Spark It Up
Is your book dry and old?
Spark it up with some romance.
No, not the Romance Genre.
I’m thinking about how to add a romantic thread to a story in whatever other genre the book belongs in. So I’m inflicting my thoughts on you.
First, your reader needs to be introduced to the characters you’re planning to have attracted to each other. And like any foreshadowing, their names need to come up early, and get mentioned a few times.
The Characters have to notice each other. They don’t even have to be introduced to each other right away, but they do need to meet fairly early in the book. A bit of attraction and or repulsion immediately is a good thing.
Now since this isn’t a romance, it needs a lot of other story elements, a murder to solve, an evil plot to foil, an Alien space empire to negotiate trading rights with, the five magical talismans to find. Whatever. These soon-to-be-love-struck people need to encounter each other, either to help each other or to beat the other one to the prize.
Now while they’re running around doing things, they need to learn to respect each other, and gradually understand the other.
If they’ve been at odds, something that causes them to need to work together as partners is always useful to edge toward friendship.
To get over the final hump, it helps if the pair have been admiring each other’s bodies for a while. You need a little titillation, some sparks, good old fashioned lust.
And please, a bit of humor!
The genre and subgenre pretty well determines what happens after the first kiss. Or fiftieth. The reader expectations as to the amount of sex and whether it’s behind closed doors or right there on the page (with unlikely flexibility, endurance, shooting stars, and screaming orgasms) needs to be considered.
Ditto marriage proposals.
Or someone riding off into the sunset, leaving a broken heart behind.
Or one or the other might die.
Happens. Might be needed for the plot. This is a lot like a romance novel, but the actual focus of the story is not the romance. The romance is extra. A secondary thread. Hence the possibility of not having a Happy Ever After.
Okay. Now having pontificated on the subject, I’m going to look at one of mine. It’s got two romances in it. The two men get the most page time, but the two women are also POV characters. 354 pages, 125K words, so a good sized novel.
Mystery Man shows up on page 2. The reader knows who he is, from the start. The second man, I’ll call him the Cop, but he’s actually now a hotshot analyst, reports to the president and so forth. Page 4.
On page 22, the Cop meets the Ice Princess, a presidential security agent, and is immediately attracted.
On page 33, we meet the Ditsy Sexpot. It’s an act, she’s also presidential security. The two women spot the Mystery Man. Comments are made, physique is admired.
Okay 10% into the novel and all the romantic people have assembled.
So, all kinds of story stuff, with the Cop suspecting the Mystery Man of criminal activities, presidential security checking MM out because he’s regularly in the same venue as the president’s daughter. So the Cop and the Ice Princess are regularly working together and she starts defrosting.
The Cop kisses the IP on page 95. About 25% of the way in.
Conflicts, disasters, rescues . . . Mentions of politics and conflicts and whether or not to invade another world . . .
Okay, everyone finally gets together on page 155. So the Ditsy Sexpot can chase the MM, who declines to be caught.
More investigations of MM. Frustrated Ditsy can’t get anywhere, but is showing signs of liking and . . . mistrust.
The Cop and the Ice Princess finally hop in the sack on page 225. Behind closed doors, as it’s not that kind of story. 60% through the story.
Page 289 before the Ditsy Sexpot get the MM into bed, but he’s just distracting her from her investigations. 80% of the page count, but clearly not a resolved romance.
Then the big final scene where the Cop realizes that MM is not a criminal, he’s a spy from the world they’re planning to invade. And this enemy is currently at a big party at Government House, with the President. He rushes there only to run head on into an attempt to assassinate the president by a rival political faction. Mystery Man saves the president after the Ditsy Sexpot takes a bullet.
And . . . you know this sounds pretty good, but it was complete chaos to write.
MM was supposed to fall for the Ice Princess. But when they met on page, it was with complete indifference. When she was kill saving the president it was “shame, nice lady.” The SOB had no skin in the game.
The Cop and the Ice Princess just sort of happened.
The Ditsy Sexpot was forcibly inserted into the book, an “afterthought” that worked out really well, from start to finish. And then MM went on strike until I rewrote the end and let her survive.
Catching things like a character’s lack of emotional commitment to much of anything is one of the reasons I analyze my stuff after I’ve written it. I’ve been known to outline it, and/or map it out and compare it to the Hero’s Journey.
And I listen to my subconscious about who ought to be falling in love with whom.
And who I let live.
The last scene, with Ditsy in the hospital, and MM dropping by gets regularly mentioned as readers’ favorite bits in a series that’s gotten seriously out of hand.
100%. Ended the book on an emotional high point.
So when writing a romance into your novel, listen to your heart, and make it a good romance.
And if you want to read the whole thing, after all the spoilers: