Read How to Write a Brilliant Romance: The Easy, Step-By-Step Method of Crafting a Powerful Romance (Go! Write Something Brilliant) Online

Authors: Susan May Warren

Tags: #Reference, #Writing; Research & Publishing Guides, #Writing, #Fiction, #Romance, #Writing Skills, #General Fiction

How to Write a Brilliant Romance: The Easy, Step-By-Step Method of Crafting a Powerful Romance (Go! Write Something Brilliant) (10 page)

BOOK: How to Write a Brilliant Romance: The Easy, Step-By-Step Method of Crafting a Powerful Romance (Go! Write Something Brilliant)
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If
you
create
an
event
in
your
character’s
past,
something
that
leaves
a
deep
wound,
then
your character
will
do
anything
not
to
be
wounded
in
this
way
again,
and
thus,
will
walk
around
trying
to protect
himself.
Including
turning
his
back
on
True
Love
if
he
thinks
he’ll
get
hurt.

Ask your character: What is the worst thing that ever happened to you (preferably romantically, but it can be anything that involves the heart) and what wound did it
leave?

It
helps
if
this
is
an
actual
event,
something
they
can
tell
the
heroine
(or
hero)
later.
I
often
see people
use
general
events

e.g.
my
character
comes
from
a
broken
home,
so
he’s
afraid
of
love. That’s
a
starting
place,
but
I
always
push
them
to
find
a
singular
event
inside
that
overall
situation that
epitomizes
their
wound.
It
must
also
be
compelling
enough
to
create
a
wound
in
the
first
place. This
event
is
used
to
create
a
heartbreaking
and
poignant
scene
when
they
share
it
with
the
one
they love.
And
becomes
a
moment
of
triumph
when
they
are
loved,
anyway!

 

To
Why
or
Why
Not:
Exploring
the
Romance
Story
Arcs

So,
why
do
Why
and
Why
Nots
matter?
It’s
not
just
about
creating
tension.
Why
and
Why
Nots help
you
craft
the
Story
Arc.

Is your romance a Why/Why Not? Or a Why Not/Why
?

There
are
two
basic
structures,
or
story
arcs,
to
a
romance—whether
it’s
a
straight
up
romance,
or just
a
romance
thread.
This
structure
helps
you
to
know
where
to
insert
the
different
components
of your
romance.

The first structure is Why/Why Not:

These
are
stories
that
have
our
characters
falling
in
love
in
the
beginning,
with
no
major
obstacles
in their
way,
only
to
discover
obstacles
half-way
or
even
later.
It’s
not
about
how
we
as
the
reader
see their journey, but how the characters see it.

Return
to
Me
:
The hero and
heroine meet
and
instantly hit
it
off.
They have
a
similar
sense of humor,
and
they
like
similar
foods
and
have
fun
together,
even
have
some
romantic
sparks.
Until
she discovers
she
has
her
boyfriend’s
deceased
wife’s
heart.
Suddenly
we’ve
arrive
at
the
Why
Not
part of the
story.

You’ve
Got
Mail
:
The
hero
and
heroine
love
each
other
online,
have
similar
interests,
similar
love of
New
York
and
books
and
business
drive.
They
are
perfect
for
each
other
until
they
find
out
they are
enemies
in
real
life.
Enter,
the
Why
Not.

Let’s look at the other structure: the Why Not/Why stories.

In a Why Not/Why story structure, the external and internal obstacles (Why Nots) keep them apart even as the Why pulls them together. Then, when it seems that the Why will win the day, the biggest Why Not rises to break them apart.

Sleepless in
Seattle
: The hero and heroine have so
much Why Not in front of them, it seems they’ll
never
get
to
the
Why.
Again,
it’s
in
the
viewpoint
of
the
character,
not
the
reader,
because from
the
beginning
we
can
see
that
these
two
belong
together.
Why
Not:
She’s
engaged
to
someone else,
they
live
thousands
of
miles
apart,
she
doesn’t
even
know
him,
he
thinks
she’s
loony
(or
at
least among
the
strange
women
writing
to
him).
It’s
not
until
the
end
that
they
realize
they
belong together
and
discover
the
Why.

While
You
were
Sleeping
:
The
Why
Nots
are
glaring:
He’s
her,
um,
fiancés,
brother.
And
of course,
she’s
lying,
but
that
only
adds
to
the
Why
Not,
until
she’s
revealed
as
a
liar.
But
by
then, they’ve
seen
the
Whys
and
that
is
what
causes
the
angst.

As
you’re
beginning
to
plot
your
romance—even
before
you
nail
down
the
component
elements— think
through
the
structure
of
your
story.
Do
you
have
the
Why
first
and
then
the
big
Why
Not?
Or is
the
Why
Not
glaring,
until
finally
the
Why
is
too
big
to
ignore?

In
the
early
stages
of
my
plotting,
I
start
with
creating
the
hero
and
heroine.
Then
I
assemble
a
few of
the
key
ingredients:
why
they
belong
together,
why
not,
what
their
sparks
are,
their
happily
ever after.
Nothing
is
written
in
stone,
however.

Then, to get going, I nail down the story arc: Why/Why Not or Why Not/Why. Knowing what kind of story arc I’ll have helps me to know where to drop in the components. For example, if I’m building a Why/Why Not story, I’ll have the interest, the wooing and Why element, as well as the kiss, and perhaps even a glimpse of the happily ever after at the beginning. (They need to know what they have to live for!) Then, I’ll throw in the Why Not, with lots of sparks and the Black Moment.

