Ivy Rose on Writing Romance

Today I am excited to welcome Ivy Rose with a guest post on writing romance!

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For some people, merely hearing the word “romance” has eyes rolling. For others, it sets hearts pounding. For others—namely the writers—it brings memories of much face-palming and head-desking.

Let’s face it: plenty of things go on between couples that other people shouldn’t see, whether it be a private conversation, a passionate kiss, etc. Therefore, they shouldn’t go in books. Readers are smart, and a little imagination can go a long way. There is no need to be explicit about subjects that should be reserved for husbands and wives.

For years, writing romance has caused me countless headaches and ruined stories. The very idea of writing a book with romance had me gagging. Hence, I decided that the best route to take was to write romance-free books.

*cue sarcastic laughter*

Yes, well, to my thirteen-year-old brain, that sounded like the ideal solution. It was a great idea in theory, but my characters revolted. I found myself needing a way to handle their romance rather than ignore it.

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But that led me back to my biggest fear—gag-worthy romances. I never read many of those in the first place, but just about everyone in this world, including myself will admit that they have read an encounter between a couple that made them uncomfortable. Even if the couple is married, the way they show affection to one another—affection that is not “wrong”—can feel very wrong to be reading it.

On the flip side, there are those books where the couples rarely show affection to one another to the point where their lack of affection pulls you out of the story because you are too busy trying to figure out if they “go together” or not.

As a reader, either one of these scenarios can be maddening. As a writer, it can be hard (or IMPOSSIBLE!!!) to know how much romance is appropriate to show.

So how can you know?

Each writer must examine himself or herself individually to find their ideal balance. For me personally, it has taken years of careful thought, prayerful decisions, and a lot of self-examination. Whether I be writing a romantic scene or reading a romantic scene, I ask myself this question:

Would that couple be doing/saying/behaving that way if someone was standing in the room watching them?

Think about it: do you feel uncomfortable when a couple in a book hugs? Or when a husband and wife kiss each other in greeting? Neither of those things bother me in books. Neither of them bother me in the real world.

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Let’s look at some examples of well-done romance in books. This first one comes from A Penny Parcel by Avery E. Hitch. The main characters, Luke and his wife, Grace, are lying in bed. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Wrong. Look how Avery Hitch handles this bedroom conversation:

“Luke rolled over….

Grace slid her hand across the sheets and reached for his. “I still love you,” she said in a painful whisper.

He gripped her hand, but said nothing. Even with her hand held tightly in his, Luke felt like everything was slipping through his fingers.”

Did that make you nervous? Uncomfortable? It didn’t bother me. Yet look at what we have—an intimate conversation in an off-limits location (for bystanders), yet nothing about that scene was uncomfortable. Would Luke and Grace have behaved differently had someone been in the room with them?

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Now let’s look at a different kind of scene—one that involves kissing. (Stop rolling your eyes it does have to happen sometimes.). This is taken from a story of mine that shall remain title-less.

“She turned her head slightly to press her lips against his. Eight years of marriage still hadn’t taken away the flutter in her heart.”

Could I have described the kiss in more detail? Sure. Do I want to? Not really. Could I have described it in more detail while still keeping it appropriate (according to my personal guideline)? Probably.

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What about integrating physical contact? Same rules apply. This example is taken from my first novel, The Old River Road.

“ “ Don’t worry about that,” he chided, grasping her about the waist and pulling her toward him….

Clara felt soft kisses placed on her head….

William ran his finger down her nose with a tender smile.”

How about that? I cut most of the dialogue to save time, but there you have an example of some playful banter and physical touch without making the reader feel awkward.

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Here’s one massive pointer I would give anyone who wants to write romance:

Focus on the relationship, not the passion.

What does that mean? To me, it means that I strive for ways to show my readers how much my characters love each other. That can be done in so many different ways…acts of service, kind words (not necessarily flirtatious, but if you like that kind of thing, it can work), and internal thoughts admiring character qualities. And those are just a few examples. Love can be shown in so many ways. You are a writer—utilize the more subtle ways of showing love between couples, and leave what happens behind closed doors where it belongs. It is entirely possible to write a sweet romance without giving too much information.

