09 February 2011

Spreading the Love

So for Valentine's Day we (the Burrow) thought a week of features related to love might be a nice touch... and guess who got assigned the WRITING day...

I've got a confession. I am a MAJOR cynic. I don't happen to believe two become one, or that another person completes ANYBODY (certainly not ME!)... so addressing this... LOVE thang was something I just wasn't quite up to.

Don't get me wrong. I have something akin to love in all my books... people fall for each other... it is part of life. But for ME, it is always a side story (and typically it is either within an already existing relationship, or catches people busy with OTHER stuff as a sweet surprise...)

But you know... this is for VALENTINE'S DAY, so what is a Tart to do? I can't disappoint you!

So I scratched my head and said, “SAY... I know a romance writer!” (in actuality, I know several, but being me, I thought I wanted a SPICY romance writer). In fact this romance writer has just been contracted for her first novella! (which I've read and it is FABULOUS, even if it DOES center around a love story... in fact... THAT is part of the trick... Stacy Gail is sassy and feisty and mixes a little snark, a little heat, and a lot of torture... THAT is my kind of romance!)  So I asked Stacy to write a guest post on Romance for all of YOU.

Margaret Mitchell Had It Right

When Tami asked me to do a guest blog on how to write a romance novel, I was really stumped. All I could think was, “Well, you have a sexy dreamboat and a woman everyone can relate to, throw in some animal magnetism, sparkling repartee, a steamy grope scene or two, and boom – there ya go.” Easy, right?

Oh, if only it were that simple.

To get to the heart of what makes a romance really WORK, you have to dig for what makes a love story unforgettable. For me, despite the fact that I’m the world’s biggest sucker for a tale where love triumphs over all, the best work in romantic fiction is one of my all-time favorites –“Gone With The Wind.”

But I have to admit, it’s a bit of a love/hate relationship.

Margaret Mitchell had every ingredient known to the romance genre in “Wind.” A beautiful heroine? Check. A roguish bad boy? Boy howdy, CHECK. Unrequited love, as well as a love triangle and all the internal conflict this brings? Check. External conflict (a.k.a. the Civil War)? Definitely check.
Yet, despite all these pure-win elements, there’s a tiny part of me that hates old Margaret for the story she told. Why? It boils down to one thing. I didn’t get my HEA – my happily-ever-after. According to the guidelines of all the publishing houses currently cranking out commercial romances, the HEA is mandatory. If you don’t have one, it gets chucked right back at you like a boomerang.

So… was Margaret Mitchell wrong?

Thirty million sold copies say no.

There’s a reason why “Wind” is considered to be one of the best romances ever written, despite the fact that it doesn’t follow the current romance genre’s formula of delivering the HEA. Margaret Mitchell was a master at ripping into the darkest, most painful core of emotions and gushing it out on paper for everyone to experience. She showcased the emotion known as Love in all its myriad facets – pure, selfless, selfish, all-consuming, lustful, indomitable. Just thinking about the agony of writing something like that still makes me shake my head. The woman must have been in tears the entire time she was writing her masterpiece.

Which leads me back to Tami’s question on how to write a romance novel. I’m sure it’s different for every romance writer, but for me it’s all about getting to the heart of the story, and for a romance that heart is LOVE. When I hurt for my MCs or find myself instinctively shying away from the emotional time-bomb that’s about to explode all over them, I know I’m on the right track. To have two people who are willing to put themselves through the agonies of internal and external conflicts just to be together is a beautiful, even noble, thing. In the end, it’s not about the uber-hotness of the guy, or the lush backdrop of their surroundings; it’s about two people struggling to find where they truly belong.
But, if you’re like Scarlett and Rhett and that belonging just isn’t found, I’ve come to discover that this is okay, too. The struggle to find the person who is your other half will continue, and another story is just waiting to be told. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Tart's Post-partum

So it isn't a car accident with a lot of groping? [sorry... inside joke there]

Oh MAN... I LOVE Gone with the Wind! And it IS a romance, isn't it!? I think you've got what normally bugs me! I don't buy into Happily Ever After (maybe because I know after the wedding it is just work work work *shifty*) Stace—thank you so much for so much better a job than I could have made of this!!!

Image of Stacy Gail (the Margarita-skating penguin) drawn by Marissa Montano
Movie poster image from Publicfotki.com


RosieC said...

Truer words were never spoken about romance, or "Wind", or a compelling novel in general. And the clearest way to know that your on the write track with your characters is to see yourself living in the joys and pains of their journey.

Thank you, Stacy. Great post. And thanks, Hart, for bringing her over for a guest post :)

CA Heaven said...

Roamance is work, and romance at work. Not really, I just mean that sometimes I fall in love with a beautiful equation >:D

Cold As Heaven

Hart Johnson said...

Rosie, you and Stacy would get along VERY well! because though she's a NUT, she is also very smart!

CaH-I confess to falling in love with an equation now and again, too, but we should probably keep that a secret. People will think we're strange.

Cruella Collett said...

I'm late to the party here, but I'm glad I finally got to check out this post. Stacy - you da bomb! I read "Gone With the Wind" when I was 13 (or so), and I LOVED it. But then I HATED the end... So I went ahead and read that sequel-thingie published by some other writer, that reunites the pair in another 800 pages or so. For a 13-year old, it was pretty epic.

Once I grew older, however, I also grew to appreciate the original ending. I haven't re-read the book, but I've seen the film a few times, and I've come to realize two things. First, like you, I found that it was okay that it isn't always a happy ending. Secondly, I came to believe that it is a happy ending after all. Don't get me wrong - not a "surely, they'll get together again after all"-HEA-thing, but more of a "perhaps this is the better way for both of them". After all, love-hate often turns into hate...

Perhaps I need to read it again - I do agree that it is a very good book, even if I doubt I'll be able to view it with my 13-year-old self's enthusiasm...

Natasha said...

Stacey- I can give you a thousand excuses why I didn't comment earlier, and all of them would be valid. But the real reason why I didn't was because I suspected you would have something totally new to say, and I wanted to read it when I was in receptive mood.

And what you lobbed in my direction was something even more fantastic than I hoped for. Allow me to quote - "When I hurt for my MCs or find myself instinctively shying away from the emotional time-bomb that’s about to explode all over them, I know I’m on the right track. To have two people who are willing to put themselves through the agonies of internal and external conflicts just to be together is a beautiful, even noble, thing."

TRUE, TRUE, TRUE. I have read Gone With the Wind only once, but I have replayed it in my mind more times that I can count. And the only reason I love the book so much is because I love Scarlett (and Rhett), and whether I agree with her or not, I understands what drives her and how.

BUT, if you call that a love story, I may just ask who it was that Scarlett really loved - Rhett or Tara?

Thanks for a great post.