Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Writing romance is a gift

As Valentine's Day approaches and I frantically put together little gifts for my son's classmates, find the right greeting card for my husband, and set a reminder to tell me it's Valentine's Day on Friday, I am forcefully brought to face a discouraging fact - I am not a romantic.

I have never wanted roses for Valentine's, or any occasion (although I'll take a box - or a bag - of chocolates any day), I can't do fancy romantic dinners because I end up choking on the cost of an entree, and as much as I believe I am a good writer, I can't put romance into words.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good snuggle in front of a fire and write love post-its on occasion. But when I think of romance, I think steamy passion. I think Harlequin Romance novels. I also think cliched "girl-meets-boy-and-love-is-more-complicated-than-it-needs-to-be." This is because that is what my romantic premises turn out to be.

Writing romance is a gift that I sadly do not have. It just isn't my voice. I will never be Nora Roberts or Heather Graham. Which is why you don't see very much (well, none) hot mess going on between the main characters of my novel. But what I, hopefully, have a voice for is the expressiveness of love. My characters may not be romantically involved, but there is a love between them nonetheless. It is expressed in the concern and respect that they come to have for each other, and shown in the acceptance of who they are and choosing to work around the difficulties that comes with acceptance. If they happen to get intimate later, as some of my readers hope for, it might not be steamy Harlequin-worthy fare, but it would be romantic.

Love is a spectacular thing. It starts off small, has it's ups and downs, and - should it survive all the downs - becomes something larger than one's self. You are no longer just "you," but "us." And often that love grows to include more of "us." And because of this, love has to include compromise, acceptance, and respect. Yes, it can be shown in a bouquet of flowers, a fancy dinner, and romance-novel-worthy sex. But long-lasting love must go beyond that.

On Valentine's Day, and any day you feel like it, do more than produce a display of gifts. Show someone you love that you care by sharing the days trials and tribulations, rejoicing in the triumphs of goals reached, making a simple meal and enjoying it with conversation instead of a TV show. Extend that love to your friends by dropping them a note, or a call just to say hello. (Or write them into your novels!) Let them know that they are in your thoughts.

I may not be a romantic, but I do know about love. I am reminded of it every moment I spend with family and friends. I may not be able to write a romance novel worthy of the New York Times, but even the quiet moments between characters will stir the heart. That is what I write - the quiet moments between two people that create an unbreakable bond. There is my voice, and it comes from experience.

Happy Valentine's day to my family, to my friends, and to all who give me the means to write with joy...

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