A. Catherine Noon here, wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day. When I was preparing my list of topics for the party, I got to thinking about romance – not because it’s Valentine’s Day, per se, but because we are all romance writers and readers, and this is the Romance Studio, after all!
In writing novels, what determines the genre used to be a purely marketing distinction, so that stores knew where to put stuff so readers could find it. Traditionally, we had fiction, mystery, science-fiction/fantasy, Westerns, and romance. What made something a mystery is that something happened, and the characters needed to find out what. Typically it was a murder or a crime of some kind; after all, not all of Poirot’s targets were killers – though many were. Mystery is unique in terms of plotting, because rather than going A to Z, it goes Z, and then A to Y – where Z is the crime. We usually see what happens, and then spend the rest of the story finding out who did it. Science-fiction involves science in some aspect of plot resolution. Fantasy involves magic and sometimes magical creatures. (I’m generalizing here for brevity; otherwise this post would be as long as a book.) Westerns took place in the American frontier and sometimes had a blend of other genres, most often mystery and romance. And then there’s romance. I won’t bore you by telling you what your favorite genre entails, except to say this: a romance involves people falling in love, and that falling is material to the resolution of the plot. By that definition, it was pointed out to me once, even Doctor Zhivago is a romance.
So how is this relevant to my point today? It’s this: if we got our characters together the same way, every time, there wouldn’t be any point to reading the romance. I mean, yeah, there’s The Sex. But typically, (not always), romance readers want relationship drama. I love me some good angst, for example. That’s great and all, but what do you do if you’re writing a romance and you have two people and you have to get them together, but there’s this other drama going on (the Russian bears are gonna attack, say, or maybe it’s the Brazilian jaguar shifters).
This is where The Date comes in.
It never occurred to me when I started writing romance novels that I’d need to become, essentially, a dating expert. Now, don’t look at me like that; I can’t fix up anyone with anyone else’s maiden aunt. (Believe me, I’ve tried; with my track record, you’d be better off not taking any of my advice in that arena, my friend. But I digress.) What I mean is, I have had to try and figure out more ways to have a fun date than any two people I know.
Believe me. I asked them both.
But this is the internet, which is the fount of all knowledge. (What? A troll told me that just this morning. You don’t think he’s lying, do you??) If it’s on the internet, it must be true. Google is my friend. I’ve asked it for good vegetarian restaurants, dogsledding trips, mystery dinner theater, ghost tours, horseback riding stables in the city, museum tours, the zoo, and more. Then the challenge is just figuring out what kinds of things would interest the character on whom I’m working at the moment: is he a surf and turf guy? Is she a hiker? Does he have a dog and therefore would love a good dog park? (I’m told dogs are babe magnets…)
So what about you, Dear Reader? What’s your favorite book date?
– E.E. Cummings
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