Sexual attraction, lust, love at first sight, friendship, instant hate, marriage of convenience, yearning for an ideal, ambition.
These are just some of the jumping-off points of writing romance. One of the first aspects of planning a romance novel, for me, is deciding how the love between the hero and the heroine develops. How do they feel about each other when they first meet? What makes them feel differently as the story develops? In the end, what makes them feel like they can’t live without the other? In romance, the conflict drives the plot, but the central story development has to be the growth of the love between the hero and heroine. How we as authors create the relationship between our hero and heroine sets the tone for our entire story. It can help immensely when creating our story arc.
I could go on for days about different aspects of love. Here are just a few.
The most extreme arc occurs when the characters seemingly hate each other in the beginning of the novel, only to end up loving each other. The old saying goes that “love is akin to hate”, and a recent study by researchers at University College London shows that the same neural reactors in the sub-cortex of the brain are responsible for both feelings. What seems to differentiate them is the way the reasoning part of our brain, the cerebral cortex, reacts. Love is an unreasonable emotion; part of our reasoning becomes deactivated when we experience love, causing us to act irrationally. When we experience hate however, we actually act more rationally.
(“Neural Correlates of Hate by Semir Zeki and John Paul Romaya http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0003556)
This may explain why we sometimes, in the early stages of a love affair, become incapable of forming a sentence when the object of our love enters a room or speaks to us. Which in turn can lead to a really funny scene in a book.
I’d be surprised if we haven’t all experienced this at some point in our lives. That instant connection, that hyper-awareness, the tingles racing up the spine. You can feel your face flush, your eyes getting a little brighter. You stand up straighter, momentarily, only to feel your body relax into a sultry, sexy stance. You lean into the person, body language flagrant while you throw off enough heat to raise the temperature in the room by five degrees.
A well-written scene where there is sexual attraction between the hero and heroine has a reader reaching for a fan. However, sexual attraction can’t be all there is in a romance novel. Love has to develop from it, and generally, the hero and heroine must at least be a little bit in love with each other (even if they don’t know it), in order for them to act on that sexual attraction.
Marriage of convenience
Used mostly in historicals, the marriage of convenience has to at least have a sympathetic hero, one who balks at being married off to an unsuspecting, innocent heroine. The hero acts nobly, he listens to his wife’s concerns, he offers her respect, and usually doesn’t force his attentions on his wife. The love story develops within the marriage, and the Happily Ever After comes when they both realize the wisdom in the pairing and the goodness of the other.
Marriage of convenience stories provide an instant external conflict, which is probably why they are so popular. Overcoming this particular conflict becomes a main part of the story arc.
The friendship element lends itself particularly well to writing a fun, and funny romance novel. Think romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally.
In my own experience, especially in my younger days, my friendships with men often started with a bit of romantic attraction on the side of one of us. When I was in my 20s, I had more male friends than female ones. Perhaps it was because I was a tomboy growing up, hanging around with my brother and his friends, climbing trees, playing baseball, Frisbee, kill-the-guy and Cops and Robbers. As my male friends and I got to know one another better, it soon became clear that there would be no romance, but we had a helluva lot of fun.
I never had a friendship with a guy that developed into a romance, which is probably why this type of story is a favorite. Kristan Higgins is great at writing friends-to-lovers stories. Usually, though they might be friends, there is an obvious attraction (to the readers, anyway) on the part of either the hero or the heroine. The other is just unaware of it.
What kind of love story grabs you? If you’re comfortable sharing, does your personal experience include any of the above? Dish!