Romance is hard for me. It's never my intention or point of the story, and yet I'm a girl. That means I like relationships to be part of my characters lives. However, I've been told that sometimes I "skip" steps in logical romantic progression.
That's why I headed straight into Traci Abramson's class on "How to Weave Romantic Elements Through Any Genre" while at LDStorymakers Midwest Conference.
The first thing I learned is that there aren't really set "steps". At least that's the impression I got when my question was answered with a laugh. (However, I will try and create some from my notes at the end.) What I really took away from this class, was that romantic elements are going to be different for each situation. And since I'm a totally open person who will tell you my entire life story on the day I meet you, my logical progression may seem like I skipped steps. Although I'm okay with this, I'm still going to try and improve my romance writing skills.
Anyway, let's get into my notes...
Romance is a genre all on it's own, but it can also be used and blended with any other genre to "deepen and enhance your characters, add to their motivations, and tug on the heartstrings of your readers...[it can be used] as an undercurrent in your writing, come discover the possibilities that can come through the heart." ~Abramson
Blending genres is a great way to strengthen your work and deepen your characters while helping you reach new readers. BUT you have to follow all the rules for each genre you are blending. When blending romance with other genres, it doesn't have to include internal conflict. It could simply be an external conflict that could or does pull them apart.
Here are the "sound bites"
Romance as a tool--create strong characters, add tension through the attractions, add conflict and obstacles, let them overcome those obstacles, and if your only genre you need a happily ever after.
Characterization--you've got to dig deeper than you might in other genres. You need to know there hopes and fears, past and future.
Conflict--Some outside force or perceived challenge that must be overcome before they can be together. This can be as simple as a misunderstanding (see below). When combined with other genres this part can be small and worked through early in the novel.
Romance utilizes more internal conflict. Plot driven fiction uses more external conflict.
Pacing (Finding Balance)--Stepping back to reflect on the relationship can give your reader a moment to catch their breath. We have to be aware of pacing no matter what we are writing, but we can use romance to help us slow down some of our other genres.
Misunderstandings--use wisely. Lay a solid foundation for why it happens. Emotional entanglements must be in place for an emotional response. For example, the 1st dance that Mr. Darcy attends in Pride and Prejudice. We see Mr. Darcy snub Elizabeth and every other woman within her earshot. This sets up the deeper emotional response when he professes his love for her later.
The use of misunderstandings in YA drives me absolutely crazy! They use it over and over and sometimes there is no reason for it other than willfully choosing not to understand. Please don't overdo this!
Tolerance--this is for blending genres. You have to remember that not everyone likes romance. Traci suggested the 12 year old boy test. If he can handle it then anyone can. Just remember who your primary audience it. That's who you tailor the level of romance to.
Timing your happily ever after--this can come early in the novel if genre blending, but you need to have a conflict that threatens it at some point.
The wrap-up--The climax of each genre must be reached by the end of the story. The one at the end points to your main genre.
Okay, here is what I gathered to be the necessary steps or elements for a good romance thread.
- The meeting or first encounter--with genre blending you can go beyond the simple 'boy meets girl'
- Attraction/Situational bonding--they have to have time alone to learn to appreciate some aspect of each other.
- Conflict that keeps them from being together
- The first kiss (this could come before the conflict)
- The Aha! moment where they realize they love/need each other and are willing to work through anything
- The happily ever after
I've read and reviewed one of her books HERE.