favorite parts of that movie is when the beast gives Belle full access to his massive library. I always considered that to be perfectly romantic and I yearn to have a room like that one day FILLED with books :)

I also want to wish Seekerville another HAPPY 5th BIRTHDAY!!!! I can't believe October is over, but I want to thank you Seekers for being so great and for blessing your readers as you do :) Long live Seekerville!!

Hugs, Kara

Dianna Shuford said...

Hi, Melanie. Great Post! I loved your examples of your four actions that show true love. (I especially liked the end bio and found out you are a fellow special education teacher. It's a difficult job, but obviously God knew you were up to the task.)

Your examples of sacrifice really resonated with me. In my current work, my hero refuses to print an article he'd agreed to write because it would put the woman he loves on a collision course with a serial killer. The greatest sacrifice he can make since his editor made it clear in the beginning that he would cooperate or lose his job. I sighed when I wrote it, and I can only hope my future readers sigh when they read it as well.

Of course, the heroine, a homicide detective, defies his decision and submits the article herself in an act of defiance (one she will regret later). Then, all kinds of internal conflicts begin between them in addition to the external serial killer hunting her down.

BTW- loved your first book. I haven't gotten to read the other one yet, but I'm sure it will be just as great. Feel free to include me in the drawing :).

Vince said...

Hi Melanie:

What a wonderful post!

I like 'Beauty and the Beast' as a great romance.

It’s strange but just yesterday I was thinking about the lack of romance in romances. By this I mean romantic gestures. Do heroines even get courted anymore? Where are the moonlight dinners and music with flowers? Where are the heroes who anticipate the heroine’s needs by listening to every word the heroine says. If she mentions in passing that she likes a Paris perfume sold only in France, he finds a way to order it from Paris. If she loves reading Donna Leon mysteries, he orders her the newest English version which comes out a year ahead of the North American books. If she mentions five or six songs she loves, over a period of several months, the hero makes her a CD with just those songs on it. If she is a teacher, he sends her a heart shapped Valentine cake to the school where she works so her fellow teachers will be jealous. : )

There are so many ways to be romantic but so few make it into romances. When both the hero and heroine have their own conflicts, this leaves little room for courting. Couldn’t at least one hero write a sweet love letter or write a heartfelt love poem? Has romance become just ‘conflict resolution’ with benefits?

I’m for putting the romantic back into romance! I’d like to see a few Grand Gestures. (Didn’t Ruth do something like this that involved an aerial balloon?)

Romance should be more than removing conflicts until there are no barriers to falling in love. Romance should transcend the conflicts. Rise above the fray. Love should be bigger than the obstacles. Love should embrace obstacles and come out the other side.

In short, we need a romance written by a romantic!

Where did all this come from?

Does it make any sense or am I the last romantic? : )


Natalie Monk said...

Hi Audra! Hi Melanie! Taking notes here. Wonderful post!

I love the bit about sacrifice. The most memorable parts in books for me are those when the hero is willing to and about to sacrifice his dream, his life, his reputation, heroine's good opinion of him and even his own chances with the woman he loves for her sake.

I believe God is the Ultimate Romantic. Human love is a picture of Christ's love for us, so when I think of making heroes romantic, I think, "What would Christ do for me?" I know we have to make heroes flawed, but I think those most romantic moments are simply glimpses of Christ's love shining through the hero. :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SEEKERVILLE!!!! Don't think I've said that, yet and I've been bursting to. Love this blog. I wouldn't be writing if not for the encouragement and help here. THANK YOU!!!

Lyndee said...

HI Melanie,
Frankly, your name conjures up my favorite romantic book and movie, Gone with the Wind! Every time I see your name here, I picture long suffering Olivia De Haviland and her tortured Ashley. Someday I'm going to take time to think about how the story would have progressed if he'd just married Scarlett when she threw herself at him. It seems like the story would end there, but I'm not sure that Rhett would have allowed it. What a great group of strong characters running through that book. Hummm...
Anyway, I digress, lol.

Your examples are terrific. Such a gifted writer. Thanks for the great tutorial.

Well, Seekerville, we are at the end of the celebration and it's been fantastic. Congrats and Happy 5th Birthday! Thanks for letting us celebrate with you, y'all, yuns. :)

Peace and prayers...

Terri said...

Great post Melanie! I tend to focus too heavily on the suspense portion of my books. You've given me some great tools to help flesh out the romance side. Thanks!

Mary Cline said...

Great post Melanie, thank you. I think the most romantic thing I could do right now is go buy one of your books.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I just finished Merchant's Daughter, enjoyed it and am awaiting Fairest Beauty.

Showing Romance is important. What would my characters sacrifice? Good question. By joining a wagon train to help her go west, my character, Matthew, sacrifices a lot to get the woman he loves. he even writes her letters and cooks for her and more. I like him.
I've had a few other women say they wish their husbands were more like him.

Tina P.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

You touched my heart with those two novels... Love them both. I'd add "Christy" to the list, because I think that lovely epic just showed the path to Christian fiction, a book that embraced so many details of life, love and skewed priorities that I have read it over and over.

To me Christy is a true Phoenix rising from the ashes story in more modern times. Just love it!

And Renee, I agree... Seeing P&P in film version drew me to things like Downton Abbey... Although I loved All Creatures Great and Small, too, the BBC show about veterinarian James Herriot. What a great series of books that was!

Melanie this is a beautiful and in depth post that you poured heart and soul into. Thank you for doing that!!!! And I can't wait (and my young friend Taylor who loves you way more than JK Rowling and Hunger Games and Percy Jackson) for the next book to come out! Wonderful!

I think Helen got in long enough for coffee, so I'm doing the welcome November for All Saint's Day and we're celebrating holy men and women with DONUTS.

I know, I know, I should use the 'ough' spelling and I should just stop eating junk altogether, but if we just eat one... :) We'll be fine. And they're pretend, so we're fine anyway! I'm having a lemon filled with white and yellow swirled icing.


Ruth Logan Herne said...


You stinkin' genius.

I am re-writing some scenes based on your genius.

And yes, the balloon scene was in Small-town Hearts, when Danny proposed from the hot air balloon and had the town festival committee change the location of Meg's fudge booth so she would be sure to see the banner.

How like you to remember that!!!!

And I did use some of your suggestions in The Lawman's Second Chance when the hero realizes the heroine is wounded and reluctant because of physical and emotional scars... so he does just that, coming up with small ways to 'woo' her... and it makes the reader smile when they read them and the reason I did that was because it gave me more rewards per page.

Seriously, your wisdom affects us. Thank you!!!!!

Susan Codone said...

One of my most embedded memories of childhood is my mom with stacks of romance novels by the couch. My town was so small that the Birmingham library sent out a library RV and parked it in the church parking lot. I loaded up on science fiction while my mom read through 5-7 romances per week. I know now that those books were and still are a great joy to her, and now the town has an actual library building! Thanks for such a great post on how to write romance well.

Amy Campbell said...

