Tag Archive: Writing Romance

Using the Forbidden Love Masterplot

Last year we ran a whole series of posts called Masterplots Theater from A to Z. Because we had some plots that started with the same letters, we had to cut several fantastic masterplots. ‘Forbidden Love’ was one of our unhappy victims as Heather wrote about the Fool Triumphant Masterplot instead. We did cover several other love-related plots in the series, Buddy Love, Happily-Ever- After Love, Unrequited Love, Love Story, but today Forbidden Love gets its own special post.

Do you like to write romance? The all-consuming kind, where the relationship quickly blossoms only to falter and struggle under the heavy burden of insurmountable external tension? A romance that leaves the reader in constant doubt, never knowing if the lovers will find a happy ending? If you said yes, Forbidden Love might be the perfect masterplot for your next story.

Classic Forbidden Love Plot Notes:

This is a character driven plot. The narrative is inside the heads and hearts of the main characters most of, if not all of, the time. This masterplot is often told by alternating two first person POVs. However, it can work in close 3rd person POV too.

The lovers share a nearly instantaneous attraction. The characters know they have met their soulmate, someone unlike anyone they have met before. This love cannot be denied! The power of this love is too strong for the characters to fight.

Within moments of meeting (either before or after) the lovers are confronted with the knowledge the relationship is taboo in their society. Common taboo themes are: adultery, class differences, economic factors, geographic boundaries, religious restrictions, race-related tensions, family feuds, May-December romances and same-sex relationships.

This masterplot often features a closed society. One of the lovers typically comes from a group that maintains a long-standing ideology of Us vs Them. This plot also works using two closed societies that overlap in an uneasy truce, a truce the lovers will fracture with devastating consequences.

A third major character (or group of characters) usually represents the antagonistic force, but not always in the traditional sense. This character works as the mouthpiece for the rules, all the reasons the lovers shouldn’t be together. It is often a friend or authority figure in the lover’s family.

Because of the social issues, the lovers are parted and reunited several times during the course of the story. The lovers take dangerous chances to be together, and they look for allies to help them hide the relationship. The lovers are always in fear of discovery, and the cycle of separation and reuniting give this masterplot high emotional tension.

One of the lovers is usually the dominant personality, the one that wants to disregard the risks. The other character is often more concerned with repercussions. This leads to tension within the relationship.

This masterplot always has one of two endings: the lovers find a way to stay together, often by fleeing their homeland, or the story ends in tragedy as the lovers are separated.

This masterplot is a fantastic subplot, and was used very successfully in the film BLADE RUNNER where it gave a bittersweet edge to the story’s ending.

Future Research:

There are many sources for this masterplot, most notable is ROMEO AND JULIET. Elements are also found in WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/forbidden-love-masterplot/

Masterplots Theater: U is for Unrequited Love

U is for Unrequited LoveWelcome back to Masterplots Theater. This is our last week of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and we have a fabulous final lineup!

Love is messy; it’s messy in real life and it’s messy in stories. This ill-fated type of affection is at the heart of just as many romantic comedies as tragedies. It’s ideal for writers who want to twist the knife into their character’s soul, or leave them on their knees searching for their dignity.

Unrequited Love Plot Notes:

The important thing to remember is this love is one-sided, or at least unbalanced. The two (or more) characters are not enjoying the same level of infatuation. One character might like the other character just fine, perhaps enough to date for a while, but that special zing just isn’t there for any deeper affections to grow, while the lovestruck character is sure they’ve met their soul mate. They will delude themselves with fantasies about creating something permanent. It’s the fantasy the love stuck character can’t let go of and not the reality.

The protagonist in this story can play either part: the object of affection, or the smitten one. Also both roles in this masterplot are gender neutral. This masterplot also adores creating tension by mismatching the two character’s sexual orientation. Love triangles are highly common in this masterplot.

