I didn’t set out to write a paranormal romance, you know. I was just writing a story about a woman who had inherited an unusual job. The soul-mate part didn’t come into play until about Chapter 8 and by then, the interaction between Herta and Turan was set. I didn’t know how it would turn out. I still don’t, but that’s another topic.
How do you write a romance that isn’t overly mushy, as my kids would say, or overly graphic? Very carefully, I think. I don’t hold that every detail of a physical encounter needs to be documented. When I’m reading a romance, I like to know what the characters are thinking and feeling, not necessarily a graphic description of what they’re doing. After having two kids, I think I have that part figured out.
So what makes a romance romantic? Actions are part of the formula, yes, but they don’t have to be about sex. Little things, like holding doors open, or walking on the outside of the sidewalk, gentlemanly things, are the key. Your male lead doesn’t have to be a perfect gentleman but he does have to show that he thinks about the female lead in ways other than purely physical. They have to have mutual respect for each other.
Thoughts are important in a romance, too. When you’re in love, or romantically involved with a person, you’re in a vulnerable state. Everything the other person says and does affect you. Let your readers know the doubts and reasons for the decisions your characters make. Show, don’t tell, that your characters are vulnerable and uncertain. It makes them seem more real to the reader.
My main problem is that I’m a bit on the cynical side. I don’t believe in love at first sight anymore. I believe that people have to be friends before they can be lovers. There has to be trust in a relationship before you can bare body and soul to another person. And I’m not a trusting person.
They say “write what you know”, but you can write about what you don’t know with some degree of success. I don’t know how a successful relationship is built personally, but I can act it out, so to speak, with Turan and Herta. I use people I’ve known as models for Turan and Herta’s arrangements and thoughts. I can make educated guesses, based on what I already know about relationships. I can read how other authors have dealt with their relationship difficulties. Ideas for solutions come from any number of sources. You can take those ideas, make them your own and write from there.
The original model for Chapter 4 came from a television series I was watching at the time I was writing the story. I was in lust with the main character of the series and, without thinking, incorporated him into the story. I got lucky. My story still made sense. It could just as easily have gone the other way and sounded like I was sticking a character in without reason. Mind you, it’s taken me four books to get some of the characters sorted out, so I may not be a good example of how to write romances. There’s just so much more to the topic than meets the eye.
There are too many levels, physical, mental and spiritual, for love to be defined by one story, by one type of writing. There is room in the genre for many types of love stories, many types of love, from platonic friendships to to-die-for love. Every story has a place for one of those types of love, but it doesn’t have to be called a romance. Write your characters’ stories and let them decide if there’s to be a romance.