What is Romance?
by Paty Jager
When I tell people I write romance, most of the looks and comments I get are condescending. As if they feel a romance book isn’t worthy of the time and effort that goes into the making of an emotion story between two characters.
Two years ago I attended a weekend writers conference with suspense writer Larry Brooks. While going through his information, he’d ask us—all romance writers—questions. He brought up the need for a character arc for the main character. We would then pipe up and say, “No, there has to be two character arcs, one for the hero and one for the heroine. And a third if you have a villain.” After the third time we said this, sparking discussion about making sure the character arcs, the plot and subplot all mesh, that he said, “I stand in awe of romance writers. You have to do twice the work I do and come up with a satisfying ending that makes the reader feel your characters have completed their journey.” (I paraphrased Larry’s second sentence)
Writing romance is not easy. You have to make sure your hero and heroine have clear and defined growth throughout the story. This growth comes from their growing interest in one another and the obstacles they encounter through the plot and subplots.
Romance conflict isn’t bickering. It is solid believable obstacles and occurrences that keep the two apart for emotional or physical reasons.
Sexual tension isn’t a love scene. Sexual tension is what keeps the reader turning the pages whether the story is a hot read or a sweet read. It’s the chemistry between the hero and heroine that tugs at the reader’s emotions and takes them on an adventure. Readers want to root for the characters and feel satisfied at the end when the hero and heroine overcome their obstacles and find a Happily Ever After.
When writing a romance, a good way to slowly up the “sexual tension” is to use the twelve stages of intimacy as listed by Desmond Morris.
1) Eye to Body
2) Eye to Eye
3) Voice to Voice
4) Hand to Hand
5) Arm to Shoulder
6) Arm to Waist
7) Mouth to Mouth
8) Hand to Head
9) Hand to Body
10) Mouth to Breast
11) Hand to Genital
12) Genital to Genital
Depending on the heat rating of the story, you may only show to step 9. But by using the steps in order and showing the growing attraction and using the obstacles you’ve set out in the beginning of the story, you can keep the reader wanting more and wishing the couple would go farther. As a writer, you can hold out on the kiss until the reader is mentally begging for it to happen. Or you can bring the characters together early on and have them, and the reader, deal with the reasons behind their intimacy.
The main thing to remember when writing romance: it isn’t easy. You can’t write a romance over a weekend and have a complete and fulfilling story. There is emotion, detail, and imagery that has to not only show the characters and setting, but the journey their hearts travel.
Award winning author Paty Jager not only writes the western lifestyle she lives it. With sixteen novels and three novellas published, she continues to have characters cavorting in her head. Her contemporary Western, Perfectly Good Nanny won the 2008 Eppie for Best Contemporary Romance; Spirit of the Mountain, a historical paranormal set among the Nez Perce, won the paranormal category of the Lories Best Published Book Contest; and Secrets of a Mayan Moon won the romantic suspense category of the Reader’s Crown. You can learn more about Paty at her blog; her website; and her Amazon Author Central page.