It’s a highly emotional story and it’s often the cornerstone of some dramatic (and even scary) stories because unrequited love can turn nasty and vindictive. Examples: FATAL ATTRACTION and JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE.

It’s often the less emotionally invested character who pays the price, but not always. It’s possible for unethical characters to use the situation for emotional blackmail.

It’s often the social outsider that falls madly in love with a person who shows them kindness. The character’s lack of romantic acumen leads them to misread the social cues. What follows is a string of embarrassing and potentially life-scarring encounters as they try to win the other character’s love. In the end, the character often gives up, finds their social grove (usually in the form of a makeover), or finds a fresh person to focus their affections on. Example of this used in a critical subplot is Severus Snape’s love of Lily Evans-Potter in the HARRY POTTER Series.

I think this masterplot works best when it’s used as a complication plot point within the stages of the normal rules of attraction. The story starts out by following a typical romance formula, but something goes wrong at one of the stages. It might be the timing; one person is always in a relationship when the other is free. Or it might be that the first lust stage stalls out. Priorities often get in the way of love, one person wants a family, while the other wants a career. Example 500 DAYS OF SUMMER.

Unrequited love is sometimes used in rejection as foreplay stories. With the pervasiveness of rape culture and the current predilection for stalking in the world, personally I find that use distasteful and ill-conceived.

Example to Study:hunchback-notre-dame-victor-hugo-paperback-cover-art

I’m picking Victor Hugo’sTHE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (AKA Notre-Dame de Paris) because Hugo is a master of unrequited love. He also used it in Les Misérables.

·SOCIAL OUTSIDER: It’s hard to find anyone who is more of the outside than Quasimodo. Physical deformity makes him shun public interactions. Esmeralda is also an outsider, a gypsy who knows public scorn and even out right hatred.

·FANTASY LOVE: Quasimodo has known little to no affection in his life, so when the beautiful Esmeralda offers him kindness, he is forever infatuated with her.

·LOVE TRIANGLES ABOUND: Esmeralda is already desired by many, but has selected her object of affection, Captain Phoebus. However, her love is also unrequited. Phoebus in engaged to another woman, Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier. Fleur suffers from unrequited love of Phoebus, and although the two will marry, it will be a one-sided love and unhappy union.

Future Research:

Movies worship this masterplot, and some of these example even manage to bring this bad beginning around to an HEA of sorts. RUNAWAY BRIDE, BEST FRIENDS WEDDING, and CHASING AMY.

Books also favor it. Take GONE WITH THE WIND: Scarlet’s unrequited love of Ashley Wilkes is literary legend. Another good bet is REMAINS OF THE DAY. For a more tragic take read THE HOUSE OF MIRTH or DANGEROUS LIAISONS. There is also a long list of books about unrequited love at Goodreads.

This masterplot has around forty common tropes and I couldn’t begin to cover them all in a single blog post. If you decide to write this masterplot, check out this blog post on five must read writing tips for unrequited love stories.

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed U is for Unrequited Love. We invite you back tomorrow for the next installment of Masterplots Theater, V is for Vengeance.

For more episodes of Masterplots Theater, check out the list below:

A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After
I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal
K is for Kinsmen
L is for Love Story
M is for Metamorphosis
N is for Nemesis
O is for Out of the Bottle 

P is for Pursuit
Q is for Quest
R is for Rite of Passage
S is for Sacrifice
T is for Thriller

And please share your favorite Unrequited Love stories in the comments.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/a-z-challenge/masterplots-theater-u-is-for-unrequited-love/

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Pet Peeves + 5 Fab Fixes for Romance in Books

TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a list created by the book loving crew at The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday is a different topic and everyone is invited to join in the fun. So let’s do this!

