Writing the Classic Love Story

By Fay Lamb

When an author tells me that they do not write romance, I laugh. Why? Because it’s exactly what I used to say. Then I realized that every story has a thread of romance. Humans, after all, crave love.

Then there are those authors who want to write a romance. Yet, they shun the classic romance formula. However, a new author writing romance without formula will struggle to publish, or if self-published will struggle to gain readership. The reason? Formula works. Look at that romantic movie channel. Readers like the formula. If not, that channel would not be so popular.

My first three novels in The Ties that Bind series are classic formula romances, one more than the others. If you are an artist who loves to color outside the lines, people will not “get” your work until you have used brilliant colors within the lines a few times.

Here are those lines that create the outer boundaries of the picture:

  • Girl meets boy
  • Girl and boy are drawn to each other
  • Conflict, either internal or external or both, keeps boy and girl apart
  • Girl and boy have an “almost” moment
  • Conflict rears its ugly head and tears them apart in a way that seems impossible for them to overcome
  • Girl and boy overcome to live happily ever after

Written out in bland terms, the formula seems pretty boring, but that’s why we write. We take the mundane and make it extraordinary. The way we color within those lines set for us is our creativity shining forth.

My most formulaic work is entitled, Libby. Here’s what is inside the lines:

  • Girl meets boy: In the story, Libby has spied her hero, Evan, in a coffee shop on several occasions. She doesn’t know his name, but attracted to him, she begins to watch for him, but she thinks no one has noticed. Her two goofy, but astute friends, Charisse and Gideon have noticed. They begin to hatch a matchmaking scheme that goes wrong at every turn. Gideon shows up one morning at the coffee shop, talks to Evan, and introduces Evan to Libby.
  • Conflict: Libby has self-esteem issues that resulted from no small incident in her life. She can’t believe that someone like Evan would ever be interested in her. Evan? He handled his traumatic past differently, and the result was rage. As he falls in love with Libby, he fears he must protect her from himself.
  • Girl and boy have an almost moment and conflict tears them apart: Evan does take Libby on a date of much importance. Libby and Evan enjoy the day. Then before they leave, Evan excuses himself. Libby misreads Evan’s actions, and she is devastated. Evan, in doing something wonderful for Libby, finds that his greatest fear has come true. He has hurt Libby.
  • Girl and boy overcome to live happily ever after: I’m not giving the story away, but let’s just say that Gideon and Charisse Tabor are the funniest and slyest matchmakers I’ve ever known.

There are other events in the story that amp up the plot and flow with the formula. For instance, there is an antagonist who separates the couple. There are funny moments and tearful ones. Those come about firmly within the formula and prove that though we are coloring within the lines, the colors we choose produce something unique for the reader. Yes, even in formula you can immerse the reader into a story that provides the depth that a movie on that romance channel never tries to reach.

Prompt: Write a classic romance. Have fun, but don’t dismiss formula until you’ve colored within the lines a few times.


Click-to-Tweet: When an author tells me that they do not write romance, I laugh. Why? Because it’s exactly what I used to say. Then I realized that every story has a thread of romance. Humans, after all, crave love.


Fay Lamb Bio

Fay Lamb is an author, an editor, and a teacher. She also loves to teach workshops for fiction writers.

Fay has contracted four series with her publisher, Write Integrity Press. Amazing Grace is a four-novel series, which includes Stalking Willow, Better than Revenge, Everybody’s Broken, and Frozen Notes all set in Western North Carolina.

Her The Ties that Bind romantic series, set in Fay’s own backyard of Central Florida, includes Charisse, Libby, and Hope, and comes to a surprising and satisfying conclusion with Delilah.

This author keeps busy. She also has two other series in the works. Her first novel in the Serenity Key series is the epic, Storms in Serenity. The other series is Mullet Harbor, a series of Christmas romances set in the Florida Everglades. Christmas Under Wraps is now available.

Fay has an adventurous spirit, which has also taken her into the arena of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook and on Goodreads. She’s also active on Twitter. Fay also invites you to visit her website and sign up for her newsletter.

 

O Romeo, How Many Are There of You?

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Love, Love, Love.

It’s floating all around us this February, and here on Inspired Prompt, the crew is looking at some of the best love stories ever written.

For me, the one that rises to the top without question is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Now, you might call “Foul, sweet writer. ‘Tis not a novel nor a book. You, fiendish foe.”

And I would answer, “Tis true, but no sweeter love hath any two, then Juliet and her Romeo.”

Though a tragic play, the story of Romeo and Juliet has been reproduced in books, movies, and television shows throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century, making it one of the most popular and beloved plots of Shakespeare.

A few of the more popular versions from the past of the Romeo and Juliet plotline are West Side Story, When You Were Mine, and Love Is All There Is.

More modern versions include Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Shakespeare In Love which talks about the writing of the play, and Warm Bodies which turns the issue of the feuding families into the issue of zombies and humans.

Not to be outdone by the zombies, even the animated world has a version of this play called Gnomeo and Juliet.

