Thursday, April 1, 2010

Growing the Romance

Missy here. I've been reading through my manuscript (which is just about complete) to fill out the art fact sheet (information that Steeple Hill asks for that helps them design the cover). I'm reading to try to remember what scenes might make a good cover--which is difficult to do while working on the first draft. I tend to forget exactly what I wrote a hundred pages ago! Thus, this read-through.

So while reading today, it hit me that you really do have to grow a romance kind of like a romance grows in real life. You have to have it occur in believable, somewhat evenly-spaced increments.

I know the thought of love at first sight is thrilling. But have you read a book where there's a lot of conflict, and all of a sudden the hero or heroine is declaring love? And you think, WHAT??? Where on earth did that come from--she hates the guy!

Do not make your reader think that. Instead, give the hero and heroine little moments to fall in love bit by bit. Have him realize she's kind. Have her realize he's doing his best to help someone. Then up the stakes a little. Have him realize how much he enjoys her company--and start to worry that he's getting too attached. Have her realize he's become indispensable to her even though she promised herself she wouldn't that happen. Have them share moments of laughter and teasing. Have them work toward a goal together. Make them physically attracted to each other--even if they're going to fight it. :) Have them talk about their pasts so they get to know each other deeply. Have them kiss. THEN finally declare love.

I suggest reading back through your manuscript with two sticky note pads--pink and blue. Each time the heroine likes something or realizes something new about her feelings, put a sticky note on that page and jot down what happened on the note. (Do likewise for the hero.) Then read straight through all the pink sticky notes. Then read straight through all the blue ones.

Do you go from her noticing his gorgeous blue eyes to wanting to marry him? Oops! You skipped a few steps. :)

Does your hero go from noticing her rosy red lips to asking her on a date, to telling her he can't stand the way she runs her business or talks to her dog, to proposing? Again, it's probably jumping around too much. A little back and forth (or indecision) is okay. But don't make it love, then hate, then love, then hate. The reader will feel yanked around and won't enjoy the love moments.

Make sure the changes are gradual, and that each step binds them together more that the previous one. Each step they take toward love will make it harder for them to ever let the other one go.

What do you do to check your romance arc?


  1. Thanks for the advice, Missy. I struggle with the Romantic Arc of my story the most. I focus so much on moving the action forward and plot points that I sometimes don't remember to add to the romantic relationship. I'll use your suggestions as I read/revise my story.

  2. Hi Missy:

    You make very good points on the romance arc. I believe the whole purpose of reading a romance is enjoying the unfolding of the romance arc. This arc is most neglected in Romantic Suspense where the action usually gets in the way of the romance.

    In addition to your suggestions, I’d like to add my favorite ‘indirect’ indicators of ‘falling in love’.

    1. A unexpected protective feeling. I think this is one of the first signs in a hero.
    2. Noticing little things about a woman that she changed or that the hero had not noticed before and he wonders why he’s noticing it now..
    3. Hero notices that he feels the heroin’s pain or joy in a vicarious way that he would not feel for a stranger or someone he didn’t have an emotional attachment to. This is the famous “Why should I care?” comment.
    4. The first awareness of a sense of jealousy.
    5. An enhanced emotional reaction to an opinion the heroine has which the hero would not have if she were a stranger or if he had no romantic interest in her.
    6. Hero notices for the first time that she might make a good mother: ”Why would I think that?”

    I’m sure there are many more but I prefer the first wave of indicators to be all indirect which I think best mirrors real life.


  3. Hi Missy!

    Thank you for the advice! I have been enjoying reading the blogs on this website since you gave me the link. I just finished a ms for Steeple Hill Love Inspired and will be keeping all these things in mind, especially as I start my next ms.

    And Vince, it is always great to read your comments!

    P.S. Congratulations on your nomination for "A Forever Christmas" Missy - It really is a good book!

  4. I'm so late today! I've still been working on the Art Fact Sheet I need to email tonight--which will probably happen about 2 am! :)

    Dianna, it would be difficult to make sure to get it all in when you're doing a romantic suspense. I always hear the romance and suspense should be about 50%-50%, so it's got to be just as important!

  5. Vince, those are excellent!! Little things, some of which I think I do naturally but should be more aware of.

    Thanks for sharing! I need to be sure to mark those things when I go through with my sticky notes. :)

  6. Eve Marie, I'm glad it was helpful. And thank you for your kind comments! I'm so thrilled about the Gayle Wilson final! :)