Everyone loves romance, even if you don’t specifically read romance novels. No matter what genre you prefer, there is often a romantic subplot skipping through the story. Especially in YA. Teens are preoccupied with finding love. How could they not be with all those new hormones coursing through their bodies? Since YA encompasses every genre imaginable, it should be the best place to find a wide range of romantic scenarios, but too often YA lit falls victim to the tried and true cliche. Here’s a list of the worst offenders and what I would rather see instead…

LoveTriangle-Twilight1. The Love Triangle

What bugs me about love triangles is not their shape, but their composition. The vast majority of these trios are two hot boys vying for the love of one girl, and frankly it’s boring. Why not mix it up and make the heroine choose between a hot boy and a hot girl. Or make the other girl or boy the heroine’s competition for the third person’s love. Or make the fight not about romantic love, but about friend love. Or have the objects of lust not notice the heroine so she has to pursue them without knowing if either even likes her! See? I just gave you way more than one fix for this overused trope, so please stop writing heroine + hot boy + another hot boy.

2. The Heroine with No Girlfriends

Maybe it’s something about writers who were loners as teenagers, but I’m so sick of the shy, nerd girl who isn’t popular and doesn’t have any friends except maybe one (who is always more popular than the heroine), and then this hot guy comes along and shows interest in her and wow! Her whole life changes! Please, this isn’t a low-budget TV show without the funds to give the lead actor more than one friend. This is a book! It doesn’t cost you anything to make the heroine a sociable musician or popular athlete or smart-girl-who’s-not-a-loner. Give her some pals! Give her a life! It’s not only the lonely who are looking for love.

3. The Perfect Boy

Often the heroine’s love interest is good-looking, smart and rich. And oh so mysterious. Plus his eyes are probably blue. Bonus points if he has an accent. I know that romance is supposed to be a fantasy, but I want some realism! Give me characters with a range of looks and talents and economic backgrounds. Make the protagonist fall for someone who is not seemingly perfect, who has faults and makes mistakes and isn’t impossibly tuned into the heroine’s feelings. No one needs to be perfect to be loveable. Trust me.

4. The Innocent Virgin

Things have changed since I was a teenager. The Internet wasn’t good for much in the ‘90s. It took many minutes simply to load a photo. Needless to say, I learned about sex by talking to my friends, listening to rumours, watching movies, and going out with guys. But in the 21st century, information about sex is everywhere! Most pre-teens know more about it than I did in my mid-twenties! That’s not to say they have experience yet, but for better or for worse they have information regarding the act the previous generation did not. So when I read about teen characters who are all innocent and clueless, I can’t help but roll my eyes. It’s just not believable, unless they’ve been held captive in a backwoods cabin with no computer their whole lives. This doesn’t mean your characters can’t be virgins. They can be, just make sure they’re not completely naive regarding the subject.

5. Love Taking Precedence Over Possible Death

I admit that most of the entries in my teen diaries were all about boys, but I was not living in a dystopian wasteland or trying to survive a war or hiding from hungry zombies. Yet I read books with these life-and-death stakes where the romantic leads spend way too much time making moony eyes at each other. Come on! You’re about to get your brains eaten! You would not be thinking about kissing him, you’d be thinking RUN! To fix this, moony eyes and romantic thoughts should only occur when the characters are momentarily safe.

And there’s my list! I’m sure you noticed I didn’t mention Instalove. That’s a pet peeve so big I’ve already written an entire blog post on it – complete with fixes as well. Check it out here.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I would love to read some romances that subvert these overused cliches. If you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/romance/top-ten-tuesday-5-pet-peeves-5-fab-fixes-for-romance-in-books/

What We’re Reading: Summer Romance

As summer sweeps in with its balmy breezes and hot temperatures what’s more wonderful than a steamy summer romance? Heather and Robin initially cringed when I suggested this theme, neither of whom would be considered a fan of the romance genre in general. And I’d have to agree to some extent. Many romance books embody female protagonists falling prey to misogynistic males who overpower them with their unbelievable good looks and bulging muscles. So our challenge was to find a story or author who doesn’t characterize women as femme fatales, one-dimensional and powerless to control their destiny; objectified, and even denigrated by an irresistible sexy guy. Stories that challenge sexual prejudice and the oppression of females in our male-dominated society; that embrace a healthy image of the female body and credit women as the amazing people we are. So here’s to teenage love. That first crush, that overwhelming feeling that awakens a sleeping tigress—one who isn’t afraid to chart her own destiny, who sees men as equal partners in life, in spite of her raging hormones.