Some of the best-loved TV series have also done their own take on the Romeo and Juliet plot including Still Star-Crossed, Bones, and Castle. If you watch for it, you can find it in most series at least once if not as two teenagers in love from feuding families, then the classic Hatfield and McCoy type of scenario. Where Pa would never allow it.

According to the International Movie Database, there are thirty-four movie adaptations alone of Shakespeare’s tribute to young love. What a story!

So, in true Shakespearean form, I will leave you with this thought:

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings;

The sun for sorrow will not show his head:

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;

Some shall be pardoned and some punished:

For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

Prompt: Bernice sighed as she read over the playbill. She wanted to see Romeo and Juliet so bad she ached. It had been the last play that they had seen together.

Click-to-Tweet: #Love. It’s floating all around us this February, and here on Inspired Prompt, the crew is looking at some of the best love stories ever written. A classic look at love via @InspiredPrompt #ValentinesDay2020

Romancing Jane Eyre

Which came first, Beauty and the Beast, or Jane Eyre? There are definite similarities between the two stories. The answer to this question is, of course, Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête – fairy tale by French novelist Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve, published in 1740).

In Jane Eyre, Rochester is a bit of a beast when Jane first meets him. Really, he’s just angry all the time, and for good reason. Like Belle, Jane “tames” the beast with her kindness.

This famous Gothic romance is still a best-seller today, so let’s examine some of my favorite story elements that in my mind at least, make this story great.

Our heroine is an outcast, rejected by her family. Her ill-treatment among those who should have loved her seemed to prepare her for what lay ahead. Most children sent to Lowood School don’t survive, which may have been the main reason her aunt sent her there.

But Jane did survive. Rather than allow herself to rot away as a teacher at Lowood Academy, Jane Eyre advertises for a suitable position as a governess. She desires adventure, and she certainly finds that at Thornfield Hall.

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.

Like Beauty and the Beast, Jane Eyre is a societal tale. Belle’s father is a merchant, Beast is a prince. Jane’s situation in life is far below that of Mr. Rochester, during a time when the class system was ironclad. A titled man of property never dared to marry a governess. It was frowned upon.

Jane Eyre also presents the reader with situations that require acceptance and forgiveness. According to Bronte, Rochester is not an attractive man in the usual sense. He’s ugly and brooding. Though he is in possession of a good income and a fine estate, bad decisions have left him in an unfortunate condition. I’m leaving the poor man’s history at that, in case you haven’t read the book or seen one of the movies. I don’t wish to spoil for you. 😊

Our heroine is plain. But in my opinion, she’s not a typical plain Jane. Though in the beginning, she is reserved and seems overly prudish, she exhibits inner beauty and peace that is awe-inspiring. She’s a gifted artist and speaks fluent French. The reader can’t help but admire her, and Rochester is immediately drawn to her character. It’s a classic case of “opposites attract.”

The romance element is strong in Jane Eyre. The attraction begins early on as the unlikely couple banter about ordinary subjects. Rochester is not put off by her reticence but draws her out. Her intelligence and wit inspire many brow-arching moments on his part. As their relationship deepens, their two souls seem almost intertwined, prompting him to remark that their hearts are connected by an unbreakable cord.

It’s a Gothic tale, for all is not as it seems at Thornfield Hall. The manor house is pokey and dark, but still ten times better than Lowood School, where she’s spent most of her life so far. Then there are times when Jane hears maniacal laughter and piercing screams. Her doorknob rattles as though someone is trying to open it. Is the house haunted? Or, is it a more ordinary circumstance, as the housekeeper assures her? A laundress with a propensity for over-imbibing alcohol.

Days of sunlit gardens give some relief from the dark interior of the house, along with Jane’s growing affection for Adele, the little girl in her care, who is Rochester’s ward. But just when things seem to be headed toward happily-ever-after, something terrible happens that nearly drives Jane over the edge. She must leave Thornfield Hall at once!

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.

She takes the coach to the end of its route and finds herself alone on the moors. Now in a completely different world, she’s living another life with a new suitor, though I never accepted him as suitable for Jane. 😊

It is evident that the writing of this tale must have taken years. Jane Eyre is a well-thought-out story filled with symbolism and truths that you may not catch the first time through. I’ve read it more times than I can count, and I’ve watched several film versions. Still, the original novel is stunningly detailed.

One of Jane’s strongest character traits is a direct result of her religious upbringing. She can seem closed and judgmental at times, but those deep, spiritual roots keep her moving forward and on more than one occasion, keep her from making a really bad decision that would most certainly destroy her.

Oh, to pen such a story as this one! Though some modern readers will find the language stilted and the narrative a bit wordy, others will discover as I did, the beauty of a timeless theme. Love banishes darkness.

All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever.

If interested, you’ll find an excellent study of Jane Eyre here:  Jane Eyre Study Guide

Click-to-Tweet: “All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre from Romancing Jane Eyre via @InspiredPrompt

Writing Prompt: “You say your heart belongs only to him. How then can you leave him? What terrible thing has he done to break your heart and bring your world crashing down?” How would your fictional heroine answer this question?