There Was a Girl…

It’s that time of the year again, the anniversary of the first time I contacted the girl who would become my wife. By tradition, I write her a poem and send it to her an email with a poem last thing at night on May the 1st, and she is not allowed to read it until May the 2nd, (since I sent the original fateful email on the first, and she read it on the second). This time, I’ve recorded it as a song, which you can find below:

There Was a Girl

There was a girl whose name brought joy
To a once so lonely boy;
Now that joy is multiplied
That she is at his side.

Now many more does she delight
With her presence, at the sight
Of all she does to bless the lives
Of those close to her heart.

So now upon this special day
With fondness look my way I pray,
Take pride in what we’ve both become,
We two now joined as one.

Writing Superversive Romance

Can we have an honest talk about romance in novels?

Now, I’ve done romance before in my books, but mostly as a subplot. As most of us have figured out long ago, most men would rather go see John Wick on Valentine’s Day than the latest Twilight movie. So this isn’t rocket science.

With my novel Codename: Winterborn, for example, there were two romance subplots going on — though not at the same time.  One was between main character Kevin Anderson and his wife. Yes, I know, a romance story between a MARRIED COUPLE– gasp! Shock! Horror! SURELY, THIS IS THE END OF ALL THINGS!!!!!!

… Sorry. Can you tell I’ve been reading Daddy Warpig articles lately?

The second romantic subplot in Winteborn was between with hunter and prey, and even then, it was odd. It was very, … Laura, really.**  Though the main plot is heavy on the action.

[**Laura, a murder mystery in which a detective falls in love with the victim through her portrait. In the case of Codename: Winterborn, it was via files and seeing him in action]

With Codename: Winterborn, however, this took place over the course of months.

But the average romance novel takes, what, days? A week or two? Then the male and female leads jump into bed like sex-starved hyenas during mating season?  I think the longest courting period that I recall in romance fiction was a Sherrilyn Kenyon novel called Fantasy Lover where holding off on sex was a massive plot point, and involved breaking a curse from Geek deities. No, I’m not kidding.

Let’s just say that when I did something similar, it was with my novel A Pius Man. And you have no idea how much effort I put into trying to make that believable.

Then I worked on a Catholic Vampire Romance novel called Honor At Stake …

And that takes place over the course of 9 months. There’s a reason for that. Why?

Because I want a flipping love story. Something that looks real.  Something that feels real. Something that takes time to develop. Because no one — and by “no one” I mean any rational relationship — jumps into bed on the first date and expect the relationship to go anywhere. If you do, please stop kidding yourself.

The next challenge you should be considering is: I’m still a guy. How does a guy write romance? (While not being John C Wright, he can pen whatever novel he wants.)

Anyone who doesn’t know me is probably considering the easy answer: “Well, Declan, you’ve been in love before, right? Use your actual love life.”

To which I must sadly inform them: “Have you read my blogs about my love life? It looks like a train wreck.”

Yeah.  Fun fact: any relationship of mine that survived in real life for any length of time was unreal in so many ways, I can’t even describe it without people calling me a liar. I don’t even believe my own love life. I think if I wrote it up, it would look like fiction.

Besides, I suspect that a love story that is a blow by blow of a real relationship would probably bore the crap out of most people. Granted, I have an unfair advantage in my novels: I have vampires, Vatican Ninjas, and grenade launchers.

However, I was a follower of one of the better romances on television: Castle.

Yes, Castle.  It has character development, a relationship that grows out from mutual attraction, to partnership, to friendship, and then to love. They even get to love long before leaping into bed, and only 1 YEAR of that before engagement.

Which is sadly, an improvement over what we usually see on screen. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen: First Date, Sex, Friendship, love, and Marriage, in that order. Just once, I would like to see the order be: friendship, courtship, love, marriage, sex.

To give Castle it’s due, where else do you see friendship actually develop in the romance genre? The phrase “Let’s just be friends” is usually much the end of any romantic relationship — in romance novels, and in my own experience — but shouldn’t a man and a woman at least shoot for being friends before they leap into bed together? Radical notion, I know, but consider it for a moment.

Another technical that pops up in the occasional romance novel, and in in Castle, almost everyone around the main couple sees this relationship coming. This is traditional in the standard Nora Roberts novel, this is usually represented by the “plucky best friend” of the heroine, trying to push her out of her comfort zone to risk enough to actually end up with her heart’s desire.