Hi Audra and Melanie.
I just discovered Melanie this past week during the Scavenger Hunt and I can't wait to read her work!
campbellamyd at gmail dot com

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, y'all! Have you recovered from last night? I helped with an outreach at my church last night where we did carnival games with the kids from the neighborhood, and now I am sore!!! Yikes. Need to go to the gym more often.

Let me get my kids off to school and I'll be right back, I promise! Thanks, everybody, for being here!

Rose said...

Very good advice, Melanie!

Sandra Ardoin said...

When I think of romantic sacrifice, I think of O Henry's The Gift of the Magi.

So many good points in this post, Melanie, and I really enjoyed The Merchant's Daughter.

Audra Harders said...

Morning, everyone. I hope you had enough candy for all the trick or treaters last night. We never have any come to our door since we don't live in a neighborhood, bummer. AND my kids are grown and out of the house so I can't even dig through their candy bags.

Even bigger bummer!

Melanie great points on boosting the romance and reminders to NOT sacrifice the romance for the conflict.

Carol Moncado said...



Have I mentioned I LOVE your new cover?!

Such great tips as I try to figure out which WIP I'm going to write for NaNo. I had it all planned out but then book 2 in the series [which could be book 1] started clamoring at me.


I won't get to write till this afternoon anyway...

Okay - time to head to school where I will pop back in - because it's Mel's day!

Audra Harders said...

Renee, I so agree with you on the romance quality of Masterpiece Theatre! I love it. It comes on a bit late on Sunday night here, so I can't squeeze it into my schedule and get up for work the next day, but over holidays?? I'm right there watching!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Thank you, Jackie, for being first! I loved having my heroine rescue my hero in that book. In a way, the heroine always rescues the hero at the end. After all, every man needs a good woman, right!?

Thanks for commenting. All commenters will be entered for a chance to win one of my books! Your choice. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Renee! Hey, girl! Yes, those are my favorite adaptations of Jane Eyre and P&P! Soooooo romantic. To be honest, there are at least four Jane Eyre movies that I LOVE. They all bring out some aspect of the story that is awesome and that the others miss.
And yes, I share your obsession with British films! :-)
You're in the drawing too, BTW! Thanks for stopping by, my reading friend! :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Helen!!! Thank you SO much for the coffee, because I am clueless about coffee! I've been drinking this new hot tea I found--Green tea with passionfruit and coconut! It is wonderful! I love it!
Thanks for not giving up on leaving a comment! Blogger is a pain sometimes.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Christina, thank you for saying that! I'm not very confident in my ability to teach anything writing-related! I prefer to write encouragement posts about how people should never give up! LOL!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Aw, Talyn!!! Thank you so much! I'm so glad to be able to make you think! When I'm plotting, that's what I need most--something to make me think!
Thanks for commenting, and you are entered in my drawing for one of my books!

Audra Harders said...

Ahhh, Vince. I gobble up every word you shared. Where is the romance anymore? How many books have you read lately that burn a place in your heart for the hero and heroine?

And BTW, I love reverse romance, too. It's not just the hero who can steal the show with a thoughtful CD or Valentine's cake, LOL! Have the heroine snoop around the man trappings and notice an ad for a lure on the page open in the lastest fishing magazine...

Melanie Dickerson said...

Abbi! Thank you for your comment! That is a great romantic tip you offer! (Writers, are you paying attention?) That does sound very romantic. And I have read books too where the hero and heroine marry in the end, but I'm left wondering when they fell in love, because the romance was practically nonexistent! That is annoying for me as a reader, too. Abbi, I am entering you in the drawing too! Thanks!

Audra Harders said...

And let us not forget our own Julie Lessman is not just a kissing expert. The pages of her books just drip with romance and emotional tugging of heartstrings

...and kissing : )

Audra Harders said...

I have to scoot off to work, but leave the day in Melanie's more than capable hands, LOL!!

I'll pop in when I can!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Melissa! That is an excellent question to ask while plotting! Thanks for sharing it. Donald Maass says something similar to that.

I'm actually not a very analytical person at all. I had to think really hard about my thought process when I'm building the romance in my books, because I'm really not very conscious of it.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Kara, you made my day! Thank you for your kind words about The Merchant's Daughter!

Kara, have you seen the theatrical version of Beauty and the Beast? Oh my stars!!!!! (to quote Ruthy) It is so much better than the movie because they add these extra scenes in the middle to show Belle and the Beast interacting with each other. It totally amps up the romance factor a thousand percent! I nearly melted when I saw that musical. If you ever get a chance, go see it!!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Dianna! You are definitely in the drawing! Thank you so much for your comment. I think the scenes you describe from your novel sounds like a GREAT example of sacrifice and tension and great interaction between the h/h. I hope it gets published soon!!!

Yes, I WAS a special ed. teacher for a few years, but I "retired" when my first daughter was born. I fell in love with my students every time, I couldn't help it. It was really funny to me that it was the more difficult ones that I missed the most! They were all precious.

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Award-winning Melanie!!

Most excellent post, full of the very things all of us as writers need to keep in mind. High compliment for you to be talking romance today. Way to go!

Interesting you brought up "prelude to a kiss" as that is one of my parents and my fave songs from 1938, by Duke Ellington.

This is a printer-offer for sure! Waving to you, just to the south.

Audra - Thanks for having Melanie today. And thanks again for hostessing a wonderful birthday celebration!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Vince!!! I totally agree!!! You said: "It’s strange but just yesterday I was thinking about the lack of romance in romances. By this I mean romantic gestures. Do heroines even get courted anymore? Where are the moonlight dinners and music with flowers? Where are the heroes who anticipate the heroine’s needs by listening to every word the heroine says."

I have thought the same thing! I don't enjoy a romance novel where the hero never does anything romantic, never says anything romantic. If my hero can't say or do something romantic for the woman he loves, then he's not a worthy hero, IMO.

Thank you so much, Vince, for confirming for me that there ARE some romantic men out there! Even a not-so-romantic guy can and will do something romantic for the woman he's in love with! This is the kind of thing I want to show in my novels.

Thank you, Vince!!!

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...


You definitely offer a wonderful perspective, with examples!

We love the men of Seekerville! Walt, time to chime in...

And Melanie, please do add me for the drawing. Gift-giving season is upon us. I know a few folks who'd love any of them, I did! may at maythek9spy dot com

Melanie Dickerson said...

Natalie!!! You said, "I believe God is the Ultimate Romantic. Human love is a picture of Christ's love for us" and, " I think those most romantic moments are simply glimpses of Christ's love shining through the hero."

I couldn't agree more!!! And you said it so well. This is what I think about when I write romance, that God created it and it is truly an image of his love for us. That is why one of my greatest pet peeves as a reader is a hero who is not heroic, who is unworthy and yet gets the girl anyway. This happened in a secular YA romance novel that I read a year or two ago, and it bothered me so much I couldn't stand it! And it was a very popular novel, tons of teen girls read it, it was made into a movie ... yeah. It made me mad that a girl would read it and think, "Well, I guess that's the best I can hope for." No!

