Why *Do* Fools Fall in Love?

DoggieSince it’s Valentine’s Day month, let’s talk about love and love scenes. As a reader, I have no preference for heat level in my romance. Bring it on sweet, spicy, or super hot. I’m happy with all of them, as long as I understand why the two characters get it on. I don’t mean just why they fall in bed together. I need to know why they fall in love with each other.

In his workshop Writing Romantic Comedies and Love Stories, Michael Hague explains that one of the biggest reasons romantic story lines fail is because there is no believable reason for the couple to fall in love, other than that the writer wants them to be together. I of course want my couples to fall in love madly and deeply, but in the first draft, I often struggle to show the reader why they do.  My natural style is to focus on the external conflict, which is great for driving the plot forward, but sucks in terms of showing tension between the hero and heroine.

One of the reasons I love Jane Porter’s books is because how well she builds and reveals the internal conflict and then use it to drive the tension between the couple. In her dialogue, what the characters say is often completely opposite of what they think. The tension lays thick on the page because you (the reader) know how the POV character struggles to reign in their emotions while the dialogue carries on as if nothing is amiss. For these same reasons, I love Lisa Kleypas’s historical romances and also because she writes independent and strong-willed heroines who defy the stereotypes of their time. A spunky and sassy heroine remaining true to herself despite the ton pressuring her to confirm to the norm and a hero defying society’s expectations of whom he should marry is my favorite type of historical high tension story.

Deborah Hale’s What to Pack in your Short Synopsis has helped me tremendously to plot the projectile of my couples’ love stories. I now write my synopsis using her questionnaire before I write the novel, usually somewhere around chapter three. In those first chapters, I get to know my characters, figure out the catalyst of their story, and then answer Deborah’s questions to intertwine the internal and external conflict and show how it strengthens their physical and emotional connection. Deborah’s also has an excellent article about Choreographing a Love Scene, where she uses the metaphor of how falling in love is like dancing, but extends it to what the writer’s role is:

In real life, lovemaking is a spontaneous give and take between partners, but when it takes place in the pages of a romance novel, the dance of love needs to be choreographed by the writer. If you’ve ever seen a choreographer at work, you know it can be a laborious, sometimes painful process. When done well, however, the result will appear flowing, effortless and beautiful.

So, sit down, let your fingers dance across the keyboard as you choreograph the steps, twirls, and dips necessary for your characters to fall in love for all eternity. Here are Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers in their very first TV appearance to help get you started.

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About Asa Maria Bradley

2016 Double RITA finalist, romance author, news junkie, physics instructor, and diver. Loves Norse mythology, ranch dressing, and cop shows. Lives with husband and rescue dog of indeterminate breed in Pacific Northwest. Represented by Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Writers about sexy modern-day Vikings. More at www.asamariabradley.com and @AsaMariaBradley.

Posted on February 20, 2014, in Auth: Asa Maria Bradley and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Yeah. Synopses. Ewwww! I have to put on my Nike hat and just do it!

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  2. So I’m like the third-wheel voyeur in the love scene. Assuming it’s just a two-person love scene to start with, of course! 🙂 No wonder love scenes are so hard to write!

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  3. Awesome post as usual, Bestie. I am better at the sex, but not the love with my characters. What does that say about me?! 😉

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  4. Great post Asa! I’ve written my synopsis like twenty times! Will definitely check out the links. Happy dancing!

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  5. Thanks for the links to Deborah Hale’s articles. I’m off to read them.

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    • I disovered her website through an RWA workshop I was listening to. I can’t remember what the topic was because Deborah’s website was mentioned as an aside about writing syllabi. It was one of those occasions where one hour of listening to something I can’t remember now gave total pay-off because of 30 seconds. 🙂

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  6. Great video clip – now I’m going to have that song stuck in my head all day 🙂
    Thanks for the awesome post and extremely useful links!

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  7. Must check out Deborah Hale’s choreography 🙂 And speaking of writing a synopsis, I do something similar pre-novel and, yes, it is like a mini-map to the plot/characters. The first drafts of the synopsis I write out in longhand as it helps me connect to the core of the story (in a way hammering it out on the keyboard just doesn’t). When you write your synopsis using the questions, do you get a more internal or external result? And any other tips for writing that first synopsis?

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    • I’m not a fan of longhand since I can type much faster, so I never use it for writing the actual book. When you mentioned doing it for the synopsis, it really resonated with me. I think I will do that next time. I kind of do it already in that I fill out my answers to Deborah’s question by hand, but I’d like to build on that to spend more time with my characters.

      I struggle with emotional/internal tension, so when I use the questions, that is what gets ramped up in my story. But, the questions address both external and internal conflict and points out that a plot point should advance both.

      On my website, I did a short blog about synopsis resources. Mostly because I was procrastinating actually having to write one–since it’s not one of my favorite things to do. Here’s the list of my favorite resources: http://asamariabradley.com/blog/2013/12/fun-with-synopses-a-collection-of-awesome-resources/.

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