Caryn’s Pick: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green

The_Fault_in_Our_StarsYes, I went there. I don’t consider myself a fan of this author, but I decided to revisit my assessment in response to the current craze for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. I rushed to read it before venturing into the theater in an attempt to immerse myself in the full experience. And I’m glad. The story is profound and philosophical and not typical YA fodder, but death will do that to you.

Hazel Grace Lancaster is clinically depressed, and why shouldn’t she be? Diagnosed with end-stage cancer she struggles to breathe, drowning in her own bodily fluids, shackled to an oxygen tank. She attends a weekly support group where she meets Augustus Waters and the two fall in love. When Hazel shares her fascination with a novel called An Imperial Affliction, she draws Augustus into a quirky mission to track down the author, seeking answers, after the book abruptly ends in a cloud of ambiguity.

I wanted more romance, more passion. Greene, through countless TV interviews, claims the book is a love story and not about cancer or death, but I’d strongly disagree. I’d hoped that I’d finally get past all the cancer-talk and just enjoy the love story, but I couldn’t manage it. In truth, the word cancer is used 100 times, and death/dying/dead…103 times! Some critics have claimed that Green’s dialogue and interactions are atypical of teenagers, and honestly, I’ve thought so in his other works. But another insightful critic, herself a cancer survivor, claims that facing death at an early age makes one grow up fast, tending to deal with life in a more adult fashion. I bow to her on that point. The teens speak intelligently and honestly, painfully so.There’s no doubt that it’s a major tear-jerker, and I liken it to this generation’s Love Story. That book hit me hard. I intimately identified with the characters, being a college student at the time and my boyfriend (who I eventually married) played on the college hockey team.

Overall, I found this story unique. The author artfully examines life, death, and love, with sensitivity, intelligence and honesty, and most importantly, integrity. Hazel and Augustus are good people and they didn’t deserve the terrible hand the universe dealt them. So grab the tissue box and settle in for a sad, yet profound, read.


BookCover-SisterhoodAs Caryn stated above, romance is not my genre. There are only two novels on my bookshelves I’d consider teen romance – SLOPPY FIRSTS by Megan McCafferty and THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS by Ann Brashares. But really, those aren’t even straight-up romances, they’re coming-of-age stories with love interests. Nevertheless, they reflect the type of teenage reader I was – one who wanted realism in love stories, not that love-at-first sight BS. Even in high school I’d seen enough crash-and-burn lust fests to know they don’t usually work out. I wanted to read about relationships that would help me navigate the murky waters of real love. And I wanted to relate to the characters, and insta-love just wasn’t how I rolled. Both of these books fit the bill. I read them well over a decade ago, but recently reread the SISTERHOOD so that’s the one I’ll talk about…

This book is the perfect summer read because it’s literally about summertime, specifically the first summer four best friends spend their school-free months apart. Two of the four (Lena and Bridget) have romantic subplots.

Lena goes to Greece to visit her grandparents. She has absolutely no interest in meeting boys, yet her grandma tries to set her up with a family friend, Kostos. But… “Lena knew boys: They never looked beyond your looks. They pretended to be your friend to get you to trust them, and as soon as you trusted them, they went in for the grope.” (pg. 60) No way was Lena getting involved with Kostos. And she doesn’t. In fact, they have an awkward encounter and she alienates him. But slowly Lena sees that the boy she pushed away is a genuine guy, and that she likes him. Now it’s up to shy Lena to make a move.

