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Love Notes: Hitting the Right Ones

February 15, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , , , ,

It’s Valentine’s Day once again. Time to express our love, admiration and/or adoration with candy, flowers, and cards in colorful envelopes.
It is the card in a colorful envelope that makes me sweat. Over the course of thirty-five Valentine’s Days with my husband, I have penned every permutation of ‘I Love You’ that I can think of. Sitting with the yearly card in front of me, wishing it was already in the envelope, I was stumped. My mind wandered to the words we choose as authors to express love between our characters.
To that end, I took my favorite passage from Hostile Witness and analyzed why I found it sexy, deep and real. Every author is different, but here is here is how I believe I hit the right love notes between Josie and Archer in the Witness Series.*

HOSTILE WITNESS

Introduction of my characters’ relationship

Josie got out of bed and searched for her clothes. She found her muscle shirt and panties but the sweats and sports bra were missing in action. (Sure I could have said ‘naked’, but I liked that the action implied that. This passage felt sexy to me) She shimmied into what she had, glanced at the picture of Lexi, Archer’s dead wife, and then went looking for the man they shared. (This note creates an instant characterization of Archer as unafraid of commitment and Josie as a woman who honors his first love). She found him on the rooftop balcony, a perk of owning the building.

“Morning,” Josie walked up behind him and wound her arms around his waist. He was a big man; made her feel downright dainty. She loved the smell of his shirt. Starched and pressed by the man who wore it. (Archer is a guy who can fend for himself, something an independent woman would love. Josie’s note about his size making her feel dainty, tells us that she is not a small woman and that she doesn’t mind feeling feminine.)

“Don’t move,” he commanded.

Josie didn’t but only because she didn’t want to. (Josie chooses to do what her lover asks.) She held her breath, loving the feel of him when he was excited by what he saw through his lens. His gut tightened beneath her hands. A solitary muscle rippled. Quick like a snake. A click. He sighed with satisfaction and stood up slowly, surveying the beach once more before turning around to kiss Josie. (To me, a detail is very telling. Her notice of the one muscle rippling speaks to how familiar Josie is with her lover’s body.) She kissed him back just long enough for them both to be happy. (She cares about his needs). When she slipped out of his arms, he let her go. (He understands her.) No nonsense. No jealousy. No neediness. Respect. Affection. Comfort. Chemistry. It was the kind of relationship people who could take care of themselves did well. (Deep love in a nutshell).

Writing love scenes is as challenging as writing sex scenes. Sometimes they are one and the same, sometimes they aren’t. The way to create successful, believable relationships between characters is to ‘show’ their reality and shade a your character’s lives with the extra notes that provide a background to the more prominent melody.

The end result of communicating a fabulous fictional relationship should seem effortless despite all your hand work – just like real life love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

*Josie and Archer’s love has lived on for 4 books, the fifth is being written. I love lasting relationships!

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POKING DEAD THINGS: Confessions of a Romantically Challenged Author

February 15, 2011 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , , , , , ,

Rebecca Forster

A dear friend sent me a T-shirt for Christmas that declares, “I love poetry, long walks on the beach and poking dead things with a stick”.

I adore that shirt beyond reason because it so totally captures my outlook on romance. Poetry is okay if it rhythms, beach walks are good if it’s not too hot, but poking dead things with a stick rocks. Please do not take this literally*; realize this is a metaphor for my romantic soul.

All this brings me to the question of the (Valentine’s) day: why am I not romantic? More specifically, why the thought of poking things with a stick accompanied by the person I love is more romantic to me than walking on the beach in the moonlight with a poetry loving guy? Or even more precisely, as an author, why don’t I love writing about – well – love?

I began my career writing category romances. There were many things I liked about the genre – a clearly defined format, brilliant marketing, loyal and supportive readers – yet, when I tried to write sex scenes, I embarrassed myself (not to mention my mother). Worse, I agonized over whether I was doing it right. Good lord, I’d been married for years and had two children, you’d think I would know how to write about ‘IT’.

I tried writing more delicately about romance only to find myself disinterested. I never cared for whispered sweet nothings. I have a wee bit of trouble hearing and there’s nothing worse then asking to have a sweet nothing repeated. Longing looks make me nervous. I once dated a guy who liked to stare into my eyes and all I could think of was that game ‘blink’. I remember that guy didn’t blink and it freaked me out. Long walks are fine but inevitably I find myself hungry and cranky if the walk lasts too long.
How, I wondered, could my incredibly talented romance author friends pen multiple books a year, revel in the challenge of making characters fall in love again and again while I struggled to get my characters to their first kiss? Romances did not come trippingly off my tongue, I had no idea how to build delicious tension, my heart was challenged and therein was the problem. As much as I admired true romance writers, as much as I wanted to be one of them, my heart was different.
The final blow came when I was fired from romance writing by an editor who suggested I was cut out for something different. “You cannot,” he told me, “kill everyone before you get them into bed.”
He was right. I preferred a good murder, a fabulous stalking, an excellent mystery, an angst filled story. But did that preclude writing about romance? I think not. I believe every story needs to have a compelling relationship as part of the mix. So how could I satisfy my romantic heart and my thriller soul? The answer was simple. Romance writers had defined their romanticism; I had not defined mine.

For me, fictional romantic relationships were a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves. My characters fell in love so that the plot stakes would be higher. If you love someone and had to choose their life or yours then that made for great suspense but it also was the ultimate in romance.**
What turns me on as a reader is the same thing that excites me as a writer and intrigues me as a woman. I want to be invested in people with a sense of purpose, people who show their mettle in situations bigger than themselves. That kind of story sets my romantic nerves atinglin’. This take on romantic entanglements wasn’t bad it was just different than my romance-writing counterparts.
Once I gave myself permission to side-step the bedroom, I became a more fluid writer, character relationships grew from the plot and my storytelling took on a new spark. Now, when my characters fall in love it is because they have poked and prodded one another, talked through problems, worked together and, yes, poked dead things with a stick together. It is their inquisitiveness about the world around them, not their exclusive curiosity about one another that define my romantic parameters. Strangely, I find I write more realistic relationships now that I am comfortable with my own rules.

So, I confess, I will always find a body on the beach more exciting than a walk in the moonlight. I will always appreciate the quirky gift over a dozen roses; I will anticipate with bated breath the first kiss of two people who are caught in the crossfire more than two people headed for the bedroom.
The nice thing is that I know there are others out there who think like I do. There are honest-to-God-stick-carrying- dead-thing-poking- curiosity-seeking folk who will fall in love with the way I see love. When we pass our poetry-spouting- hand-holding- dreamy-eyed romantic counterparts on the beach they will smile, we will raise our sticks in greeting and all of us will be romantically satisfied in our own, very special, very unique way.
So, to all you writers, musicians, artists, husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends this Valentine’s day, poke something, walk somewhere, kiss the one you love or watch their back. However you decide to romance that someone special it will be perfect.
*Okay, literally. I do poke dead things with sticks when I find them but I don’t find them very often.

**Currently I am reviewing my romance and women’s fiction novels and find that, indeed, I had a glimmer of a romance writer in me. Dreams, Seasons, and my mother’s favorite, Rainbow’s End even brought a tear to my eye and I think a good cry is always romantic.
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