This week: Drama’s Role in Romantic FictionEdited by: Joy
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“When I told you I didn't want you it was the blackest kind of blasphemy”
Stephenie Meyer, New Moon
“Who, being loved, is poor?”
Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance
“The way her body existed only where he touched her. The rest of her was smoke.”
Arundhati Roy, The God Of Small Things
“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking."
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
“You and I, it’s as though we have been taught to kiss in heaven and sent down to earth together, to see if we know what we were taught.”
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
Hello, I am Joy , this week's drama editor. This issue is about drama and romance.
Thank you for reading our newsletters and for supplying the editors with feedback and encouragement.
Welcome to the Drama newsletter
Drama happens when a story or play is intense, exciting, striking or vivid, and yet, within the confines of its characterization, setting, and plot. When drama is exaggerated out of those confines, it turns into a melodrama, which means the work is unreasonably sappy. A good romance story is built on emotion and drama, but there are always other emotions at work besides romance and love. Varied emotions can add realism to a love story as well as enhancing the drama in it.
A romantic story can be written so perfectly that it fills the hearts of the writer and the readers or it can be written in a way so flagrantly commercial that both the editors and the readers can’t wait to dump the story or jump to the next chapter. Most of the time, these scenarios happen when the characters or the plot or both are clichés.
Most of my favorite novels and movies have strong romances in them while being powerful dramas, like Jane Eyre, Outlander, The Horse Whisperer, Wuthering Heights, Water for Elephants, Cold Mountain, etc. This is because romance is a part of any human relationship. In fact, during the latter stages of 2017 NaNo Prep, a few of us kept wondering why our characters were obstinately veering toward a romantic relationship, although we hadn’t planned any romance inside our stories at the beginning.
The essentials of a romantic story are quite similar to those that any good story demands, and the list begins with good characterization. So, let’s take a look at those essentials.
• Characters: As writers, we need to get to know them well and always keep their personalities in mind. Most romance characters do not have to be alpha males or sexy, alluring females. They can be average people who may feel uplifted when they find soulmate or a love interest. They certainly do not have to be perfect. It is a good idea to use the love scenes especially for pointing out the traits or quirks of the characters inside them.
• POV: We need to choose well from whose stance the story will be told. Although both partners’ points of view are sometimes used in the same scene by some romance writers, they run the risk of confusing and perhaps annoying the readers. This certainly doesn’t add to the drama. It is always a good idea to stick to one point of view in one scene. If we want to show both partners' take on a love scene, we might have one of them think or dream about it later in another scene.
• Conflict: This is the core of the romance-drama fiction. Conflicts in romance sometimes consist of mistakes, hidden agendas, misinformation, misunderstandings, or the input from secondary characters. A conflict has to be believable, and it has to be able to sustain the story from beginning to end. It must also be powerful, not like a simple jealousy or any cliché Capulet-Montague or Cinderella situation. The conflict has to keep the lovers apart in some way until the end. In addition, the inner conflicts need to be solved before the central one.
• Plot and Scenes: An interesting, compelling plot that can appeal to a lot of readers is a must. In that plot, story characters have backstories just as everyone in real life. We mustn't dump those backstories on the reader all in the same breath. Rather enter them into the story slowly by making characters discover things about each other along the way. Scenes make up the plot with each scene working toward the advancement of the plot. Then, characters themselves should decide the level of intimacy they wish to show the readers, and the heart of the romance should be based on the emotional bond between the partners. Sex scenes, if included, should point to that bond, always. They shouldn’t be written in a story for the sake of sex or for the word count. Neither should they be overly sentimental or titillating. I, therefore, suggest, when we write such scenes, we stick to what we are comfortable writing so our words do not sound forced.
• Dialogue: We need to be very careful with the dialogue. For example, the declaration of “I love you” is considered cliché by many editors. Instead, referring to it in some other innovative way can work better, as Anna Proulx writes in Brokeback Mountain, “I wish I knew how to quit you” or Chekhov says in The Seagull, “If you ever have need of my life, come and take it,” or Jane Austen writes in Persuasion “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late…” Also, we mustn’t forget to put a little humor or wit into the dialogue to make it more appealing and realistic to the readers.
• Setting: An interesting setting can add to a good story. We must make sure we develop or research that setting well, be it in a fantasy world or a crowded city or on a desolate beach. Using the five senses in incorporating the feel of the setting into the make-up of the story will enhance the enjoyment of the novel; however, avoid florid or overly descriptive writing in general. Plus, make the setting unique, not an overly used one like a front porch with the full moon above.
Then, when all is said and done, these are only suggestions, and we must figure out for ourselves what best suits our writing.
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day, WdC!
The author of the book, Waiting Room, is Winnie is thankful :)
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This Issue's Tip: Subtext is when the characters don't say what they really want. It is based on desire and plan. Using too much subtext in a scene will not work toward showing maximum conflict because subtext pulls back the action.
Feedback for "Keep That Plot Moving"
Wow, thank you for that excellent list of plot ideas to keep/make things interesting! I tend to focus on characters, and sometimes my plots are too predictable or move along at a pretty plod. Your tips are definitely going on a sticky note for me.
Thanks for the feedback. I think of characters first, too, but plot ideas can help when we have a deadline like in NaNo. I put together an in-and-out item. "Invalid Item" I'll add to it when I come across new tips and would appreciate very much if others would add to it, too.
Thanks for a great NL. I printed out your tips for reference! Awesome reading list too!
Glad you liked it. Thanks for the feedback.
Editing is BLUE
I'm printing this out and pasting it to my computer/work book. Although I already knew this, I like the way you presented it in a way that's easy to follow and line up my scenes. I have many writing books, some better than others. I recently picked up a WD book Troubleshooting your novel by Steven James. Short segments to follow to make sure I'm doing exactly what you said. However I'm writing the book with this in mind, not editing it. We'll see how it works.
Best wishes with the book.
I try to let go of any how-to-knowledge during the first draft. Great if you can apply what you know, though.
Elfin Dragon - poetry fiend
Thank you for this particular newsletter. It helped me verify that I may need a little more action/dialog in my first few chapters. And also that my first few chapters can be ok as they are if needed. You're right about introducing readers to a fantasy world with a type of backstory. Showing them the kind of world the main character lives in. My problem is I have to do so by cutting out some of the descriptive aspects, or add in more action/dialog. I'm takin the "Reeling in Your Readers" course so I know I'll get there.
Yes, the first few chapters need to hook the readers. That is why they may need more action and dialog.
Thanks for your feedback and best wishes with your writing.
Aw, thank you for featuring my story in this week's newsletter, Joy
My pleasure, Shannon.
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