How to create the romance in your story

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When I was in college, my friends and I would pass around romance novels to each other on the sly, hoping our English teachers wouldn’t spot us reading these juicy novels and give us a hard time. Romance novels were generally considered trashy although no teacher expressly told us not to read them. They were probably happy that we were reading something at least. I did move on to other genres and I love reading crime and mystery but romance was my first love.

So, when I started writing, it seemed natural that I would bring romance into most of my books, albeit unwillingly. (The English Literature student in me was constantly looking over my shoulder.) Now that I am willingly a romance writer, I realise how much fun I have crafting these stories, which readers also seem to love thankfully.

If you want to venture into writing romance, these are some of the things that I like to work with, so maybe it might help you too.

  • Create interesting/flawed protagonists – No one likes perfect people in real life and neither do they in fiction. I try to make sure there’s something off about my protagonists, whether they’re messy people, or have an unpredictable temper. It makes them interesting and relatable.
  • Avoid clichés – I try and avoid cliched descriptions of my characters, so you won’t find any tall, dark and handsome men or curvaceous beauties with lilac hued eyes in my books. Another way I describe them is through the perspective of the other characters, so it’s all quite subjective and different people view the same person differently.
  • Bring chemistry – Chemistry between the romantic leads is one of the things that keeps readers hooked to the story. Getting it right takes practice because readers can spot when there’s no chemistry. Also, there’s no such thing as too much chemistry.
  • Love scenes – I’m a little shy about writing overt love scenes but that’s just me. If you’re comfortable, go right ahead and make it as steamy as you want. The thing to watch out here is to make sure there’s no awkwardness in your writing. Try and read it aloud (with expression and maybe a little passion). If it makes you wince, then cut it out and redo.
  • Read – This is a no-brainer no matter which genre you’re writing for but if you want to write well, then read, read and read, especially the genre you want to master. So, if it’s romance you want to be good at, read all kinds – historical, contemporary etc and try and imbibe from them.
  • Strong heroines/vulnerable heroes – The world is different from the time I used to huddle at the back of my class and read one of those M&B Temptation novels. Heroines need to be relatable. They don’t have to be bra-burning feminists but they surely need to be independent, strong and aspirational. Heroes on the other hand seem to do so much better with a dose of vulnerability to add to their dreaminess.

After writing all these books over these past few years, one thing I’ve learnt is that you need to enjoy your work too. And maybe one day your English teachers might, too!

This post was first published on the Juggernaut blog.

 

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A Never Ending Affair with Writing

Well, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and it doesn’t make even a smidgen of difference to me. Yes, really. I write romances because I like the genre (and I enjoy reading them as well) but that’s about it. I thought it would be nice however, to put up this little chat I had with my friend Kanchana Bannerjee whose book A Forgotten Affair I recently read.

Congratulations on your first book. It’s a great debut. But as a reader I first want to know if Sagarika will ever get her memory back.

Honestly I don’t know. It doesn’t matter if she gets her memory back or not; what’s important is that she realizes and discovers her self. She understands the abusive marriage she was in and stands up to that, rejects it, confronts her husband and walks out. The story isn’t about memory loss or getting it back. It’s really about a woman’s quest to find her inner strength.

What was the inspiration for this story?

The society we live in, the marriages I see around me. I see so many women who have accepted submission in their personal relationships. They are minimized and put down. It’s a myth that abuse happens only in the lower strata of society. It is just as rampant in so-called educated and affluent homes. I wanted to write about this. Often this happens in such a subtle form that women themselves don’t think much about it. Some don’t reveal how much they earn, some tell the husband they are going to the salon when they are off for a meeting. They joke about this, saying what’s the harm in a small white lie if it keeps him happy. This is wrong, so wrong. Women need to accept this first.

There are times when I felt that if Rishab had been a grey character instead of outright black, there would have been more conflict for Sagarika and the readers. Were you ever tempted to make him the suffering husband?

In my first draft Rishab was mildly bad and the four friends who stepped in as beta readers, unanimously said, the story is very placid. Why does Sagarika not like the husband? That’s when I re-worked and made him a dark and despicable. I enjoyed his character more when he became so psychotic and crazy. I love dark and evil characters. They are more fun. In my novel 2 there are two characters who are unapologetically bad. Very very bad, evil and nasty and there’s no sad story to justify their actions. I love such characters.

Do you like naming your books before you write them or after you write them? What was the case with A Forgotten Affair?

I’m horrible with naming my books. I can write 80K words, even more easily but to think of a title; I’m no good. Clearly I’m not a woman of few words. So the novel was called The Accident till my editor stepped in and christened it A Forgotten Affair. My second novel is called Novel 2. That should tell you how awful I am with titles.

As a reader I’m not sure how I feel about open ended endings but as a writer I love them because there’s always the chance for a sequel. Any plans for a sequel?

No, there will be no sequels. I don’t like sequels. In my opinion all sequels are awful except for very few books like Harry Potter, Hunger Games. A Forgotten Affair had to be open-ended. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know the ending soon after I start writing. I know the beginning and the end; so then it’s all about reaching the end.

Sagarika’s affair with Akash is presented in a very non-judgmental manner which I liked but do you think it gives out the message that people should take happiness where they can find and to hell with commitments? Her friend Roohi does act as her voice of conscience which she ignores.

We live in a society where such relationships happen. As a writer it isn’t my job to pass judgement. I’m not a moral cop. Neither am I writing a book to sermonize people or impart a lesson. I write because I enjoy writing. Through the story I’m not trying to send any message at all. I’m just presenting a slice of life as I see. Read it, enjoy it and if it triggers some thought in you, that’s great. 

What’s your typical working day like, as a writer?

I’m a morning writer. I write best in the morning and like to be done with at least 3 hours of it before noon. I have worked from home as a freelance writer for a long time so I’m very disciplined about my work.

It was great chatting with Kanchana and her book is an unusual love story. One that tells you to love yourself first, and its devoid of mushiness. It’s a mature story and perfect for Valentine’s Day. Go read it!

 

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