Storytellers use certain techniques to give their tales the most flavor and intrigue they can. The simple turn of a phrase, the order in which they divulge information, how the five senses are employed through the showing and telling of the story, are all ways writers tell a tale.
It’s no different, I feel, with a romance story.
How do your characters meet? Do they already know one another from their pasts? Are they friends of friends? Co-workers? Or do they glance across a Dunkin Donuts and see one another for the first time?
What past experiences have influenced how they see their present lives and how they deal with the people surrounding them? Are they receptive to love at this time, or do they shun it? Why?
Does one partner “fall” faster than the other, and if so, is it revealed or kept hidden?
Little physical nuances the characters show around one another and with no one else, provide clues to how fast and hard they are falling.
Now, take those characters, their backstories, and their present emotions, and weave a romance story around it.
It sounds a great deal easier to do than it really is. While many critics say romance stories are formulaic and predictable, there is nothing predictable about falling in love. Every human is different in how they think, react, emote, and live. It stands to reason the way they each fall in love is individual as well. A master storyteller is able to divine those differences, have the characters equipped with tools to overcome them, and create a happy ending for all involved.
In Pride and Prejudice, my all time favorite romance story, Elizabeth and Darcy fall for each other in totally divergent ways. You can see he is instantly attracted to her as a woman, but her station in life makes it hard for him to admit it to himself or anyone else. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Elizabeth despises him for most of the book. It is only when he reveals his true, kind self during the Wickham/Lydia incident, does she really get to know the person he is and her heart quite literally turns over for him. The obstacles they face of class difference and family connections make it a difficult road to happily ever after, but in the end, their love for one another helps them overcome these seemingly insurmountable problems.
Austin was a master storyteller in the way she doled out information about her characters to the reader. She shows Darcy, arrogant and haughty in his words and actions towards the Bennett family, so much so that most readers don’t like him for the first hundred pages or so. But when his softer, loving side is revealed in how he deals with his sister, we get a better feel of the true man he is. When Elizabeth is allowed to view this side of him, her heart begins to soften.
A true and gifted storyteller is able to make you think the hero and heroine will never get together, never be able to overcome the obstacles in their paths, never find that proverbial road to everlasting happiness. This is the old fashioned basis and tagline for a romance: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. When the hero and heroine finally make it to the last pages, the reader is rewarded doubly. First, with their hoped for happily ever after ending, and second, with the knowledge and satisfaction of watching two people struggle and yet still come out on top in the love department. This is the essence of a fabulously written romance.
Remember what it felt like when you fell in love for the first ( and hopefully last ! ) time. What was your story? A fast fall, or a slow, subtle buildup? Where you friends first? Co-workers? Committee members? Were you set up or did you meet by happenstance? All these little factors make your love story different from every other one, and THAT is the true process of a well written romance.
Check out how two pair of my H/H Fell in love.