Tag Archives: novels

How to Write Romantic Fiction.

Study a romance screenplay to find out its secrets.

The 1990 romantic comedy Green Card has it all: premise, plot, pacing; a setting that’s integral to the story; unique, developed characters who experience personality and/or motivation change; tension, conflict and a satisfactory conclusion, although considering what’s deemed traditional for romance writing, it’s not strictly “happily ever after,” or even “happy for now.”

Rom-coms are generally too lightweight for my taste, but this one is unusual, in that it exhibits the kind of intense storytelling that seems to be missing from much modern fiction. Novelists are creators of Written Art, but there’s a crossover into the realm of Visual Art, because the way an author uses words must be able to paint pictures inside readers’ heads.

A writing exercise.

If it’s been a while since you watched Green Card, buy it, borrow it, or dig it out of your video collection. Watch it through once, just to experience the story. Then watch it again, several times, concentrating attention on a different aspect of the story, as listed above. Take notes, using as much sensory detail as possible. Then answer the following questions:

  • How would you describe the street scenes and interior scenes, from a narrator’s point-of-view?
  • What details would you include about the characters’ bodies, behavior, expressions and tones of voice?
  • In Green Card, the two main characters are forced to focus on one another. How would you describe the way the main characters feel as they experience change in their perceptions of the other person?
  • How would you describe the way the main characters experience change in their perceptions of themselves?
  • How would you communicate in words the rising tension between the characters? (The background music in the soundtrack contributes to this, so you might turn off the volume, the better to catch the visible cues.)

You don’t have to re-write the whole script, just the parts that impressed you the most. If you know where your writing has trouble with constructing convincing scenes, you can focus on the film’s scenes that illustrate solutions to similar problems.

It’s an exercise in people-watching, which is really the way fiction should be written: as if the writer was observing some inhabitants of the Parallel Universe, and reporting on what is seen and heard, and how those things make the writer feel.

Finally, look at your own work-in-progress, especially if it’s a love story or has a romance sub-plot. What can you do to make your novel’s interpersonal scenes appears as vividly in a reader’s imagination, as the actors brought Peter Weir’s script to life on the screen?

 

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Defying Mrs. Grundy.

Irony at its best.

I get a chuckle out of contemplating how writing gurus and publishing gatekeepers, by their sourpuss anathematizing of the adverb as an unnecessary part of speech, and by their stigmatizing proverbs, colloquialisms and idioms as “clichés” (all of which writers are told they must avoid using, or expunge from their writing), unwittingly transform themselves into poster children for the ultimate idiomatic expression: “Mrs. Grundy.”

If the Grundyists of the wordsmith world had their way, all writing would be as drab and unfocused as a week of winter rainstorms.

Proverbs, colloquialisms and idioms developed over millennia of communication. They paint pictures in the mind which are based on real human experience, thereby fostering reader empathy for fictional characters. In this way, they bring vibrant color to dialogue, in a manner which no amount of “turning the air blue” with profanity and obscenity can do.

 

No matter where their origins, or what language they speak, everyone comes up with these gems. I studied Hiberno-English usage when I wrote Irish Firebrands. Now, I’m  studying German idioms as part of the research for my work-in-progress, The Passions of Patriots, a prelude to my first novel (in which a character had discovered an ancestor’s involvement in the First World War). I’m impressed by the imaginative ways Germans have developed to express the experiences that occur in all people’s lives.

It’s not for nothing that the Bible admonishes, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). The familiar phrases that are used in every language are also like highly polished precious metals which can adorn our writing like beautifully wrought antique jewellery.

What are some of your favorite sayings?
Have you used proverbs, colloquialisms, and idioms in your writing?
If you write fantasy which has an imaginary language, does it have traditional sayings your characters use?

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Another Author’s Insight: Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

I made my own experiments in the weights, colours, perfumes, and attributes of words in relation to other words, either as read aloud so that they may hold the ear, or, scattered over the page, draw the eye. There is no line of my verse or prose which has not been mouthed till the tongue has made all smooth, and memory, after many recitals, has mechanically skipped the grosser superfluities.
~ Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself, Chapter III. 

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