Sep 16, 2011

My AWESOME Guest . . . Shelly Brown

Shelly Brown is in love and is happy that way. She likes it when others can feel of that euphoria for themselves and writes happily-ever-after endings for that reason. She spends way too much time on her silly blog Writing with Shelly and chatting with cool people online, just like Kip. Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+

**Note from Christine: I asked Shelly for a "headshot" and she sent me the picture at the left. It's of her and her husband. Well, the lower part of them, anyway. LOL
Four Hot Tips for Sweet Romance
(even if it’s just a subplot)
At the LDStorymakers Conference in May 2011 Sarah Eden (Courting Miss Lancanster) presented on romance in novels. A lot of what I am going to share with you today came from her. If you ever get the chance to take a class from her (like say next years LDStorymaker’s Conference), DO! She’s hilarious and comes highly recommended.
Romance: The Basics:
Girl meets Boy. Eventually they fall in love and have a happy ending. (At least modern readers insist upon a happy ending. Perhaps there are too many unhappy endings in our own lives right now that we don’t want to read about them in our spare time.)
The Story Question: Will they end up together?
Story Answer: Yes! Always, yes.
This is what stretches the romance writer’s imagination: figuring out how to make your love story original when it has the same story question and answer as everyone else’s.
If this is not your STORY question, but one of the elements to your book, then you would not fall under the genre of romance, but that’s cool. All the info below is just as relevant to romantic subplots.

The Four Tips

#1 He’s so hot- I’m so hot- What could be more perfect?
There is not much depth to this connection…probably because there’s not much depth to these characters (honestly, when was the last time you ran into someone who thought that they were ‘so hot’ and found them ‘deep’?)
Even if they are rocket scientists, there is not enough conflict in their relationship if the connection is based purely on looks. Where is the growth? Where is the challenge? Where is the emotional connection?
Confession: I do admit that I still watched Saved by the Bell, when Zach and Kelly were nothing more than what I am describing. But their relationship was shallow and we all knew it. (That is until the episode where she broke up with him and I cried)

#2 Weak source of conflict
You’ve all see that sit-com--the one where the hero saw the heroine hugging her ex-boyfriend and the whole episode is based on him being furious with her and her confused. Then at the end she tells him that her ex-boyfriends father died and she went over with flowers to tell him that she was sorry about his father. A half of an hour you’ll never get back, all because those people wouldn’t talk to each other.
Or worse yet, the 1½ hour film, based on her reading a note that the hero wrote to his secretary. She thought it was sexy, but it was really just a to-do list. At the end she FINALLY says something and the whole thing is cleared up. You, on the other hand, have been yelling at your television for an hour, “JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER!”
Can you imagine spending HOURS on a book with this transparent a conflict?
If your fight can be solved in one page of dialogue, it’s too weak. If it is the kind of problem that is purely based on a misunderstanding, you might want to consider creating a deeper conflict.

#3 Kaboom- We’re in love!
We love to be strung along. Relationships that happen too fast at the beginning of a novel have few places to go. What are we still reading for? The story question is answered.
Relationships that wrap up smack in the middle are easy to put down.
Relationships that are slowly built up through the whole book, with ups and downs, are beautiful things. When we get to the end and it worked out just as we hoped (the hero and heroine are together) then it is emotionally satisfying. And isn’t that why we’re reading romance?
Confession time: I enjoy watching television shows with some good romantic tension (romance is always a subplot to the shows I watch- no soap operas for me) but I’ve stopped watching more than one show a few episodes after the couple got together. The other parts of the plot weren’t strong enough to keep me as a viewer. Has this ever happened to anyone else?
How many readers do you think Suzanne Collins would have lost in The Hunger Games books if Katniss had gotten together with (put your least favorite suitor here) in the middle of Catching Fire? Was the romance the main plot? No. Would a lot of people have quit reading in protest? You better believe it!