Before I get too carried away on my soapbox ... Thank you so much, Natalie! I really appreciate your comment! And I also agree that Seekerville is a WONDERFUL place for writers! :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Lyndee! You made me laugh out loud! "Every time I see your name here, I picture long suffering Olivia De Haviland and her tortured Ashley."

Ha! Actually, my mother did name me after Melanie in Gone With the Wind! And it's rather unfortunate, really, but I am a lot like that character, in putting up with stuff I shouldn't! LOL! But you I am getting better about that! ;-) And I digress, but I agree about the strong characters in that book! I have read it at least six times!

Thanks so much for your comments, Lyndee!!! You're in the drawing!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Melanie, I so needed this post today because I think I've done what you said not to do. I think I overshadowed the romance with the conflict.

Thanks for this post and oh yes, welcome back to Seekerville. What a great way to start the month. smile

Have fun.

Jeanne T said...

Thanks, Melanie for your insights into making a novel romantic. I loved it, even though I'm writing womens fiction. I can apply some of your tips to my story.

Thanks for showing how sacrifice works in a story. Loved your examples--I "got" it! Also, I loved how you asked yourself questions with each scene you wrote to make it more romantic. No wonder you won a Carol! :) (It was the Carol, right? :) I get confused with all the names of the awards).

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Vince, You gave me some great ideas to get back to the romance in my story. Thanks buddy.

yes, yes, we need those romantic gestures and thoughtful actions for our hero and heroine. smiling

Marianne said...

What a hoot we had at the party. And since i had my 55 birthday in October, i partied right along with you. Thanks.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Terri! Thank you! I hope I helped! I am happy to hear that. :-)

Mary Cline! Haha! Yes, I think that would be a great thing to do! :-)

Tina P.! Yay for awaiting The Fairest Beauty! :D Your hero does sound romantic! Writing letters can be a GREAT device for letting the characters interact with each other when they can't be in close proximity. And a guy will say a whole lot more, sometimes, in a letter than he would in person! Jamie Carie did an AMAZING job using letters to build romance in Guardian Duke. I was desperate for the h/h to get together by the end of the book, even though they'd never even met!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Ruthy!!! How did you know that, next to Lindt dark chocolate truffles, donuts are my favorite food!?!?!?! I'll have a Krispy Kreme chocolate iced creme filled, please!

Thank you for your sweet comments, Ruthy! You know I love you!!! And I love Christy too! What a wonderful novel. I actually could relate to it the first time I read it, because I was a teacher at the time, teaching in North Georgia, and I had one student in particular who reminded me of Christy's students. He broke my heart. I have wondered so many times what happened to him.

And yay for All Souls Day! A great Medieval holiday! :-)

Ruthy, isn't Vince fabulous? We are so blessed to have his genius here. And I so love that you did that grand gesture in your book, with the hot air balloon! That's the kind of thing I strive for--MEMORABLE scenes. If we can burn a scene in our reader's memory, that is a job well done, I think!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Susan, did you grow up in Alabama??? What town? I grew up in Lower Alabama, not far from the Florida panhandle, in McKenzie. Never heard of it? That's okay. It's really tiny!

I remember the Bookmobile coming to my house during the summer when I was a kid! The librarian guy who drove it actually loaned me his PERSONAL COPY of Maria Trapp's memoirs that The Sound of Music was based on when I told him I really wanted to read that book. Wasn't that the sweetest thing? I was just a kid. But I loved getting to read it. Libraries, and librarians, are wonderful things!!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Amy! That thrills me that you want to read my books! Thank you so much for going through the Scavenger Hunt last week. It was a lot of fun, and I hope all the readers enjoyed it too!
Thanks for your comment! You entered in the drawing for one of my books!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Rose, thanks for stopping by!

Sandra, thank you! And yes, The Gift of the Magi is SO MEMORABLE! Such a great example of romantic sacrifice!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Audra! Thank you, Sweetness, for having me on the blog!!! I used to love handing out candy, but now I'm always out doing stuff with my kids, it seems. But since we were busy doing the carnival games at my church, my kids didn't get candy this year!!! So I guess I'll just have to go out and buy it today, 50% off. Too bad. I'll have to sacrifice. For my kids. ;-) Audra, I'm thinking you ought to do the same. Do it for your husband. wink-wink.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Carol!!! Hey, girlie!!! You are such a dynamo of writing prolificness! And yes, I just made up a new word. How creative am I? I am very proud of your hard work, and stunned and amazed at how many books you not only write, but also READ! I am in awe.

Thanks for being here! I'm sure you will figure out which book to write for Nano. I wouldn't be surprised if you wrote TWO!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Audra, thanks for popping in while at work! You are a great friend! :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

KC "Karen", my friend! Thank you for your comment! These plot elements are not just for romance, but sacrifice and dramatic rescues, etc., are for exciting in all genres. So I hope it was helpful!
Bless you!!!

Amanda said...

I totally agree about Jane Eyre and P&P being the two most romantic novels of all time. Especially Jane Eyre. Was reading it last night for probably the millionth time. I still sigh over the proposal scene. :)

Romantic scenes are such a must!! And often they are lacking in novels. I love adding in a few scenes where the hero does something really special for the heroine, like buying her a kitten after she tells him she had a cat in childhood who died.

Great post!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Sandra! Thank you! You are so sweet. I hope I made everybody think about their plots and about ways to make them even stronger, especially the romance factor!

And isn't Vince's perspective wonderful? I love it! A real romantic. Romance is not dead!!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Jeannie, yes! You can apply these same elements to your women's fiction. Sacrifice is a major plot device in all kinds of fiction, and so are the other things I mentioned. Plus, you can't possibly hurt your women's fiction, IMO, by revving up the romance a bit. :-)
And yes, it was the Carol! I was giddy-excited to win it. :-) Thanks!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Marianne, thanks for stopping by!

Amanda! My teen writing sensation friend! I have read Jane Eyre many times too! Well, I usually skip the beginning where she's being mistreated in Lowood School. I mostly like the scenes where she and Mr. Rochester are interacting! :-)
It sounds like you "get" romance! Awesome! I am excited to see what happens with your career, so please keep us posted. :-) Perseverance leads to success.

Jan Drexler said...

Helen - "belly up to the bar"? Is this OUR Helen? At least I know you're talking about coffee!

Vince - I agree. Where's the romance? I suspect the lack of romance has something to do with readers (and/or publishers) wanting strong women in stories, and they often sacrifice the softer, romantic side so that strong woman can stand out. But who wants to go through life with no flowers, even if you do run a multi-million dollar company?

And Natalie Monk - Amen and amen. The continuing story of Christ and His Bride, the Church, is the ultimate romance, and we all get to play a part. So romantic!

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Melanie!

Very timely post! I'm trying to figure out where to put the romance into my current WIP - made some progress on that front yesterday, but your post gave me more to think about...

And I'm looking forward to the release of "Fairest Beauty" - loved the other books, can't wait to read this one :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Jan! It was great getting to see you in person at the ACFW conference! I'm sorry we didn't get to talk. Sometimes I walk around like a deer in headlights at those things, but I really was happy to see you. :-) Was that your first conference? What did you think of it?

Jan Drexler said...

