Oh-oh. Grandma’s got a challenge ahead of her. First of all, I’ve never written a romance. Oh, I’ve read plenty of them in my day, but I have to confess, that genre is not typically my favorite. I generally prefer adventure/mystery/”thinking” type books. Second, I am writing “Christian” books, for young people and I want to keep them exciting but very, very innocent. G-rated. You don’t find many romances along that vein these days. Third, I’m getting old. Can I still remember back to the good old romantic days of my youth? (Okay, I’m just kidding about that point—I’m not that old!)
Anyway, I’m still in the early stages of the book and I’ve discovered a few techniques that are working well so far in keeping the story interesting, innocent and yet hopefully romantic enough to suit my teen-aged granddaughter. These techniques would work well in just about any genre, I think, but are especially useful to me in keeping within the parameters of the “rules” I’ve set down for myself. The “rules” include no kissing on the lips or other physical contact. Pretty hard to write a romance without some show of affection, right? Okay, so I’ve allowed hand-holding and a chaste kiss on the hand or two. Having the story set in medieval times makes that a bit easier.
There are two sides to any novel—the emotional story and the physical plot. The emotional story is what makes the reader care about the characters; it’s what makes them want to keep reading to find out what happens to them. The physical plot is the action that keeps the story moving along. Both are necessary if the author wants to hook and keep the reader. The problem with a lot of romance novels, in my opinion, is that they are heavy on the emotions and light on the plot. The only “action” tends to be the physical relationship between the hero and heroine. That is a problem for me when I don’t want a lot of physical interaction in my very innocent, G-rated romance novel.
What to do, then? How do I write a romance with enough of a love interest to satisfy my young reader without going beyond my self-imposed boundaries? I made the decision first of all, before I even started the actual writing, that although my romance novel would predominantly be a love story, with lots of emotion attached, it would also have to have plenty of adventure and mystery woven into the plot in order to keep the story moving. I want lots of action—heart-pounding action, that is—not heart-throbbing action!
Once that decision was made, I had to determine different ways to keep the romance alive throughout the entire length of the book. Without a lot of physical, romantic “action,” would the story get a bit stale, maybe even repetitive and boring? I thought of a few strategies to keep that from happening. In the first four chapters of the book I have kept the characters physically apart, but dreaming and thinking of each other. This only works because, in this case, the characters already knew each other but had not seen one another in many years. I am happy with the way I wrote those scenes. They’re not overly saccharine-sweet, but they are romantic enough. Reading them would set the young girl’s heart a-flutter, and yet they are not suggestive or titillating. There is some mystery involved in those thoughts and dreams, also. Hopefully she will want to keep reading to find out what happens when they finally do meet again.
Another way to keep the story moving while I am still setting the scene is to change the perspective from one main character to the other. The first two chapters were written from the hero’s point of view. I switched then and wrote chapters three and four from the heroine’s perspective. Somewhere in chapter five they will finally meet again and the narrative will return to the hero’s viewpoint. Changing the perspective will help keep the story fresh and interesting when there is not a lot of physical action going on. This technique would work well in just about any genre.
I am just beginning chapter five. I’ve already hinted at a romance, and also planted the seeds of two mysteries to come. (There will be more, of course!) There has already been a lot of emotion. The groundwork has been laid and now it is time to get some real action going. I try always to start with at least a general outline in my head and/or on paper, but what actually happens remains to be seen. Will I be able to write a good, clean romance and keep the story moving with mystery and adventure? We’ll see. Stay tuned!