Over on her blog, authoress Rachel Coker recently talked about her reasons for including romance in her novel Interrupted, due to release in February. And, interestingly enough, they were pretty much the reasons that prompted me to do the same with The Soldier's Cross. Originally I resisted the idea of having there be any romance connected with the main character; I didn't want my story to end up being just another romance under the Christian label. But in the end I did it - and not because I knew readers would want that element and that they would hate me if the book didn't have a happy ending. There was in fact one basic reason behind my decision: a writer cannot leave his or her main character at the same place in the end as they were in the beginning. This is especially true for female protagonists like Fiona, who start out the story alone and vulnerable - "uncovered" in the biblical sense of having no male protection. If you leave your character in this position at the end, you leave questions unanswered.
Perhaps one reason why some writers balk at the thought of bringing romance into their stories is that they think of it in its stereotypical form. The hero meets the heroine, there is immediate attraction but seemingly insurmountable obstacles, lots of tension and angst and butterflies in the stomach, the obstacles suddenly give way, hero marries heroine and they live happily ever after. This is the usual formula for romance novels (there are, after all, only six plots in the world) and it is no wonder that some writers shy away from it. I even read a novel a while ago where a character stated that it is impossible for anyone to be in love if they don't have the usual butterflies. But the fact of the matter is that this is not how romance has to play out, especially in novels where it is not the focus of the plot.
Take, for instance, Rosemary Sutcliff. Many or most of her novels deal primarily with themes of friendship, duty, and honor, and yet she also incorporates romance in a refreshing way. Instead of coming packed with angst and emotion, the romance between the young man and the young woman is often more implicit than explicit. The reader is given to understand that the characters love each other; no great show is needed. In Sutcliff's novel Simon, the protagonist only needs to be with the girl in a few scenes for it to be clear that there is an understanding between them, which Sutcliff then establishes in the end.
There are without a doubt wrong ways of bringing romance into a story - too many to list. But there is no one right way of doing it, as evidenced by Sutcliff's approach; she did not tread the well-worn path of romance, and in the end she produced a much more realistic take on love than is usually found in fiction. Every couple in real life is different, and couples in novels ought to be different as well. At the outset ignore, as best you can, the popular or classics romances of fiction, even such enjoyable ones as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet or Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre. Consider your hero and your heroine, who they are, how they think, and how they emote. Think about backstory and how it might affect the manner in which they love. Are they the type to love passionately or to love quietly? Does the romance need to be blatant, or can it be a quiet understanding? If you are writing historical fiction, don't dismiss the cultural norms or forget how the people would have acted. If you're writing fantasy, remember that every culture has those norms and try to incorporate them. There are so many variables to take into account, and these are what will make the romance unique.
There was an anxious strain in her voice, though she was evidently trying to conceal it, and it sent a warm, almost lazy contentment through Tip like the sunshine he had been dozing in. She did care, and though the thought did not thrill him as her kiss had, it pleased him—and somehow that was more satisfying.
- the white sail's shaking
- the white sail's shaking