Yes, it was my first conference, and I loved it. I just basked in the glow. Really.

Now I'm waiting for my conference recordings to arrive so I can listen to all the stuff that went in one ear and out the other during the weekend.

And it was great meeting you, too!

Just think. I know a Carol winner.

Elaine Clampitt said...

This post was perfect timing for me! I'm starting NaNoWriMo today and my genre is romance. Thanks for sharing, Melanie. I would love to win one of your books.


Deborah Dunson said...

Melanie, I agree with you when it comes to avoiding so many subplots, too many terrible thing happening and characters not interacting enough; these three things make the book less romantic and it also makes me leery of reading anything else that the authors writes.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Elaine, thank you! I hope I helped you a little bit with your NaNo project! You're in the drawing!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Deborah! I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks we need more romance and less devastation in romance novels! :-) Thanks so much for stopping by! You're also in the drawing!

Melanie Dickerson said...

You know, if I was smart, I would have said you can pre-order The Fairest Beauty right now! I would be tickled to death to impress my publisher with how many pre-orders I get for my new book! I can already tell by looking at the numbers on Amazon that I'll have a whole lot more this time than with my last two books! And the e-book version of all three books is only $6.99, and I'm assuming that's only for a limited time.

Vince said...

Hi Melanie:

Your post has been an inspiration! A ‘just-in-time’ inspiration! I did not have an idea for NaNo this year but last night, after reading your post on romance, it came to me. I’m writing a meta-fiction piece called “The Last Romantic” – it’s the journey of a man looking for romance in the land of romance. I already wrote 400 words this morning. It will be a modern day Don Quixote tale where the muse is the heroine and the conflict is in getting the hero to see the heroine for who she really is and not as the hero wants her to be! He is in love with romance itself but not the woman. What mirror can she hold up to show him the truth but still win his real love! (Mary would know how to do this.)

I have to go sign up with NaNo right away.

But first let me add that the most romantic scene I’ve ever read was in one of Julie’s books where the grandfather, Patrick, and grandmother, Marcy, share a very intimate moment. I'm convinced that with Julie the romance comes first: yes, there are plotters, pantsers and romancers! The romance feeds the passion which transforms a generic kiss into a sublime experience. I think that after reading 3,000 Lessman pages I’m on to Julie. I think Julie is a ‘romancer’ pure and simple. Start with the romance! Be ‘romance-driven’. What a concept! Julie, your secret is out and I’m going to be your first disciple.

BTW: I must say you, Melanie, have an award winning photo with the best smile I have ever seen on a author’s picture. That smile goes perfectly with a Carol! This is your year! Bless you.


P.S. If anyone comes to Tulsa my wife will be glad to show you the pictures of that Valentine cake! : )

P.P.S. For a wonderful real life example of the romantic, read Ruth’s “One Last Thing” on her website. It will bring tears to your eyes and make you proud to be a romance writer. I’ll remember that piece for a long time. I read the last part of it to my wife. Romance is something the author lives.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Melanie, your post left me spellbound. It's just what I needed to read as I plot a romance set in England. I liked the part about slowly getting there as you build the tension. The word 'sacrifice' jumped off the page, especially. Thank you for showing me what I need to concentrate on if I want to create a rich and satisfying romance. I love Austen and Bronte, too. Last month went to Winchester Cathedral where she's buried and stood before the memorial plaque on the floor there. Visited the Bronte sisters' home, too. It seems romantic gestures were found in abundance in the time in which these women wrote. The quality of the romance in the British productions is unequal. Your post is a classic, too, Melanie.
Please put me in the drawing for one of your fantastic novels.
Pat in Philly

Mary Connealy said...

Melanie, I can't wait for The Fairest Beauty. I love your books.
Great post.

travelingstacey said...

Hey Melanie! I was so excited to read your post today. I love your style and I love the way you explain things. You're a great teacher! The question you posed about what the most romantic thing your character could do at that moment was so helpful. I usually don't think about that when I'm typing away, but I'd like to start! I share a love for Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice...two of my all-time favorites. Especially Jane Eyre. My goal is to try and write something that makes the reader feel so swept away in a story that they can't put it down or forget it when they're through. I'm still learning how to develop the romance in a story. I definitely have a long road ahead but I look forward to the journey! I'd LOVE to be put in the drawing for your book. I can't wait to read it! Love and blessings~Stacey

Clari Dees said...

What a great post to kick off my NaNo attempt this morning. I really enjoyed reading your "voice," Melanie. I haven't read any of your books yet, but that's about to change as I just downloaded The Merchant's Daughter for my Kindle. :-)

And now I'm off to do just a bit of research before tackling a word count goal. Happy NaNo, ya'll.

Donna said...

Melanie, what a great post! Your first and it's definitely a keeper!

Thank you for pointing out that we all know the question to up the conflict but need to be just as deliberate about adding the romance. I have to admit I've been just letting it happen when it happens.

I love what you said about how the other men in P&P were, each in their own way, in stark contrast to Mr. Darcy.

Two light bulb moments!
I can't wait to read your new book!

Mary Connealy said...

This is really inspiring, Melanie, seriously. I think I spend too much time shooting people and not enough on Romance.
I'm changing that RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!

Carol Moncado said...

Is this the part where I get to say I got to beta-read Fairest Beauty and then duck and hide?

It really is wondeful, y'all! Can't wait for everyone else to get it so I can discuss!!!!!

And this post is one reason why it's so wonderful. Mel does this so well! I'm aspiring, my Carol Award winning friend, to be like you!!!!

[it's so funny because when I post about the Carol Awards on FB all my non-ACFW friends think I'm giving out awards... ;)]

You know - I wanted a pic with you and it but somehow we didn't get one [though I took one of you with your award and a bunch of Seekers with about 7 different cameras... ;)]

Love you, sweet friend!!!

Janet Dean said...

Wonderful post, Melanie!!! You've given me lots to think about with my wip.

I'm thrilled with your success! Your covers are gorgeous and wrap some wonderful stories!!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Yay, Vince!!! I'm so glad you were inspired. That makes me very happy! And your novel sounds great! Great idea. And I agree--Julie Lessman is a true romantic and her novels are VERY ROMANTIC! Her romance sizzles, especially the kisses! (Where is she, anyway?)

And I have to admit, I am just a little bit jealous of your wife, and I didn't even see the Valentine cake you sent her!!!

And thank you for the compliment about my smile. Someone recently said it looked like a toothpaste commercial. Hahaha! I'll take all the compliments I can get, because I so totally think of myself as a dowdy housewife.

Janet Dean said...

Vince, thank you for making a terrific point! We need to make sure that we show the hero and heroine doing the small romantic things that make us sigh.


Melanie Dickerson said...

Pat Jeanne, thank you!!! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I would totally love to tour some Jane Austen places, especially the place where she grew up, and the Bronte home. So cool! I hope I get to England some day.
Thanks for your kind words and your comment! You're in the drawing!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Mary, Thank you! :-) My first mentor. Proof that God is good. (No snark, Ruthy!)

Melanie Dickerson said...