#4 It is all about how much they LOVE each other and nothing else
This is what I call ‘estrogen soaked’ romance, and it makes me vomit in my mouth. Very few people can handle glaze-eyed, sighing lovers all the time. Not in real life. Not in novels.
This ties into the above point about stringing us along. There is a popular book series that I stopped reading because the couple got together. I don’t want to read a WHOLE book about her feeding him popcorn and him sweeping the hair out her eyes. GAG! Especially in first person. DOUBLE GAG!
So what can be done?
Conflict! Put something in between them. People, beliefs, disease, culture, habits, friends, fears, miles, etc. Even better put more than one something between them.
Humor! Is anything more awkward than falling in love? You are so stupidly vulnerable. Set your characters up as people with quirks. I have never met anyone who did not have a quirk or two. Throw in a fish out of water, a cheesy pick-up line, a situation that they can’t get out of without looking stupid, and then just run with it! Learn to love the awkwardness of love. Laugh at it, laugh with it. Otherwise you run the risk of having a damsel tied to the train tracks with a mustache-twisting villain. Yes, I’m talking about melodrama. duh, duh, dun!-

Love is a fun part of this world we live in and can be a fun part of the story you’re writing. Best of luck to all of you and thanks for hosting me, Christine.

**Another note from Christine:  Thanks for being my guest, Shelly. 
I LOVE romance and this was a great reminder on how to write it.


  1. Great post! All those things can drive me nuts too . . . especially the non-communication one. :)

  2. These tips are perfect :) I also love the idea the "hot" is not an emotion.

  3. Great information (and reminder since I took the class, too), Shelly (and Christine by default since it your blog).

    I love the picture of your and your hubby. I thought it was cute before but even more so now that I know it's you. So, really. When are you going to "come out"?

    I talk a little on my blog today about the bad rap romance gets as a genre. Ugh.

  4. The photo is adorable, even with no heads! It looks like art. :)

    All the romance writing tips- very cool! I {heart} Sarah Eden!

  5. Thanks Shelly and Christine! I really liked this - you've so succinctly pointed out all the issues I generally have with romance novels, which is why I generally prefer to read books that have a romantic subplot instead. I have found a few romance gems out there, though, and funnily enough, the authors have all taken this advice!! Lol...

  6. Number two bugs me too! So frustrating. Thanks for the great tips!

  7. What a fun post :) I love the "head shot" too!

  8. Great post! Like Shelly, I hate it when the couple gets together too soon. Sometimes it's all about the "will-they-won't-they."

  9. Fun and useful pointers! I'm writing a romance short story and it's my first delve into the genre!

  10. Thanks to everyone for your wonderful comments. And a special thanks to Shelly. It was fun getting to know you better.

  11. great post! even tho i'm not a romancy type, i like it sometimes and need advice on working it in my wip =)

  12. This is a great illustration of the dos and don'ts. :)
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  13. All the things you listed, are reasons I would put a book down. Falling in love is funny, and awkward, and has great potential to be something amazing. Thanks for great tips.

  14. Thanks Christine for the opportunity.

    @Donna- I've said it before, I'll say it again, "500 followers on my blog" (this is called a stall technique ;)

    Thanks everyone for the kind words. Hopefully there was something in there for you to think about and mull on for a while.

  15. #5--If all else fails, add a sparkely vampire to your novel.


    Awesome post, woman! You've earned yourself a new staalker. (Be afraid!)

  16. Thank you, thank you! This is completely spot on. Cheesy, cheap love in books is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves, yuck.

  17. I agree wholeheartedly! I can't stand those ridiculous trumped up misunderstandings. And no, you definitely don't want the couple discussing their relationship all the time. They ought to *do* things! And not just in the bedroom...

  18. This was a really good post. I mis-spent much of my high school (and I'll admit it: college, too) days reading Silhouette romances. Talk about tired plots. They're all the same! Switch the names, to jobs, the location. Meet cute, fall for each other, date, big misunderstanding, usually because they're in opposition to each other in their careers - like he's the evil banker going to foreclose on her farm, which she is trying desperately to save. Break up. Run into each other again, solve big misunderstanding, live happily ever after. Yuck.
    I now enjoy mainstream fiction where you find a lot romantic sub-plots.
    One last thing - ditching the romantic tension and letting them get together at last usually spoils the show. It's like jumping the shark...
    Tina @ Life is Good
    P.S Thanks for stopping by. I'm your new follower! (That's to both Christine and Shelly)