In my own writing, I have made the decision to not write any romantic relationship that goes beyond what I would be comfortable seeing/hearing were I in the room with my characters. I have been told that the romance I write is “immature” and should be “more graphic.”

I must admit that I actually laughed when I heard that.

But you know what? I’d rather write “immature” and “un-graphic” romance that I believe is appropriate than worry about overstepping my bounds and making some readers, not to mention myself, uncomfortable.

DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be right, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject. I know that not everyone is going to agree with me–and that’s OKAY! I’m merely going to point out some of my personal convictions when it comes to writing romance. No offense intended.

Have you thought about what guidelines you want to follow when writing romance? If so, what are your guidelines?

 

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Ivy Rose is an 18 year old history lover and literary enthusiast. Aside from writing, she enjoys being outdoors, eating chocolate, traveling, reading, and doing TaeKwonDo. She is the author of The Old River Road and Left to Die. She resides with her family of 9 on the banks of the Long Lake in eastern Washington. Connect with her on her blog, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Instagram.

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Ivy Rose on Writing Romance

  1. This was such a fun read! I’m not a writer (of fictional stories, that is), but I appreciate Ivy’s approach – if you would be uncomfortable seeing it irl, don’t write it. I especially liked her suggestion to focus on the RELATIONSHIP not the PASSION. Makes me think of Jane Austen stories, or A Tale of Two Cities, or my favorite classics, which are splendid examples of relationships without too much uncomfortable passion.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When I’m reading certain romance books, I feel uncomfortable with any bed scenes that pop up… even if it’s like the one mentioned in the post.
    And when I write random romance stuff, I tend to only do scenes like making eyes, hugs, and conversation about their feelings. Nothing too bad (at least for me) since I don’t like romance that goes overboard.
    My guidelines are:
    1) Avoid bed scenes and pass over them if they pop up. (I’ve only read one or two books that had this happen.)
    2) Avoid too much kissing. I tolerate a little, but if there’s too much.. ew.
    3) If I’m going to read any romances (which I normally don’t), then make sure they’re christian or based on biblical terms.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for coming, Ivy! I agree that focusing on the relationship instead of the passion was one of the most important things you said. Thanks for that! I very much appreciate this post and that you are setting thoughtful guidelines for yourself. I can’t wait to read your books! 😉

    My standards for myself are pretty similar to yours (although I still clam up and hate myself as a writer if it’s necessary for my characters to start kissing 😛 ). Since I write some middle grade fiction and preview books for my younger siblings, I also have to figure out what is all right for that age group which can be a challenge sometimes.

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    1. My pleasure, Kate! I enjoyed it. 🙂 Focusing on relationship instead of passion is something my parents have (demonstrated 😉 ) and encouraged me to do since I was very young, telling me that “love” is a feeling, but committed love is a choice.

      Haha, yes, kissing scenes are difficult. I can imagine what a challenge it would be to make romance age-appropriate. Good for you for doing it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with this 100%! Although I think I’m going to have to use what other people I know feel comfortable reading instead of me. I don’t mind reading about, say, a passionate kiss. (I know, I know … maybe I should rethink that …) I think I don’t really consider book characters as separate beings from me, so that could be the reason …) On the other hand, it drives me crazy when my parents hug. Or hold hands. Or look at each other. Maybe I should just stop writing romance … it’s obviously doomed! Besides, it gets so cheesy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your support, Kellyn! Your comment made me giggle…I remember feeling the same way about my parents when I was a young teen. However, the older I’ve gotten, the easier/less painful (*wink emoji*) it has been to write romance. I think romance is one of those things that becomes easier and easier along with life experience and maturity. It’s easier for me to write now than it was when I was fourteen, but I still have a lot to learn!!

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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