Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentine's Week: How We Write Rrrromance!

Tip of the Day: Whole grain mustard. Seriously. You'll never eat yellow mustard again.

We're celebrating Valentine's Day all week long here at Author2Author with a new edition of How I Write. We're all about romance this week! Yowza. So stay tuned for a hot, hot, hot week where we talk about how we write romance.

And after that big beginning, here's the letdown. I've been writing mostly tween and middle grade lately, so I haven't been writing any romance. The real question for me is: does romance seep in even where you don't expect it?

Let's start with a little market research. My 10-year-old daughter and I have been reading Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching trilogy together. In chapter 1 of the second book in the series, Tiffany is 11 years old and receives a wrapped present from a boy her age she met in the first book, Roland. To show her contempt for Roland, Tiffany doesn't open the gift, but tosses it in her bag. From then on, my daughter's curiosity was uncontrollable. "When is she going to open the present?" "What's in the present?" I had to keep saying over and over: "I don't know, I've read as far into this book as you have!"

OK, who can resist questioning an unwrapped present, right? Finally Pratchett saves me by having Tiffany open the package in chapter 3 and it's a necklace. And then my daughter's curiosity got worse. "Does she like him?" "Is she going to marry him?" (Me: "I don't know, I've read as far into this book as you have!") Considering that Roland was kind of an idiot in the first book, I couldn't figure out why my daughter was superimposing this forever kind of romance on the storyline.

So there it is: if my statistical sample of one is any indication, girls are building romances into stories even when they're barely there starting at age 10. I mean, have you seen how many YouTube and fan art tributes are dedicated to Ron and Hermione True Love 4Ever?

The shape of the story is always there. You don't have to give your main character sweaty palms or an audibly beating heart. Pretty much all you have to do is introduce a girl and a boy, have the girl say something stupid and embarrassing (or refuse to open a package), and your reader's imagination will do the rest.

What do you think of the minimalist approach? After all, a real life 13-year-old girl would probably obsess and obsess some more. Did he look right at me or sort of right at me? And then call her friends in to help her analyze "sort of right at." Realistic as this is, lately it doesn't seem to me like gripping reading. I think I'd rather drop a hint or two and let the 13-year-old reader do the obsessing. Or not notice at all? Yup, that's the balancing trick.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Emily Marshall said...

I completely agree with this Kate. I just read something recently where an author noted that romance is easy to writer, in that the fact readers naturally want it to happen. Just put two character together within a given age range and readers will root for a romance. Granted getting it to happen takes a bit of work, but that's a different question.

DeenaML said...

Very interesting observation, Kate! I think you're right -- put the characters together and ppl will assume that the MC will "have to" pick a couple that will get together.

nadine said...

Haha. I get like that all the time when I read. As soon as the characters are introduced, before anything ever begins, I'm already piecing together lovers and love triangles and such. I get carried away.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Such a great observation, Kate. Something I hadn't thought about - put a boy and girl in the story, and you want them to get together. Yes! But of course, it can't be too easy, can it? That's where the fun is!

Kristina Springer said...

Good post!

Kate Fall said...

Thanks everyone! Happy Valentines Day early!

Christina Farley said...

Great post Kate. I'm excited about your week of LOVE here at Author to Author because I'm trying to write a love triangle and gosh, it's tough! Maybe you'll all inspire me.