And Mary, you are not doing anything wrong, so please just ignore this post!!! Your books are perfect just as they are.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Stacey, thank you, my friend!!! I know you are making great progress, and you are definitely a hard worker. :-) Thanks for your comment. Kiss that baby for me, before he gets any older!

pol said...

Good morning Melanie and Audra, after all the excitement of the Birthday month, I thought the month of November would or could not live up to it-how wrong I was! "WOW" Melanie has told of two wonderful Romantic novels that I love. I can read stories like this again and again, because they are so romantic. We have some seekerville authors that do a pretty darn good job too in the romance dept.
I love the post today and so happy the way it has started the new month for us...
Feel-feel-feel emotions, it is a month for Thanksgiving.
Paula O(

Melanie Dickerson said...

Clari, thank you for buying my book! :-) Hope you and all the other NaNo'ers get tons of words today!!! I only tried NaNo once and it gave me writer's block. I haven't tried it since. But I'm happy if it motivates you. Motivation is gold!
Thanks for your comment! I'll put you in the drawing so you might win my new book! :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Donna, thank you! When you really analyze P&P, you realize just how brilliant Jane Austen was.
Actually, I have been a guest in Seekerville a few times before, but it's been a while. It's always exciting, though, to get lots of comments and to know that here, people really do read the comments and interact with you! (See, there's that interaction again! I love it!)
Thanks for commenting, Donna! You're in the drawing.

pol said...

and for Vince, I think your wife must be a very lucky woman to have a romantic she lives with...
can't be too many men like this around. we need strong men who don't think being romantic is "sissy".
Good for you, proud of you.
Paula O

Melanie Dickerson said...

Aw, Carol, I can't believe we didn't get a picture of us together! I really wish I could just sit down and talk, one on one, with you and so many other people when I'm at conference, but I usually end up running around so much that I don't get a chance to do that much. So sad. We should all get there a few days early and just hang out. Some day, when I'm old and rich. Hahaha!

Yes, Carol has already read an early version of The Fairest Beauty. But I think I made it a whole better, with the help of my editor. Although I don't know if Carol is willing to read it again! LOL!

Carol Moncado said...


/eyes inbox/

Infer what you will.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Aw, Janet! You're so sweet. I just want to give you a big hug! I HAVE been super blessed with my covers. I have nothing to do with the making of them, and I know I am really blessed to have those great covers. Zondervan and Mike Heath from Magnus Creative design them and bring it all together, so they deserve all the credit!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Paula "pol" thank you so much! Yes, I agree with you. The Seekerville authors are amazingly good at romance!
Thank you for your comment! Much appreciated. :-) Now let's get out there and fight for romance!
(Does that work as a pep talk?)

Donna said...

I don't know why I thought this was your first Seekerville blog, but I could swear I read that it was going to be the first. I went back and read your others. They were great too!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Melanie! I love this topic and I think you are SO right. I read hundreds of romances but VERY FEW actually make me sigh with delight.

(I confess I haven't read any of your books but I am putting them on my list now!)

Other than Julie, whose books drip with romance, the first writer who comes to mind is Laura Frantz. She does amazing, sigh-worthy, poetic romances! Her heroes are truly epic!

Sigh. Must get back to work now!

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Melanie Dickerson said...

For lunch we have soup and chili, including my white chicken chili that won a blue ribbon at my church's chili cook-off, and Russian borscht, made Ukrainian style, with the carrots julienned instead of sliced, thick slices of hearty bread, sour cream for your borscht, and root beer, just because I'm craving it. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Aw, Donna, thanks for reading my other Seekerville posts! :-) I don't think of myself as being very good at teaching writing, but I do like encourage people, and that's usually what I write blog posts about--encouragement to keep going, persevering, and never giving up.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Sue, you really make me want to read Laura Frantz's novels! I have heard great things about them, that's for sure.
One of my favorites is Ruth Axtell. She really knows how to build up the romance factor! Great kissing scenes, that woman has! She and Julie Lessman! Oh la la!

Helen Gray said...


I've watched too many of the old musicals!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Melanie, I so lack on romance. I'm one of those too caught up in the plot to give romance attention. I have a little bit, but not enough.

I'll have to go back through my wip's and use all your suggestions.

I'm trying to think of my favorite romance movies and why I love them.

Sweet Home Alabama--The hero had worked for years to save his money and build that glass company to win Reese Witherspoon back...but he didn't tell her about it.

Made of Honor--by the time the hero realizes he loves her, he must fight to win her love by humbling himself to be the maid of honor in her marriage to another man.

The Proposal--I can't really think of anything the hero did that was was just a great romantic comedy???

I think I most enjoy romances where the hero is doing to win the herione, but she doesn't realize it until near the end.

Connie Queen

Natasha Metzler said...

Love this, Melanie! So good.

natashametzler at gmail dot com

Melanie Dickerson said...

Connie, take hold of those stories that you find the most romantic and try to do what they did. Do what excites you and makes you happy. If you like heroes who go through elaborate schemes to win the heart of their lost love, then that's the kind of romance thread you need to have in your novel! Try it in your WIP and see how it works.

Abbi Hart said...

Mary Connealy
Just wanted to say that your books have TONS of romance! I love all of the awesome love stories you write! Add that to the shooting and it's perfect! :) Don't change a thing about the way you write-please?!-I love every book I read of yours and get giddy with anticipation for the next one! March 1 can't come fast enough!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Thanks, Natasha!

And I'm so sorry for all the typos in my comments! And also for the fact that I can't seem to punctuate a sentence today with anything but an exclamation point. Or three.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Abbi, I agree!

Abbi Hart said...

Forgot to mention earlier how much I love your books Melanie! You re-crafted the fairy tales beautifully and I loved everything about them. Also the covers are awesome including this new one! Can't wait for December!

C.E. Hart said...

I'm in the outlining process of my current work, so your post is timely. Although my story isn't a romance, it has strong romantic elements that will be strengthened by tips in your post. :) Thank you!

My MC pretends to be something she isn't because the man she is interested in has a wealthy background. One of the most romantic scenes is when he makes her realize that her unassuming and take-me-or-leave-me attitude is what attracted him in the first place. He fell in love with what was in her heart and head, not her poor upbringing or supposed deep pockets.

There is nothing more romantic than a man making his woman feel... (as the country group Alabama sings so beautifully) she's close enough to perfect for him.

Thank you for the fabulous tips and the chance to win one of your books. As a book cover lover, I'm salivating over The Fairest Beauty's cover art. Gorgeous!

Susanne Dietze said...

Great post. I love how your books create romance through tension--and your post was very helpful and gave me food for thought for my wip.

Thanks Melanie, and thanks Seekers for hosting her!

srdietze at sbcglobal dot net

C.E. Hart said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention...I'm so glad you mentioned P&P in your examples. The romance is tangible and the story incredibly memorable. :)

nicnac63 AT hotmail DOT com

Melanie Dickerson said...

Abbi, thank you so much! :-) It seems like December will never get here!

C.E., Thank you, and it sounds like you have some very romantic moments in your WIP! Make the most of it when your hero finally assures her that he likes her for how she REALLY is. :-) I think that's really what I was trying to say. Make the most of those potentially romantic moments!
And yes, I love my covers too! So grateful to have such appealing covers!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Susie, thank you! I try to let the tension build, and make the most of every interaction between my hero and heroine! Thanks so much for your comment!

Melanie Dickerson said...

P&P is the best, isn't it? Some great, memorable dialogue, too.

Sarah said...

I would love to win, Enter me!!
Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!
Sarah Richmond

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who loves these British films. I love Downton Abbey and I really think since it's hugely popular pretty much everywhere it's going to lead to a lot more quality drama from the BBC and hopefully other companies/studios as well. Speaking of, have you all seen the previews for the new film version of Anna Karenina with Kiera Knightley? It looks amazing!

BTW Melanie since you mentioned you love a few versions of JE have you seen the latest version with Michael Fassbender as Rochester? *le sigh*

Melinda said...

I loved the post today. You describe in detail the importance of the hero and heroine is to each story.



Sarah Ladd said...

Melanie!! Great, great post!! Thank you so much for your tips ... I am going to put them into practice TODAY!! :)

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

I. Don't. Think. So...

Ruth Axtell said...

Great post, Melanie. You're so right, the challenge is to get h/h together even when circumstances might not bring them naturally together. I recently reread Pride and Prejudice. Love that story!

Marissa said...

I've read The Merchant's Daughter and really liked it!! Would love to win!


Angela Bell said...

Great post, Melanie! I agree with you that the most romantic stories aren't always the ones with kissing scenes. The buildup is what makes me sigh, "Amour!"

Some of my favorite romance books are P&P, Emma, and The Merchant's Daughter. :-)

Can't wait to read your latest book!


Julie Lessman said...

MELANIE!!! AWESOME post, my friend, and believe it or not, I almost completely agree with your statement that:

"Romance is not sex, and romance is not kissing. (Sorry, Julie!) ... I think the reason her kissing scenes are romantic is because of the situation Julie has put the characters in, the prelude to the kiss, and not so much the kiss itself."

AMEN, sister, but ... notice I did say "almost." :) I TOTALLY concur that the situation for romance MUST be set up clearly with an emotional tug-of-war in place, without which, the kiss would just be ... a kiss, not a swoon.

BUT ... when both are in play (the emotional tug-of-war in place through conflict AND the kiss, I think the kiss can be equally as romantic as the situation itself, racing the pulse and eliciting a swoon-worthy sigh. But then I was stunted at the age of twelve with GWTW, so what do you expect?? ;)


Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Sarah! Thanks for coming by! You are entered in the drawing! :-)

Renee, speaking of Downton Abbey, my friend, Carrie Turansky, just signed a contract for a new series she's writing set in the same time period! I'm sure all Downton Abbey fans will love it! And to be honest, the JE with Michael Fassbender disappointed me a little. There were parts of it that were good, but it wasn't one of my top four. But I will definitely give the Anna Karenina a go.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Thanks, Melinda! I'm glad you liked it! I've put you in the drawing. :-)

DebbieLynne said...

Hey Mel! Had to stop by and my very dear friend. :o) Great post! You know how I love to sigh over a great romance. You do an awesome job with that as well as Julie. Keep up the good work, ladies.

Julie Lessman said...

AUDRA, thank you for your sweet comment, my friend!!

And, VINCE!!! Sooooo agree with you that the romance feeds the passion which transforms a generic kiss into a sublime experience. PREACH IT, BROTHER!! LOL to your VERY kind statement that "Julie is a ‘romancer’ pure and simple. Start with the romance! Be ‘romance-driven’." WOW ... I think you may know me more than hubby with a statement like that ... ;)

SUE ... LOL, yes I am romance fanatic, I'm afraid, so my books will always "drip with romance," which is a good thing for we ultra-romantic types like you and me, girl, eh? ;) Thanks, sweetie!! And I TOTALLY agree with you on Laura Frantz and Mel on Ruth Axtell!!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Sarah! Girl! You should be writing! LOL! Thanks for reading my post, though! :-)

Karen, yes, I am very frumpy normally. No one around here suspects me for a toothpaste model, that's for sure.

Aw, Ruth Axtell, my hero(ine)! Thanks for coming by! You know how awesome I think you are! You certainly don't need any pointers on how to bring out the romance. ;-)

Marissa, thank you! You're in the drawing!

Aw, Angela!!! Thank you so much! You are a sweetie. I can't wait for you to read my new book too!!! I am a little nervous, though. I want everyone to love it as much as my other two, but I'm not confident. I wonder if that feeling ever goes away?

Melanie Dickerson said...

Julie!!! I'm so glad you came by! And I heard today was your birthday, too!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Julie!!!
And just like Ruth, you know how much I adore you and your books! I almost deleted that part about it not being about the kiss, because truly, your kisses are way above the norm! And they ARE romantic in and of themselves. But it went along with my point to say it wasn't about the kiss, it was about the emotional build-up. And, I know you know how much I love your books! And the kisses!

And you weren't stunted by GWTW! You were catapulted into your future as a romance novelist! You overachiever, you! Love you!!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Thank you, Debbie Lynne!!! My wonderful friend, who blesses me daily! You aren't so bad yourself in the romance department! I can't wait for your first book to be published and to be commenting on YOUR posts in Seekerville!

Mary Connealy said...

BY THE WAY, how did Audra get Melanie for a guest?
I believe if you look at the fine print, Melanie, contracturally belongs to ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My lawyers will be contacting you, Audra.

Mary Connealy said...

I think Melanie should do the fox and the grapes next. How would that work as a romance?

Or maybe....hmmmm....three billy goat's gruff.

Your hero's gonna need a small beard.

There are so many fairy tales.

How about Old Mother Hubbard? That was my life growing up. My parents definitely had so many children they didn't know what to do.

CatMom said...

Great post, Melanie! I confess--I haven't read any of your books (YET!) but definitely plan to. This is another Keeper Post, for sure (in fact, I'll most likely be re-reading very soon). I especially liked that you pointed out in a romance the hero/heroine shouldn't be put through TOO many conflicts and terrible happenings, or there won't be time for that romance thread to develop. ~ Echoing others about what an awesome birthday month Seekerville had---WOW! Thank you to ALL the wonderful Seekers, and thanks again Melanie for this wonderful, informative post today. Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

Rebekah Hart said...

Wow, that was an amazing post. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us and giving away some of your books. I've been anxiously waiting for your newest one to release.

Vince said...

NaNo Reports This Year?

Are we going to post NaNo reports this year like we did last year?
Who are the NaNo-ers?

Day one: 1,669 words.
Quota met.

Audra Harders said...

Wait a minute, I pop in for a quick "hi" and see Mary is suing me? Over custody of Melanie?

Read the finer print -- she who ROOMS with Mellie, gets all the perks, LOLOLOLOL!!

Audra Harders said...

OMG, so many comments today. I'll read through the conversations tonight when I get home.

Great post on remembering the romance in romance!!!!

Audra Harders said...

Vince! You've written over 1600 words already today??