I love this romance because it’s not the cliché impossibly-hot-guy-pursues-girl-who-plays-hard-to-get or impossibly-hot-guy-wants-girl-but-it’s-forbidden. It’s the more realistic girl-likes-guy-but-is-scared-to-tell-him. We’ve all been there! At least I have.

Bridget, on the other hand, falls instantly for her college-age soccer coach and pursues him with joyous abandon. And it pays off – even though coach-player relationships are forbidden, he gives in to her seductions one night. It’s implied but not explicitly stated that she loses her virginity to him. She didn’t expect the experience to be so emotional, but it is. And when he states it can never happen again, Bridget is broken.

This was the most real thing my young self had ever read. Such a painful yet common experience.

So if you want a summertime story full of realistic romance and true love in the form of friendship, read THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS. It still makes me swoon and cry – in a good way.

Robin’s Pick: THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass

the selection cover for webI picked my book due to the overwhelming popularity of the series, book three is already out. The Selection centered on America Singer, a young woman from a caste based society. She’s a five, part of the artist class, and she is a singer. Sorry, but names are an issue in The Selection. As a five America is far removed from the ones and twos of the upper class, but not as bad off as a eight the lowest class. When the government holds a lottery to pick 35 women to win a chance of marrying the national prince, America wants no part of the reality show inspired contest. She has no desire to become the nation’s future queen, because America is secretly in love with Aspen, a boy from the servant class (a six) who is someone her family would never approve of. Since the lottery would help her family financially, she enters and is horrified when she’s selected. She must give up everything, Aspen, her family and even her job as an artist. She travels to the palace where she meets the other 34 contestants and Prince Maxon. While she should be able to enjoy all the privileges of the palace, like having enough food to eat for the first time in her life, America just can’t just forget Aspen.

What I liked about this book was it managed to avoid insta-love, something I despise. America is already in love with Aspen when the book opens, and her affection for Maxon is slow growing and believable. It also managed to show marriage as something challenging and filled with comprises, even the happy couples are far from perfect. I also liked that America managed to hold on to her own identity and moral code while being thrust into her new lavish surroundings. It also provided a valid reason for why America avoided having sex with Aspen: it’s against the law to have sex before marriage.

What I didn’t like about the book is the love triangle. It felt stale even thought it was handled in a plausible way. Also, most of the secondary characters, including Aspen felt a bit flat to me. Maybe this is a hallmark of romance fiction, but I knew much more about America and the prince, and very little about America’s best friends or Aspen. Frankly Aspen was not very interesting to me, and I couldn’t wrap my head around why America was so crazy about him. Also, I would have liked more on the political subplot and to know more about the way the classes were set up. The book reads quickly, I read it cover to cover in a few hours and found myself needing more plot. And the ending made me feel a bit cheated. I think the author held back too much for book two. If you want a quick, light romance that you don’t have to think much about, this might be the perfect summer read for you.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/book-reviews/what-were-reading-starry-summer-nights-teen-romance/

Master the Meet-cute

DVD covers for webI’m obsessed with the meet-cute.

If you don’t know what a meet-cute is, it’s those quirky, funny and/or sexy ways two people meet for the first time. This is most often used for a romantic meeting, but it also works for future friends. Most people know the term meet-cute from the movie The Holiday, but it’s been a staple of the movie industry since the 1930’s and the days of the screwball romantic comedies.


The options and variations of the meet-cute are endless and any novel can benefit from using this literary device. If you want to master the meet-cute you need to learn how to recognize some of the basic formulas, once you know these you will be able create a fresh version of this classic trope in your own writing.



Mistaken identity, who are you again:Ever After poster for web
Nothing gets the pulse racing like finding out the totally hot person the protagonist just spent time flirting with is the sibling of an enemy, their boss’s kid, or the owner of the restaurant they just gave a one star review. Mistaken identity of every kind makes sure emotions get complicated fast. Check out Ever After for one version. Is he a prince or a horse thief? Only one should get nailed with an apple.


