Rules of (Fictional) Romance


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Valentine’s Day
might be over, but as every single girl knows real romance lasts all year. Or
at least as long as the Kindle battery remains charged.

Though I certainly
recognized when I was writing Unforeseen
that I had slipped in a romantic subplot, I was a bit surprised on
the day of its release to find it listed under the Gothic romance category on
Amazon. Brushing aside the fact that it’s not overly Gothic, there was the
absurd idea that I
had somehow
written a romance. We’re talking about the girl who as a preteen preferred the
death and gore of war stories to the lip-smacking drama of Sweet Valley High
. We’re talking about the woman who walked by the
romance section of Borders for years, giving the bodice ripping covers the same
condescending glare of repugnance that other readers save for comic books and
vampire novels. We’re talking about a sometimes bitterly single chick who has
bought herself Valentine’s Day gifts for the past three years. Now I’m writing
romance?

Since the book was
released, I’ve made some giant leaps into the world of romance reading. (It’s
all research, of course. I’m just doing my due diligence as a supposed author
of the genre.) I moved from reading only paranormal romance, to
holy-I-hope-that’s-not-normal romance (thank you, Fifty Shades
), to wow-I-wish-that-were-normal romance via the Outlander
series. After all this hard work,
I’ve come to some conclusions. One, I don’t write romance. I dabble in romance
while I’m writing other plotlines. Two, fictional romance has its own rules,
and they are not found in your grandma’s guide to dating etiquette. But they do
make for some spicy reading!

Here are the top five
rules to fictional romance.

Rule 1: Nobody’s easy. In
real life if you knew a woman who jumped into bed with a guy she met just hours
ago, you’d likely call your friends and whisper a few choice words about her, ‘easy’
being the most fit to print. In fictional romance, fast and furious is the way
to fall for a man. Don’t know his full name? Not sure what species he is?
Pretty sure he might have been stalking you? Perfect. Mysterious is
mind-blowing. It’s almost as good as a gun to your head, which leads us to…

Rule 2: Imminent death is
the best aphrodisiac.
If one or more person isn’t slated to die in the next
scene, what’s the sense in even having sex? In fact if bombs aren’t exploding,
enemies aren’t approaching, or illness is not about to suck the last breath
from your lover’s lips, than clearly now is not the time to be making love. Don’t
fret, though, if lover number one is safe for the time being, there’s always
lover number two, because…

Rule 3: One man is never
enough.
This makes sense, I suppose. Men spend endless hours planted on the
couch watching their favorite sports teams battle it out. Why? Because everyone
likes some competition. It’s that natural, survival-of-the-fittest instinct boiling to the surface, and it’s not only men who have it. Good fictional romance is the female
version of the Super Bowl. The two hottest teams are the male suitors, and the
heroine is the Vince Lombardi trophy—seriously, we’re relegated to trophy
status in nearly every one of these books, yet we keep devouring them. That’s
awful, but then every girl loves a (fictional) bad boy. In fact…

Rule 4: The badder, the
better.
In the world of the romance novel, you know you’ve found Mr. Right, if
everyone around you thinks he’s Mr. Wrong. Because clearly the people who have
known and cared about you your whole life are bound to be wrong when it comes
to one of the most crucial choices you have to make in life. If he’s a
criminal, he had good motive. If he’s cold and emotionless, it’s because he had
a hard childhood. It’s all okay, though, because…

Rule 5: People can change.
In reality, no woman ought to get it in her head that she can fix, train, or
otherwise change a man in order to mold him into perfection. In books, it’s not
only possible, it’s downright predictable! The tough guy will soften. The bad
guy will show his true, honorable colors. And the heroine who went through all
the crappy in-between stages to get him there, will live happily ever after
with her newly created Prince Charming.

And despite the fact those
of us reading these books in the real world know that this is not how it does,
or even should work, we still find ourselves reading these romances and
sighing, not in exasperation, as we should be, but in admiration of the
fictional men who’ve stolen our hearts and any common sense we ever had.

Damn, I wish I really
could write romance.

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Rules of (Fictional) Romance

  1. Good list. I am not an expert in romantic literature but the newish novel I’m working on does have something of a romantic subplot. It’s mostly told from the guy’s POV and they’re already together (but “rediscovering” one another throughout) so this might come in handy.

    Like

  2. Lauren's Blog

    Glad to be of help! Most of the romance I’ve read is from the woman’s pov, but JR Ward writes from the guy’s perspective quite a bit, if you’re looking to see how others have done it. Just be prepared…she likes it hot!

    Like

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