Good for you and everyone else participating in NaNoWriMo. I can't this year. I'll be happy if I just tread water through my current WIP, LOL!

Linda Robinson said...

Melanie, I haven't read one of your books yet, but I plan to. Great post. A keeper to refer to in my future writing endeavors. By the way, we are fellow Alabamian authors. I'm from Ozark, AL. :-) I wish I lived close enough to attend all your meetings.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Melanie, I'm all for books that are like Downton Abbey so I'll have to look into those!

I agree with you about the newest version of JE. I think 2 hours isn't long enough to cover everything that needs to be covered BUT Fassbender was an awesome Rochester and I think Mia Wasikowska (sp?) was a great Jane.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this article, Melanie. I've not read a book by you, but all of these sound really good. I sure would love to win one. Maxie ( )

Missy Tippens said...

Melanie, I arrived late but am so glad I stopped by! This was an amazing post!!! Thank you so much for sharing. I've been having story ideas the whole time I've been reading!! :)

BTW, my Bible study leader is the one I got you to sign a book for while at ACFW. She read it and said she LOVED it!! She's passed it along to a friend. And another lady at Bible study wrote down your name to check out your books. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Mary, Mary, Mary, you're so funny!!! I think I will stick to the fairy tales that actually have a romance thread, and when I exhaust all those, I'll just have to switch to another genre. ;-)
And you can invite me to be on Seekerville at any time. I won't turn you down. :-) :-) :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Patti Jo! Thanks for your comments! I hope I didn't offend anyone who advocates worst case scenarios in novels, but I just feel like it can overwhelm the romance and crowd it out and alienate those who actually were expecting more romance!

Rebekah, thanks so much! I can hardly wait till my book comes out. I'm getting nervous. :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Rage on VINCE.
I'm shadowing nano, not signing up. HOWEVER, I just got a galley in the mail so that has to come first.
I'm 20k into an 80k book and hoped to finish in using nano as an incentive.
So now, here I am, already starting a day or two late while I go through this galley, but that has to come first.

WAY TO GO VINCE. I think it's great that you check in and leave a word count.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Way to go, Vince! It is so great to have goals. Very motivating for me. Lately my word count goal has been 2,000 words a day, and I've been doing pretty well at meeting it. Today went out the window--but that's okay! I don't mind taking a day off to be in Seekerville! But I still might be able to get 1,500 words or so tonight while my husband takes my daughter to volleyball practice!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Audra, that argument could stand up in court, I do believe! LOL!

I've had a lot of fun today! Thanks so much for ASKING ME. SOMEONE ELSE COULD HAVE ASKED ME, but she didn't. ;-)

Mary, get those words, girl! Everybody wants more books from you!

Julie Steele said...

I finally got here. So glad to know Melanie has a good word for us as well as a new book coming out.

Had to get my word count in for NaNoWriMo or I would have been here earlier.

But now was just the right time to get me thinking about the next scene I need to tweak!

Peace and happy All Saints Day, Julie

Sia said...

My favorite one of Mealanie Dickerson's was definetely "The Healer's Apprenctice" I loved the situations Rose was stuck in. Which in fact did make it all the more romantic! I also loved the incorporation of God's love which is so much more powerful. Everything about that book made my heart swell up that one day a man would treat me like Whilhem did :) Helped me to trust in Him More

Melanie Dickerson said...

Linda from Ozark! How cool is that? McKenzie is probably due west from you. I wish you could meet with us too! I can't believe how many Christian writers we have, all of a sudden, in my area. It's crazy. Some of them were here all the time, I just didn't know about them. But some of them are new writers and new to ACFW. Are you on our Yahoo group for the AL, FL panhandle ACFW people?

Clari Dees said...

Vince, I'm trying my first NaNo this year and am excited about the new story. I'm off work today, so I had time to do 2,034 words. It's a good start, but the work schedule is going to make things, ummm, interesting.

Am loving all the comments today. I keep stopping in to read them and it renews my zeal.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Renee, yes, look for Carrie's books! I'm not sure when they come out. Friend her on facebook. She posted something about it on there.
Maybe I'm shallow, but I had a hard time with Michael Fassbender and Mia (long last name) having pale hair. They just didn't look right for the parts. But there were moments of greatness in it. But like you say, it was just too short to do the story justice.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Maxie, thanks for your comment! You're in the drawing!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Missy, my other sweet roommate! Roommates definitely deserve perks. :-) Thanks for telling me your friend liked my book! Yay! That never gets old. LOL!!!!! :-) And I'm so happy if this gave you new plot ideas! That's so fun.

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Mel, for the good wishes. The dreaded day is actually tomorrow, so don't you DARE make me a day older ... ;)

YOU SAID: "I almost deleted that part about it not being about the kiss ... it was about the emotional build-up."

LOL ... no, you're right, it IS about the emotional buildup, because without that, the kiss is just plain flat. But for a passion-freak like me, the kiss weighs in pretttttty darn heavy ... ;)

Love you!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Julie Steele! So glad I could help you think about your next scene. :-) Way to go, getting your word count in! Happy All Saints Day to you too!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Aw, Sia, you just blessed me so much!!! Thank you so much for saying that, because that is exactly what I was hoping my readers would take away from that story! God bless you, and I pray you will find the man God has for you, someone who will treat you well and help you grow as a person, and whom you can help as well--as iron sharpens iron. Cyber hug!!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Yay, go Clari! :-) So glad you got some great words today!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Thanks, Julie! I would never disagree with you!!! :-) Seriously, kisses are VERY important. Especially the way YOU write them!!! ;-) Love you too! Hope you have a great day planned tomorrow for your birthday!!!

Sia said...

Awe cyber hug back to you as well Melanie! I'm so glad I blessed you! God bless you as well! :)

Emily S. said...

Great post!! I haven't read any of your books yet but they sound fantastic! Please enter me in the giveaway.


Melanie Dickerson said...

Emily, thank you! Consider yourself entered!

Thanks again, Sia! :-)

Pepper said...

Oh Melanie,
GREAT post! Wow!
And FABULOUS cover of Fairest Beauty! SOOOO eye-catching.
And you mentioned TWO of my favorite books!!! YAY!!!!

Okay...kisses are incredibly romantic! oh yes!
BUT you are totally right in the romance (and the romance of a kiss) being in the setup!

One may kiss my heroine and she wants to cringe, but another guy kisses her and she feels it to her toes and dreams about it later.
The difference is totally in the emotional setup between the two! Love, LOVE THIS, MELANIE!!!!

And so very happy for the praise of your books!!

Romance to one of my heroine?
Well, it DOES involve a kiss, but it's the meaning behind the kiss that matters.

A kiss first thing in the morning.


because she's riddled with insecurities related to her 'loveableness' and attractiveness. She has the stigma of appearing perfect.

Nobody looks perfect first thing in the morning, except maybe Mr. Darcy. LOL

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Wow! Late to this party!! What a great post, I'm going to have tor ead it twice.

You said "Pride and Prejudice, which does not have a single kiss or kissing scene in the entire book."

Acually, there's that little line in P&P after she accepts his second proposal: "After walking for several miles in a leisurely manner, and too busy to know anything about it, they found at last, on examining their watches, that it was time to be at home."