Adverse circumstances, making good come from bad:
No one expects a great romance to bloom at a graveside, or in the case of the current romance darling of the day, at a cancer support group. But that’s exactly what makes the meeting endearing. Even with a plastic tube up her nose, Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars is special. Or take Reality Bites, because causing a cute guy to wreck his car is seldom forgettable.


NottingHill poster for webFull body contact, emotional connection and conflict that starts with a crash:
When all forward motion comes to a stop by encountering an immovable object in the shape of handsome stranger. The contact can be physical, or figurative, like when two opposed ideologies slam together. Watch Notting Hill for an orange juice splashed version. This film also has several noteworthy friend meet-cutes. When Spike meets Anna is my favorite.


Bad mission statements, the hook-ups that were never meant to be:
I love it when the couple meets and everything is so wrong, it’s right. It’s when logic flies out the window and something magnetic, chemical and inexplicable remains. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is the perfect example. Both characters have a plan that never involved ending up with a partner.


The Good Samaritan, when stopping to help leads to drama of a new type:
She’s lost a dog, or he’s just been swindled out of everything he owns. When the love interest charges in to save a stranger they never expect to lose their heart. Making the couple the unlikeliest pairing imaginable just adds to the fun. Watch The Wedding Planner  where a run-a-way dumpster leads to sparks and unwelcome complications.

Gone_With_The_Wind for web

Unequals don’t attract, when the come-on goes wrong:
That flirty hair flip flies right over the head of the intended target and lands astray. Maybe it’s dating cluelessness, gender preference issues, or just really bad aim, but sometimes a person just attracts someone they never expected to. Gone with the Wind has one – Scarlett missteps with Ashley and in anger flings a nicknack just missing Rhett’s handsome face. The rest as they say… is history.

Some people say the meet-cute is an old cliché, long past its prime, but I disagree. The meet-cute is fun, and if you revamp the formula in new and exciting ways you’ll have a winner. Keep an eye out and you’re bound to see more examples of the meet-cute everywhere.

Want to learn more about the meet-cute check out these links:



The holiday*I learned after this post had gone up that the actor Eli Wallach passed away. Wallach had a brilliant movie career, but will always have a place in my heart for his role as Arthur Abbott, an aging writer who explains the meet-cute in The Holiday.   http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/movies/eli-wallach-multifaceted-actor-dies-at-98.html We will miss you!


For more on romance try: Casting Call: Lovers with Baggage.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/master-the-meet-cute/

Romancing the Genre

HeartsI am co-authoring this post today with one of my alter egos, Angelica French. Angelica writes romances of varying degrees of heat. (I have another alter ego, River Glynn. River writes paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy.) The fourth Tuesday of each month I’ll post about issues in romance, writing romances, or provide general information like today.

Why alter egos? Why don’t I write all my books under a single name? That’s for another post. Today, Angelica and I are here to entertain and enlighten about romances. When discussing the romance genre, several questions arise: What are the various romance genre? Why so many? Who reads romance? Why do they read romance? What makes a romance “good”?

  • What are the various romance genre? Why so many?

Romance genres heat levels range from sweet to erotica. By the way, pornography is not a romance, since there needs to be more than sexual acrobatics. By definition a romance has to have romance.

“Sweet” romances depict love with yearnings not backed up by action (certainly not outside of marriage), whereas, some accuse “erotica” of not having any subtlety at all–it’s all about “the act.” Erotic romance, on the other hand, does keep a relationship as a central component.

There are multiple levels of heat along this continuum and when authors submit to a publisher, they must identify the heat level according to each publisher’s guidelines. Even the erotica publishers have their limits, however. No pedophilia, bestiality, and other acts generally deemed offensive or illegal.

Within the heat levels, there are categories of romance genres. These include historical, contemporary, inspirational, paranormal, suspense, mystery, and so on, as in general fiction categories. And, as with general fiction categories, historical romances might be the Old West, Regency, Civil War, Pre-World War I, Post World War II, and so on.