If
I
have
a
Why
Not
Structure,
then
I’ll
start
with
sparks,
a
touch
of
interest,
perhaps
a
hint
of wooing,
all
the
while
keeping
the
Why
Nots
paramount,
gradually
leading
up
to
the
kiss,
before
we get
to
the
big
sacrifice
and
the
Why.

These structur
e
s and the flow of the elements will become clearer as we explore the remaining ingredients. Later, you’ll learn how to plug in the different elements into your three act structure, and how to craft both kinds of stories, but for now, take a look at your romance structure. Is it a Why/Why Not, or a Why Not/Why?

 

Ask Yourself:
  • What realistic External Obstacles in the plot push your hero and heroine apart?
  • Ask your hero: What is the worst thing that ever happened to you (preferably romantically, but it can be anything that involves the heart) and what wound did it leave?
  • Ask your heroine: What is the worst thing that ever happened to you and what wound did it leave?
  • Is your story a Why/Why Not, or a Why Not/Why? Sketch it out for your own understanding.

 

 

 

Ingredie
n
t
5:
Wooi
n
g
(Dating
Your
Reader!)

 

In every romance the key is making your characters fall in love, right? We’ve talked about how we fall in love--how we connect to each other’s core values, and how we complement each other and make each other into stronger people.

However, how do you write that journey, step by step? How do you woo your reader into falling in love with your characters too? You have to date your reader.

Remember the last time you fell in love? You saw him or her across the room, and something about their physical appearance intrigued you. It told you something about them. Perhaps they were brave, or strong, or creative, or disheveled, or rough-edged. You probably noticed their mannerisms, maybe how they talked, how they smiled, how they handled themselves. Even before you met, their clothing and demeanor gave you a general impression about them.

Then you met them. You found out their name, where they were from. You saw how they treated the waitress, or the hotel clerk, or an employee. Perhaps you saw their habits, their music, their tastes in décor, their car. Hopefully, you also saw how they reacted to situations of joy or stress. This gave you a hint about their internal character, what they were good at, even hinted at their values.

After a first date, you might have discovered their life goals and maybe what he or she wants most. You may have talked about your childhood, or your dreams and what struggles you face finding them. You may have gotten a glimpse at a major event that shaped their life. All of this revealed their purpose in life, the Noble Cause that drove them to make the choices they made.

Perhaps after a few dates, you had a first fight. He or she reacted to that fear of getting hurt.

In that moment, you saw their history with love, maybe even a hint at their deepest fears, making you think back to the events that shaped them. Suddenly, you felt as if you looked inside their heart. If your fight made you a stronger couple, then it made your heart tenderer toward him or her as you understood their insecurities and embraced their dreams.

Finally, you came to the place where you knew you had to go forward or break up. You came to that barrier between dating and true love, and if they struggled to cross it, you saw their darkest fears and the wound, maybe even a belief that kept him or her from finding happiness.

Hopefully he or she broke through the barrier with an Epiphany or Truth that gave them the courage to declare their love.

Ahh . . . I love seeing the heart of someone else and embracing it. This is how you fall in love. And how your reader will too. Th
e
key
to
wooing
your
reader
is
a
technique
called
Character
Layering
.

 

Character Layering

Character Layering is all about slowly revealing the heart of your character—to your other characters in the story and, ultimately, to your reader.

But doesn’t your reader need to know about your character in order to love him? No.

I hear this often from people who might pour everything—all the great reasons why our hero and heroine are the way they are, their history, their hurts, their triumphs—onto the first page. Think back: If you knew everything about your spouse or significant other when you met them, would you still go forward? Perhaps it’s best if we fall in love layer by layer.

More than that, your reader wants to dive into the story. Too much too soon just bogs the story down. If you dump your hero’s entire bio onto the first page, not only will it seem forced, but it also will lack impact. The fun of getting to know a character is discovering who they are and what makes them tick. The best part of a book is discovering the Dark Past, or desperate motivation, behind their actions. If you reveal it all at once it lacks punch, and you’ve stolen the emotional impact of the story from the reader.

Character Layering solves the problem of what to tell, when.

The reason we see huge chunks of Backstory in a novel is because the author is trying to figure out their own character. They’re getting into their character’s skin and working through his layers to figure out his behavior. This is perfectly acceptable . . . for a rough draft. Go ahead and take as many pages as you need and then cut out the backstory. Put it in a “Character” file and then start your story.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before you can unlayer your character, or even start your story, you have to build your character. And that means Backstory.

 

Building a Character’s
Backstory

It
is
essential
to
know
the
Backstory
of
your
character
before
you
start
the
book.
Why?
As
I mentioned,
you
want
to
start
your
story
quickly,
without
too
much
bio.
But
you
need
to
understand your
character
because
it’s
their
Backstory
that
causes
them
to
react
in
the
here
and
now.
The
reader just
needs
to
see
the
outcome
of
the
Backstory
and
how
it
affected
your
character.

So,
how
much
Backstory
should
you
develop?

Answer:
Enough
to
know
your
characters
motivations
for
why
he
or
she
does
the
things
they
do
in
your
story.

If
your
character
loved
to
draw
as
a
child and always dreamed of being an artist, that’s only important if it has something to do with the plot. If he’s a detective solving a murder, it might not have anything to do with the story. However, if he is asked to draw the suspect and rediscovers the rusty talent he had, then perhaps it is slightly important. Even better, if he loved to draw, and had talent, but his father told him he was a terrible artist (in order to discourage such a “frivolous” career), and the story is about a policeman who discovers that he has the ability to see the crimes in the pictures he draws, (and thus was always meant to use this God-given gift) well, suddenly this Backstory takes on relevance.

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