Yes, risk and romance. If you think that the concept is merely for conflict within fiction, I suggest you reflect on a simple concept: at the end of the day, marriage is all about investing yourself totally and completely in another person. Each spouse belongs to the other, bound by a full commitment– spiritually bound, biologically bound, connected on all levels. Seriously, read Ephesians 5, and I mean all of it, not just the “approved” readings.

If this concept doesn’t even remotely scare you, please reflect on it some more. It should come to you shortly.

There is also another problem that comes in occasionally in fiction, that is, surprisingly enough, a factor in some actual relationship considerations. This is a belief by some people have that they are unloveable — “Seriously, what sane person could possibly love a creature like me? Only some broken psycho would express any interest — only the psychos have expressed an interest. And why would any “normal” person give me the time of day?”  If you think this is only reserved for fictional characters on angsty CW shows, then I applaud your confidence in how perfect you are.

In my execution of it, with my Love at First Bite series, my leads are Marco Catalano and Amanda Colt. And oy, these two have got relationships baggage that look like Samsonite, or maybe a Haliburton. One is a blood thirsty killer, the other’s a vampire. So you have two creatures of the night — would would rather be feared rather than loved, and one who eats people.

Now, I’m not going to say that this is the most unlikely duo I’ve ever created. The main couple in my Pius novels were pretty much the most opposite I could design two people while still making them human.

But when it comes to writing romance, I like little things. Little details. Little innocent things that can be taken the right way if characters looked at them really hard, but don’t because neither one thinks the other wants to go there. Little looks and touches, and smells and “if she hugs me any closer she’s going to realize I’m having a not-so-innocent reaction,” and “stay calm, or the increased heartbeat will give the game away.”

You know, things like that.  I’m told I do that well.

The short version is that in all things, there is a proper order. For a romance to be truly romance, sex should come last, and commitment should be more important than the sex. Because if two people aren’t joined in a blessed union, it just becomes one more carnal relationship, and what romance comes from that?

If you want to see a guy write not-bad romance, try the  Love At First Bite Series
.

Seeing the light on romance

Author Monalisa Morgan Foster has posted a very complimentary essay about my “Dating the Monsters” article. It makes an interesting counter to Dawn Witzke’s insightful piece on Strong Female Characters.

——–
I have to admit, the last person I thought I’d see with an essay in Ardeur, a non-fiction book about Laurell K. Hamilton’s, Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, was L. Jagi Lamplighter.

I’d read several of the books in the Anita Blake series after a co-worker got me hooked. I did not stay a devotee of the series. I honestly can’t recall where the series lost me, and I really didn’t think much of it. Most series romances lose me a few books in. “It’s not you. It’s me.” Honest.

Lamplighter was someone whose reputation I was aware of and whose short stories I’ve enjoyed. I may or may not have read her back when I was reading just for pleasure (and the fact that I can’t recall if I had or hadn’t isn’t noteworthy either, trust me–ask me what I had for dinner last night; go ahead, I dare you!). I do miss the days when I never had to worry about reading-as-a-writer. Reading-as-a-reader is more fun. Honestly, if you love reading, and you’re considering writing, turn back now. “Danger, Will Robinson, danger.” (This is not a condition unique to writing. Beware of turning any avocation into a vocation.) But, I digress…

This enlightening essay is called “Dating the Monsters: Why It Takes a Vampire or a Wereguy to Win the Heart of the Modern It Girl” and here’s a woefully brief excerpt. To my happy surprise, said essay wasn’t about the failings of men. I almost did a happy dance.

Read more…

Planetary Fiction

What is Planetary Fiction?

Planetary Fiction is an anthology on or about the the planets, and the them associated with them. Thus:

Mercury: journeys and messengers

Venus: love and romance

Mars: conflict and war

Jupiter: power, authority and leadership

Saturn: time, age and endings

Such stories could be science fiction, fantasy, horror or weird fiction. Tales could feature science fiction as diamond hard as the unfiltered light of the stars in space, to flights of fancy. Star-ships that rigidly obey the limits of known physics, to fantastic gravity drives to chariots pulled though the starry ether by swans. It has room for the airless deserts of Mars and the crushing pressures of Venus; and for Warlords of Mars and Princesses of Venus.

If the story fits a planetary concept, and evokes awe and wonder, it could be a good fit for ″Planetary Fiction″…

The first in the series will be ″Mercury″; edited by David Hallquist

Why Mercury? Why tales of a small, barren rock circling the Sun, almost invisible in its glare?