I've always considered that a huge make out session, just Austen style... walking leisurely while smooooooching. :D

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Wow! Late to this party!! What a great post, I'm going to have tor ead it twice.

You said "Pride and Prejudice, which does not have a single kiss or kissing scene in the entire book."

Acually, there's that little line in P&P after she accepts his second proposal: "After walking for several miles in a leisurely manner, and too busy to know anything about it, they found at last, on examining their watches, that it was time to be at home."

I've always considered that a huge make out session, just Austen style... walking leisurely while smooooooching. :D

Pepper said...

LOVE that observation, Virginia!!!!

Carla Olson Gade said...

Melanie, Thank you so much for sharing your tips on creating a wonderful romance. The questions you ask are excellent and I believe will be very helpful to me. I written down your tips to refer to often while I'm writing.


karenk said...


A great your novels :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Noela Nancarrow said...

Interesting post MELANIE! As a reader I fully concur with everything you wrote! :) And not having read any of your books yet, that's now on my list of priorities!!

Cindy W. said...

Hi Melanie! Thank you so much for the post today. I must say I love your books and the covers are awesome! The Merchant's Daughter sits on my Favorites Shelf. I will never part with it. Course I love the Beauty and the Beast theme. :)

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Pepper, my friend, thank you for your enthusiasm! I was really nervous about this post! I'm like your heroine, riddled with insecurities! I don't really think I know very much at all about how to write. Certainly not enough to think I can teach it! But if my observations help you come up with ideas, that's as much as I can ask for. :-)
And romance is just a fun subject, is it not? And kissing too, which is related to romance, for sure. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Virginia, you cracked me up! I guess we can imagine that they kissed, but I don't think you can actually INFER from those words that they did. :-) I am not above imagining a kissing scene where there isn't one, but should be.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Carla, thanks for the comment! So glad it was helpful! Sometimes it's just a little something that makes you think and leads you to a plot breakthrough.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Karenk, thank you! Can't wait for you to read the new one! :-)

Noella, thanks! I hope you will like my books! :-) And thanks for coming by! You're in the drawing!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Aw, Cindy, thank you so much for saying that. :-) I hope you will like my Snow White story too.

Annie Rains said...

I have to add a favorite romance to your list: Sense and Sensibility. Sigh. I love romance.

Thanks for today's post!

Cara Lynn James said...

P&P is my favorite romance! Thanks for all your insight into romance, Mel. I learned a lot. I sometimes let the external plot overpower the romance and that's not good for a love story!

Pam K. said...

Great romantic examples, Melanie! I loved your book, The Healer's Apprentice. I haven't read The Merchant's Daughter yet though I'd like to. I'm looking forward to your newest book as well.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Annie, I love romance too! And I love ALL of Jane Austen's stories. I love the movies too. Honestly, there are very few stories that don't have romance that can interest me at all. :-) Thank goodness Jane Austen wrote romance.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Thanks, Cara! I'm so glad it was helpful. And P&P is my favorite too! I can still remember reading it for the first time. I was so consumed with it I couldn't stop reading.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Pam, thanks so much for coming by and letting me know you liked The Healer's Apprentice. I'm putting you in the drawing!

Anonymous said...

hi everyone! late in the day here but hard to post at work - computer winterm thingy is too slow :-(
Ruth you scared me - for a minute I thought I'd somehow managed to miss a book but I think that's the one coming out next year - right? I didn't see it on amazon when I made a panicked trip over there to see...
just finished Look Alike Lawman and had to get the kindle ebooks for the rest! well 2 I had to pre-order but book #5 came available this morning so that's the one I'm on now(read the first 3 after the 4th but am finally caught up and nearly done with this one) this is a good series - I think one of their best overall ones and that's saying a lot since some of the other series have had some of my favorite-ist authors ever writing in them! but I've hardly been able to put these down (wouldnt' have except work and sleep finally called to me).
wow Vince - wish I could find someone romantic like you (only single LOL!)
I think I'm the only woman on earth who still hasn't read P&P or Jane Eyre.think that's the other one mentioned.

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

You are off the hook for word count today, dearie, lol! This was a great post and PERTINENT to my 2500 word count today after my consultation with Rachel--and much of your post was the crux of that conversation and review! So thanks for reinforcing the romance thread and my focus. Hugs and great job, Mel!!!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Carrie, thank you! :-) I'm so excited you got 2,500 words today! Way to go, girl! Glad my post was helpful. :-)

Kathy said...

Great post. Kissing is physical, romance is emotional. Agh, I like both. A lot. :) Your examples were spot on and gave me much to think about in the three books I have simmering in the pot. Thanks so much for the opportunity to win one of your books too.


Nancy C said...

"But for a romance novel, you have to put extra thought into your conflict and not beat your characters up TOO much, because you don’t want the conflict to overpower the romance and keep them too far apart."

Thank you *so* much for this, Melanie! The conflict thing has been stressed so much. Reading your remark was refreshing.

Oh, and I didn't mind a bit that you used your books as examples :-)

Nancy C

[Blogger hasn't let me visit Seekerville for two days. Now I hope to catch up on comments. I see something about word counts ...]

Melanie Dickerson said...

Kathy, yes, kissing and romance are both really great. :-) I wouldn't want to have one without the other, so let's enjoy them both! So glad it was helpful. :-)
I've got you in the drawing!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Nancy C., you're welcome, and thank you! So glad Blogger let you come visit us today! I've had so much fun being here. Thanks for your sweet comments. :-) And did you get a big word count today???

Walt Mussell said...

Melanie, I loved you post (except for that little spot where you said you went to the University of Alabama).

I'm trying to build romantic tension together by forcing them to work together to rebuild a Buddhist temple. The heroine is actually searching the decrepit temple for something that a fellow Christian of hers left there. The hero is there because he's also searching for a religious artifact. They have to help each other to find it as there is no one else they can trust.


Jill Weatherholt said...

Printed and in my Seekerville notebook ~ thanks, Melanie! Great post!

shelia hall said...

I'm not working on a novel but what always draws me to a character is thier kindness and love for others!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Walt, what is something your characters could do for each other, something that would be romantic? Could one of them sacrifice the artifact, letting the other one have it, after a long struggle, wanting to beat the other one? Think of something that would be romantic.

And yes, I went to the Univ. of Alabama. Can I help it if I'm a winner? :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Jill, thank you!!!

Shelia, thanks for telling me that! It's always good to get a reader's perspective! And I agree. :-)

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'm so late. I am in so much trouble.

But actually I read the entire post late Thursday when it went up.

Do I get a commuted sentence or do I still get sixty lashes with the wet book mark?

Melanie Dickerson said...

Aw, Tina, you are the best! I could never be mad at you! The hardest working woman I know! Love you to pieces.

Sarah Richmond said...

Thanks for the post. Could questions to ask when plotting! The romance is the plot.

For me, I like the rescue. I was thinking about the movie: "Romancing the Stone". Not only did the hero rescue her from bad guys, but always from a life of isolation and boredom.