Recently, I penned my very first Sweet romance. ( I hate the new industry term clean romance because it makes all the others sound a little….dirty. Just saying. ) Can I just tell you how hard ( no pun!) it was for me to write that story, sans sex? And it wasn’t only the lack of sex that was difficult to leave out. It was the fact I couldn’t curse, and had to convey desire in ways that didn’t detail any kind of sexual physical reaction. You know: nipples hardening ( and other things!).
I have to admit it wasn’t easy. But it was a great exercise in writing because I had to figure out other ways to show the h/h were falling in love.
In the June 2018 edition of Romance Writers Report, Stacey Donovan, the director of Hallmark Publishing ( yes, that Hallmark!) and Rhonda Merwarth, a freelance acquisitions editor for Hallmark, wrote a detailed and valuable article titled, Fifty Ways to Show the Spark Without the heat about how to show chemistry between your characters while keeping it “chaste.”
Some of the best tips mentioned were:
1.Finding a quirk or flaw that endears one character to another. I love this tip because we all know there are weird and quirky things about our lovers that we simply adore.
2.An increased heart rate. This can be described or shown in so many ways, that I can’t believe it isn’t one of my regualr go-tos!
3.Disclosing something private or vulnerable to another. Lovelovelove this!! Can you see how valuable this is in building trust and allowing someone “in?”
4.taking extra care with grooming before meeting someone. Again, the heroine changes 16 times before she meets the hero for — whatever! The hero realizes his hair is in bad need of a barber. Clothing selection is key, too.
5. A grand gesture to demonstrate love. Le sigh. Don’t we all simply adore a grand gesture?? Think about the guy in the movie LOVE ACTUALLY who showed up at Kiera Knightly’s door and was holding all the cur cards. Or John Cusak with a boom box over his head.
6.Flushed cheeks/mouth going dry/ prolonged eye contact without words. All signify desire and want without throbbing, pulsing, or lengthening descriptions.
7. A brush of fingers, accidental at first, then purposeful. Can we just say, Pride and Prejudice?
You may think these things sound trite, but believe me, when you’re used to writing about body parts thrumming, cores quaking, and certain areas of the body growing….damp, these little examples are gems.
I actually had to dig deep and remember what it felt like to fall in love. Hey, what can I say: it’s been a while. I’ve known and loved my husband for 2/3 of my life and my memory isn’t what it used to be, peeps. When I explored the way I FELT falling in love with him, it was easier to picture any and all of the sensations mentioned in the article happening. And if I could experience it, so could my characters.
It will be interesting to see if my readers appreciate this physically scaled-down version of my romance writing. I’ll keep you posted once the book is released into the world.