No, I’m not talking about the Lady Gaga song. This week, I’m going to be wrapping up my series on the problems I have when it comes to writing and how I fix those issues (or at least make them easier to deal with). You can find part three here. This has been an interesting series for me, since it has really forced me to focus on the problems I have in writing and consciously look at how I resolve the issues, in addition to getting me thinking about what I don’t like to write about and why. I hope that these few posts have been helpful for you as well, whether or not you struggle with the same writing issues that I do. Anyway, let’s talk about writing romances.
Simply put: I hate it. Or rather, I hate writing about healthy romantic relationships. I just can’t do it. Every time I try to write dialogues or situations for a dating/married couple, it comes off as cliched and cheesy and completely unbelievable. It’s not because I have no experience in the matter…I’m in a very healthy relationship with a very wonderful guy and we’re both helpless romantics. I just can’t translate the essence of that relationship into words on a page, no matter how much I try. Consequently, all the relationships I do write about are dysfunctional, to say the least. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’ve written a sort of satire of my own shortcomings as an author, and the romance problem is one of the first things that I mock. Well written happy relationships are really not my thing. Every story I have with a romance in it usually has something wrong. Dead Flowers explores a happy relationship as it rapidly turns sour and painful (without the use of dialogue). The narrator in Words Between the Lines is dealing with the memories of past abuse and the pain of being abandoned by her lover. Things don’t end so well for the young married couple in Odd One Out. I think you’re starting to get the picture. To recap: when I write about romantic relationships, either something really bad happens to the two characters involved, or I write about things going wrong in that relationship. Every time I read a story with a couple in it to my friend Kat, she always says something at the beginning along the lines of “Poor things. I wonder what you’re going to do to them this time.” Try as I might, I cannot get a good, healthy relationship written in any of my stories. I guess it just goes along with why I don’t like writing happy endings to my works, only in this case, it’s not for lack of trying.
What do I do to fix this particularly unfortunate problem? Well….to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out a solution that will actually work for me. The closest I’ve come to resolving the issue is using examples from my own dating life. The problem seems to be that what is natural for me and my boyfriend in real life comes across as stilted on the page. I’ve actually come across very few people who write romance and write it well (Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers both did excellent jobs). So, I’m still rather stumped on this issue. If any of y’all have any suggestions, please let me know. I’m more than willing to listen to advice. Anyone else have any problems writing good romances?
2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Crazy Writer, Part 4: You and Me Could Write a Bad Romance”
My personal opinion, though I’m really shooting from the hip here, is not to make the romance the central item of the story. As someone who’s been happily married for 5 years now (but who doesn’t write much in the way of stories), the romance is better revealed in how the two people react to OTHER things. I really liked the romance between Zoe and Wash in Firefly. It isn’t thrust in your face, it doesn’t steal the spotlight, but you can tell that it’s happy, healthy, stable, and a little spicy.
I think what I’m saying is that a happy, healthy relationship isn’t an item in the story, it’s a part of the characters involved in it. You show the relationship through the characters and their actions, just like you would show any other aspect of the character.
Let me add to what Colin wrote. Forget about writing about “romance”. It is an idealized parody of the reality. Instead write about people who love in meaningful and persistent ways. Love does not avoid pain, it struggles with reality and puts up with a lot. Two people fighting hard through the vicissitudes of life and adding more souls to the family as they go on. They usually do this with family supporting them. The reality struggles of going to work and finding child care and making the hard decisions of life style isn’t thrilling but it is reality. Paying for college and retirement and vacations and the house and the grocery bills, the electric bills, etc. are the nuts and bolts of real life.
As a psychologist most of what you see in drama would, in reality, end up in my office. I deal with this stuff every day.