It’s pretty obvious why there are so many categories and heat levels. If there weren’t readers, there wouldn’t be books produced. That simple. Lots of folks like romances, men and women.

  •  Who reads romance?

There’s been a good bit of research to identify the demographic for romance readers. In a study by Romance Writers of America (RWA) a few years ago, 42% of romance readers had at least a bachelor’s degree, and 15% earned or were working on post-graduate degrees. While still mostly women, nearly one-quarter of romance readers are male.

In the RWA study, half of romance readers were married, four percent were divorced, thirty-seven percent were single, one percent were separated, and eight percent were widowed.

Most romance novels readers in the study were ages 35-44. The next largest group was 25-34. The third highest age group of romance readers were ages 45-54. Only seven percent were 17 or younger.

After I (Angelica) finish the trilogy for my “Sex Sells” series, I am going after crone lit. There are LOTS of older women looking for romance and titillation in their reading. Old folks can have and enjoy romance and sex, too!

  •  Why do they read romance?

People read romances, I think, for the same reasons they read anything. A peek into how and where others live. An escape from their own reality. An examination of how others solve a problem they have. A chance to live in another world for a while. Maybe a bit of titillation and fantasizing. 

  • What makes a romance “good”?

A good romance shares the same things that make any fiction book good–interesting characters you care about (Gone Girl is a notable exception), unpredictable twists and turns that still make sense, authenticity of setting/characters/events, or learning about another place/time/event.

Romance, more than most genres, has been criticized for being clichéd and formulaic. I admit to boredom with those overtly predictable stories as well. The best romances, as in any genre, provide surprises that weren’t foreseen but were still logical in the story. I also am weary of the women who must have a man in their lives to define them and solve their problems. Give me a romance with a woman who takes charge of her own life, and then, oh, by the way, falls in love with a fellow (or gal).

Chick Lit, one of the categories in romance, is characterized by the growth of the woman (apart from a partner) who with humor and good will stumbles around in life and relationships before finally getting it all together.

The Romance Writers Report, journal of the Romance Writers of America, recently had an article about the canon of romance books. The author took on a critic of romance genres, critical that there was no set of generally agreed upon representative books.

According to the author, a canon is not necessarily those books that are the best in the genre so much as game-changers, books that initiated a change of direction in format or content. It was a pretty compelling article. [Is There a Romance Canon? By Wendy Crutcher, June 2014, 34 (6), Romance Writers Report]

It’s interesting to me how romance genres are more likely than any other genre I know to be denigrated. And, on the other side, hotly defended. Do you read romances? Are they one of your guilty little secrets? Or do you disdain romance readers as unsophisticated and naïve?

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/romance/

Love in YA – The Problem with Insta-Love

(“L” is for LOVE in the A to Z Blog Challenge) AtoZBadge-LetterL

If the interwebs are to be believed, YA readers are sick of insta-love – that moment when the heroine sees a cute stranger and decides immediately he’s the one! On Goodreads people have made “No Insta-Love” shelves and there’s even a Listopia “Young Adult Books Without Insta-Love.”

So why is this trope still in so many YA novels? Well, it does have its pros:

  • It’s relatable; teens are prone to falling hard and fast.
  • It’s mysterious; knowing nothing about the love interest leaves lots for the heroine to discover.
  • It’s aspirational; people want to fall in love easily and without doubt.

So what’s wrong with this? Besides the fact that too much of anything gets boring, many would argue insta-love is unrealistic. Love does not happen instantly! But sometimes it does, especially with teenagers. Whether it’s “true love” or not is up for debate. The bigger problem with the prevalence of insta-love is that this one version of romance squeezes out others. In YA there’s a crisis of romantic homogeny that sets a precedent that most people can never live up to.

