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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Friday Focus

In the last few weeks I'm afraid Friday Focus has been taking a rest, but we're back. This week Harlequin Desire author Yvonne Lindsay will tell us about romance writing. Welcome Yvonne.

Yvonne Lindsay

A lot of people think writing, especially romance, is simply a matter of following a formula and that they’re all the same, aren’t they? When this was proposed to me one day, I asked the person if they didn’t think a rugby game wasn’t equally as formulaic. Two teams take the field, they battle to get the ball past the goal line and, generally, in the end one team wins and the other team loses—same thing every week, right? They were flabbergasted. Oh, they said, a rugby game is so much more than that. There are so many variables like weather, skill levels, the referee’s decisions, injuries, etc. All the time I was nodding and smiling and slowly I saw the light dawn in their eyes when it came to the idea of any kind of fiction being written to a formula.

While I think saying that romance writing is formulaic is a completely simplistic and uneducated view, in some ways it is partially right because in a romance we have a couple who meet, fall in love, overcome obstacles to that love and then find a happy ending together. How they do it is what is not formulaic. One thing I think new writers need to have clear in their mind is what they’re writing, specifically in terms of the genre they’re aiming for. Each genre has its own expectations. For example—in paranormal stories and/or science fiction there is an expectation of world building and behavioural patterns in character types, in romance there is an expectation of a happy ever after ending (or, at the very least, a happy for now ending), in suspense or thrillers the expectation is that the reader will be kept on the edge of their seat for the duration of the story and in mysteries your readers expect the mystery to be solved. If you’re combining romance and paranormal, for example, you need to stay true to the promise of both genres and blend the tenets of both into your writing.

As a writer, you’re delivering on a promise to your readers in terms of their expectations of the type of book you write—how you do it, is up to you. To help you deliver on that promise, especially in romance, I find it’s important to have a fairly clear picture on what makes your character tick. Why do they do the things they do? Sometimes, this isn’t always a hundred percent clear to me until I near the end of the book and all of a sudden I’ll have a lightbulb moment where I say, yes, that’s why they did (whatever they did) back in chapter two. Generally, I’ve always been a planner (or plotter) when it comes to my writing—mostly because it keeps me on track while I’m working, especially to tight deadlines, and when I’m doing my planning/plotting I’m getting a good grip on what kind of characters I’m writing about and what drives them to the various decisions they make. While they don’t always need to know why their fellow protagonist is behaving a certain way, it’s important for you, as the writer, to feed that information to the reader using subtle cues and internal narrative. When writing  a romance, you can’t keep your reader in the dark about what your characters are thinking about one another or how they feel. You need to reveal, like peeling the layers of an onion, their developing relationship so that when the end comes, and they declare their love to one another, it’s believable and a natural resolution and your readers understand exactly how they’ve come to this stage and why it’s so important to them.

Some books I’ve found useful for figuring these things out are:

What Would Your Character Do? by Eric Maisel, Ph.D., and Ann Maisel
The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines – Sixteen Master Archetypes, by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders

So, get to know your characters. Think about their childhood, their school years, their family life, their friends and influences, what they went without or what they had an abundance of. Think about the things that formed their adult expectations of the world and their belief system. Think about the things where your characters clash emotionally, what the conflict is between them. Understanding their conflicts, both external (what keeps them physically together in the story) and internal (what keeps them emotionally apart) are all excellent tools in a writer’s toolbox when it comes to creating genuine well-rounded characters your readers will want to fall in love with. Your ability to do this well will be what keeps those same readers looking for your name through their book retailers and recommending you to their friends because they can trust you to deliver on the promise they expect to receive when they pick your romance up and open it to page one.

Award winning USA Today! bestselling author of more than 40 titles, Yvonne Lindsay, has always preferred the stories in her head to the real world. Married to her blind date sweetheart and with two adult children, she spends her days crafting the stories of her heart and in her spare time she can be found with her nose firmly in someone else’s book.


Wendy Scott said...

Thanks Yvonne, One of your books is in my bedside reading pile. I thoroughly enjoyed your workshop in Nelson with the romance writers' group.

Sue Perkins said...

Thank you for visiting Yvonne, lovely article which will help many writers.