Hi everyone. It’s so great to be back visiting the Seekers, Villagers, and all you wonderful readers. Thank you for inviting me to blog today.
This post is tailored to writers but readers and any lovers of romantic comedies can relate to our discussion. My favorite movies, the ones where I own the DVD but I still watch them when they’re on television, are romantic comedies. You’ve Got Mail, While You Were Sleeping, The Wedding Date, 27 Dresses, Maid of Honor, Charade, An Affair to Remember, and Sleepless in Seattle. If it’s about a romance, I’ve probably seen it several times.
Showing your hero and heroine falling in love in a sweet, inspirational, or young adult romance plays out very much like the romance that unfolds during a romantic comedy. Boy meets girl. (Opening) There’s a spark. (Attraction, Sexual Tension, Awareness) Problems crop up (Conflict) that keep boy and girl from declaring their love and riding off into the sunset. Otherwise, the movie would be the length of a half hour sitcom and our books would be the shortest version of a novella ever printed. Then they each have an epiphany (Black Moment) and nothing will stop them from that blissful happily ever after.
My all-time favorite scene is the “Leaning” scene in While You Were Sleeping. Jack, the hero, arrives at heroine, Lucy’s, apartment just in time to see her give Joe, Jr. a hug as thanks for the flowers he brought her. (Jack and his family mistakenly believe Lucy is engaged to Jack’s brother Peter, who is in a coma. A friend of Jack’s family has convinced Lucy to let him tell Jack’s family the truth—but he hasn’t yet.)
Jack misinterprets what he sees and shortly after that, an argument ensues. Here’s the basic set up and gist of the dialogue in the key moment of the scene. Jack and Lucy are standing outside her apartment building.
Jack: It was a misunderstanding and on top of the Joe, Jr. thing.
Lucy: What Joe, Jr. thing?
Lucy: There’s no “nothing” now. What? Because he gave me flowers?
Jack: And then you leaned.
Lucy: How did I lean when I leaned?
(The previous part of their discussion was while they were standing about 2 feet apart. He comes closer as he explains the leaning thing.)
Jack, as he’s moving in: Leaning is different from hugging. Hugging involves arms and hands.
(He gets a little closer and she’s caught between him and the wall behind her. His voice is lower, more gravelly. His gaze is locked onto hers. She’s his complete focus.)
Jack: Leaning is whole bodies, moving in… (voice a bit lower, his gaze roaming her face, searching) Leaning is about wanting and accepting…
Joe, Jr: Hey, Luce. Is this guy bothering you? ‘Cause, you know, it looks like he’s leaning.
If you read the above exchange without the physical movements notated, it loses some of
its effectiveness. You don’t want to tell your reader everything that’s going on, but you want to draw their eye or their imagination to the important things happening between your characters.
When you write dialogue that will convey emotion, attitude, or intentions about their relationship, you need to add a little bit of physical movement or reaction. And those movements need to be as purposeful and revealing about the characters as the dialogue you use.
The camera in the scene I described, zoomed in on Jack’s face, as he got closer, as his voice lowered, as his gaze roamed her face. We didn’t need to know about a car backfiring on the street or her twirling her hair. Although if we had been in her point of view, that could be a good outward expression of her reaction to him. It was the two of them and nothing else.
I included Joe, Jr.’s line because it’s so jarring and pulls us out of the intimacy of the moment just like inserting something outside the focus of that moment you’ve created between your characters within your scene.
Using Jack’s comparison between hugging and leaning, think about your movements and the placement of your hands when you hug your sweetie. Is it the same as when you hug a friend, relative, or co-worker? It’s not. It’s more intimate—closer. Your reader can feel that if you’ve clearly painted the image of that romantic tug between your characters in the scene.
The next point that is so important in a romance is believability. Your reader will go along with a lot of things that you throw at your characters under the guise of the suspension of disbelief. But if you don’t convince the reader that your hero and heroine should or can be together, they can’t connect with them or your story.
In 27 Dresses, Jane is the kindest, sweetest, gentlest, doormat that ever lived. The 27 dresses are all bride’s maid dresses for the weddings she’s been in. She is the consummate romantic, believing that the happily ever after begins with the wedding. She gives all her joy of romance to the brides on their day because she believes they will do the same for her on her day.
Kevin is a reporter who covers weddings for the commitments section of the newspaper. His descriptions of the weddings are so romantically evocative that Jane cuts them out and saves them to reread later. But Kevin is a cynic. He writes these articles and the drivel of the romance nonsense strictly for the paycheck. He doesn’t believe in happily ever after.
He is Jane’s ultimate anti-hero. He’s the villain, or worse, a fraud. In her eyes, there is nothing lovable about him. He’s cute, but she doesn’t believe he has a heart, at least not a romantic one. There is nothing on this earth that would compel her to fall in love with him. Nothing that would change her view of him. He is unredeemable. Until…
During one of their snipe fests (which by the way, is an excellent way to show attraction when the hero and heroine aren’t comfortable with who they’re attracted to and are resisting the tug of said attraction) and she asks him what happened to him to make him so cynical. She asks if he had his own fancy wedding and his wife left him.
Kevin’s stunning reply: “Bingo. With my roommate from college, by the way. So I think you get an extra bingo for that.”
In Jane’s mind, he’d experienced what she envisioned as the most awful, painful thing that could happen to anyone—ever. Now, his cynicism is justified. He can have a hard heart because his heart has been broken. To her, he’s just become human. Believable. It’s the only thing that could have happened that would make him lovable in her eyes.
A sweet, young adult, or inspirational romance has to play on the emotional part of romance. It in no way makes the story or the experience for the reader any less intense. I cry every time I watch Lucy’s monologue at the wedding when she tells the truth about her relationship with Peter and her reason for lying.
Just because you’ve removed the physical culmination of their love (sex) from the story, you still have to show attraction and the act of falling in love. You have to reveal the characters’ fight within themselves against the fall. And the more convincing you make it for the reader, the more moving and unforgettable it is for them. That’s what you want as a writer. You’re trying to give them an escape into a story that is a real life fairy tale where happily ever after exists. If you do it right, you will.
TOBY HENDRICKS HAS THE INSIDE SCOOP ON GINA LAWSON
The reporter is looking for a story that'll be his ticket out of his small Georgia town. With her political connections, legal assistant Gina Lawson could help Toby realize his aspirations. Their friendship is just an added bonus, but falling in love isn't part of his five-year plan.
Gina's devoted to her family and community, and doesn't plan to ever leave. Though she finds her favorite reporter maddeningly irresistible, she must guard her heart. But when a betrayal of trust threatens to shatter both their dreams, will Gina and Toby learn that they share the same values after all?
**So my question to everyone is, “What couple, movie or book-wise, is your favorite romantic pairing?”
Speaking of pairing...comment today for a chance to win Her Hometown Reporter and a ten dollar Starbucks gift card for some guaranteed happiness. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
KD Fleming's romance writing adventure began on a dare and it didn’t take long for her to discover she had the heart of a storyteller.Writing both sweet and inspirational stories about strong women who could be any one of us, her heroines are sassy and fierce. And once their hearts are engaged by the man who is destined for them, there's no chance the hero won't fall—but what a way to go.
KD lives in sunny Florida with her hero husband of 16 years. She loves music (all things Casting Crowns and OneRepublic), Marvel Movies--ALL things Avengers (ahem, *Robert Downey, Jr*, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo). Oh my!
She spends her time taking care of her family, reading, writing, cooking, and coming up with new ideas for fun romance stories.
Contact KD at www.kdfleming.com, @karenkdfleming, or www.facebook.com/kdfleming2