Personally, I never “got” insta-love, in stories or in real life. Insta-lust, yes, but insta-love, no, and very early on in my dating years I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. Every story I read and romantic comedy I watched made it seem like I’d just know instantly when I met “the one”, and yet it never happened. Rationally, I acknowledged insta-love wasn’t realistic (how can you love someone you don’t even know?), but the trope was so ingrained into my psyche that it was hard to dispel. So whenever I found a story that wasn’t the love-at-first-sight fairy tale, I latched onto it – like the movie 500 DAYS OF SUMMER and THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS. Both have characters who fall instantly in love, yet they don’t live happily ever after.

I love these stories because they feel real, and I was disappointed that Disney changed the Sisterhood movie ending to make it happier. In my experience, relationships go down in flames all the time, and living through a heartbreaking situation with a character is impactful because it makes you realize you’re not the only one. Books are cathartic that way.

Humans have a desire to fit in, to feel normal, and to be accepted – especially in love. And because we’re influenced by the narratives around us, we need more varied romances in YA to show that love happens in many ways and there’s no right way to fall in love. So writers, here’s a challenge: come up with as many alternatives to insta-love as possible. I’ll start…

  1. Slow Cooker – where the heroine isn’t sure if she’s falling in love, but as the relationship heats up it becomes clear she is.
  2. Heart Attack – when love sneaks up on the heroine and scares her half to death because she didn’t even know it was there.
  3. Platonic Passion – that guy/gal the heroine swears is just a friend is really more, if she’d give love a chance.
  4. ______________________

What’s on your list? What kinds of romance do you want to see more of in YA novels?


Tomorrow on the A to Z Blog Challenge is Jenn with the letter “M” – Mixing Genres: Career Suicide?

Next Up from Heather… On Monday I have the letter “R” – Reading Overload in the Information Age

Click here for more posts by Heather.


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/a-z-challenge/love-in-ya-the-problem-with-insta-love/

Friday Inspiration: Five Romantic Treats for Valentine’s Day

Love! Is there a more powerful force in the universe?

As writers, we often need to tap into our deepest emotions, dredging for the painful, as well as the pleasant. Love manages to deliver both extremes. Devastating breakups. Giddy whirlwind infatuations. Love eludes, entangles, and enriches our lives like no other human condition.

Today for Valentine’s Day, I want to share five of my favorite romantic treats. Try just one, or binge for a day sugar-coated in love.

Nibble some chocolate:cacao-extra-dark-scharffen-berger-chocolate web

Chocolate, it’s a Valentine’s Day tradition for a reason. Please make mine Scharffen Berger, and darker than the heart of the guy that dumped me in high school.


Listen to some sonnets, for when it comes to love … The Bard’s the best:
I always marvel at the level of Shakespeare’s output, as well as the diversity of his bounty. I own the sonnets read by Sir John Gielgud, and nothing captures my heart like the best prose in history paired with the eloquent delivery of a master thespian.

princess_bride_poster_art web

Watch a romantic comedy:
The Princess Bride
is a DVD staple in our house. It has enough swordplay and comic gags to keep the kids happy, but at its core it’s still a love story.   

Share someplace beautiful with a friend:
Mother Nature often thwarts my need to soak up some winter sun, but if I’m blessed with a clear day, I grab a loved one or two and seek out a breathtaking view. If I can’t go outside, I go inside and visit a museum. There’s nothing like letting some gorgeous art wrap me in decadent colors to make me feel special.  

Curl up with a couple of page-trapped lovebirds:TT Wife Web
If you read my blogs you know I don’t read much romance, but I will step outside of my comfort zone and suggest the Time Traveler’s Wife. For one thing, it’s a wonderfully written novel, never predictable, and with the sort of bittersweet moments that make it moving, but never sappy. 

I hope you all find someone to cherish today. And that your loved one will return your favor, now and forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/friday-inspiration/friday-insperation-five-romantic-treats-for-valentines-day/