Return to Me
You’ve got Mail
Sleepless in Seattle
While you were Sleeping
These are just a few of the wonderful favorite romances listed over the My Book Therapy discussion board. And they all contain the 10 elements of a Romance I went over last week – here’s a quick review:
Boy Meets Girl – An event, goal or circumstance occurs to bring our hero and heroine together
Interest/Need – Something about their own situation makes their heart vulnerable to romance
Why Not – Obstacles between the hero and heroine, and True Love conspire to separate them
Wooing – Events or situations allow the hero and heroine to fall in love
Sparks – Dialogue and action create romantic tension
Kiss – Leading to sexual tension
Breakup – The biggest Why Not rises to push them apart
Why – The core reason they belong together saves the day
Big Gesture/Sacrifice – The Hero or Heroine are able to make the Big Gesture/Sacrifice to stay together.
Happily Ever After– They find the love they’ve always longed for.
All of these components occur in a great romance…but not necessarily in this order. What determines the pacing and flow of each of these elements? The answer is: the structure of your romance.
Is your romance a Why/Why Not? Or a Why Not/Why?
What do I mean?
There are two basic structures or story arcs to a romance – whether it’s a straight up romance, or a just a romance thread. This structure helps you to know where to insert the different components of your romance.
The first 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 is such a story. 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 is another example. The Why comes first – they 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. Why Not.
Let’s look at the other structure – the Why Not/Why stories.
Like…Sleepless in Seattle. These two 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 think 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. The Why.
Another great Why Not/Why romance is 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 often start with the hero and heroine. Then I assemble in my head a few of the components – 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. (because 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, gradually leading up to the kiss, before we get to the big sacrifice and the Why.
Think through your favorite movies – here’s some listed on the forum:
Kate and Leopold
A Walk in the Clouds
I’m a fan of analyzing story structure, so take your favorite romance, and figure out the story structure. Then, see if you can pinpoint the components and where they fall in the story arc. Finally, head over to Club Voices and share what you’ve learned. Every Voice Counts!
(and, don’t forget to head over to the brand new Voices Ezine! And check out all the great articles on writing craft, the fiction features and info on the industry!)
See you later this week – we’ll be talking more about story arcs and how to fit in the story components!