The question might be: why not Mercury?

This oddball world races about in a highly eccentric ellipse, instead of the more proper, nearly circular orbits of other planets. It is tidally locked in a 3:2 resonance with the Sun, with one Mercury day for every two Mercury years. This cratered little world is far more dense than it would seem, and is believed to have a larger iron core than in proportion to other worlds. Then there is the odd phenomenon of a powerful magnetic field on a world that is barely rotating at all. Truly, a strange little world.

Mythic Mercury, or Hermes was the swift messenger of the gods, and famous for his brilliance and trickery. The wand of Hermes, the Caduceus, is still the symbol for medical learning around the world. Speed, brilliance and knowledge are all associated with the messenger.

Mercury the metal, is known as ″quicksilver″ and has been associated with transmutation and arcane processes since the time of the earliest alchemists. Chinese Emperors believes that an amalgam of mercury would bestow immortality. Useful in early photography, industry and scientific studies, the deadly poisonous nature of the metal quickly limited the usefulness of quicksilver.

For all of that, Mercury has been a bit overlooked in Science Fiction. There are notable great stories though the tiny world is often overlooked for the glories of Mars, the majesty of Jupiter or the splendor of Saturn.

These then, are the tales of Mercury: messages about the Messenger.

Superversive SF is now soliciting submissions for ″Planetary Fiction: Mercury″. Submissions should be sent to: [email protected]. Please place the name of the planet and the story title in the subject line. Try to avoid excessive formatting, and do include a author’s contact information and word count, as well as which planet it is connected to at the first paragraph. If you agree to have us publish your story, Superversive SF may elect to publish though Superversive Fiction or other publishers and formats, as deemed appropriate by Superversive SF.

″Venus″ is next in the series, edited by Jagi L. Wright and A.M. Freeman, and is now receiving submissions.

Redemption in Death: can Revenge be Superversive?

In the light of the latest box office hit, John Wick: Chapter 2, there’s a question one should ask. Namely, can a revenge storyline be Superversive?

That is … a good question.

First, let’s look at the standard revenge storyline. Take someone who has an abundance of combat skills, and then promptly kill off a girlfriend / boyfriend / spouse/ fiancé(e) / best friend / random family member / dog. After that, you have said person go on a murderous rampage. Usually, a person of the opposite sex to replace the person killed off in chapter two. This is a pretty standard plot, filled with the usual clichés.

The execution of John Wick is unique in that it defied many of those tropes. His wife is dead before the movie begins. She leaves behind a dog for him, specifically for him to care for, lest he not even take care of himself. When he is assaulted and his dog is killed, we discover that Mr. Wick used to be a very bad man. He had found redemption and salvation in love, and in his wife. Without his wife to anchor him, he is already adrift. Killing the dog? That gives him something to aim at. The rest of the movie is John Wick displaying that yes, he knows gun-fu.

However, is revenge even considered uplifting? It can be entertaining, but I’m not sure of anything else. Killing people just to make the main character isn’t usually considered a justifiable reason in a court of law. John Wick was fun, but is it Superversive?  If you tilt your head and squint a little, you could see it as an anti-hero who had found the light, and needs to fight back the darkness within by killing off the darkness from his past … but that’s a stretch and a half.

Now, I’m not saying that’s an invalid point, but this is not a Superversive defense of John Wick, but of a genre. Can there be a revenge novel?

I think the answer is yes …. and no. I will give you two books, one is Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, and the other is Codename: Winterborn.

In WFR, Richard Cypher’s father is murdered by the dark forces of the sinister Darken Rahl, a tyrant from the next land over who literally sacrifices children to his dark overlords. Even his name is evil. On the one end, destroying fell overlords and their demonic masters is page 1 in the Superversive handbook: bad guys are bad, good guys are good, and do we even need to have this conversation?

In Codename: Winterborn, intelligence officer Kevin Anderson is sent on a mission to the Islamic Republic of France – yes, France – and his team is betrayed by the politicians on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And just how do you arrest a senator in the United States? There has been more than sufficient evidence to arrest senators on everything from bribery and corruption to manslaughter, to supporting terrorists, but no one leaves in disgrace, and if anything happens, they get a slap on the wrist — and that’s TODAY. So, what’s a lone spy going to do against 14 senators who have betrayed their country, and who have not only killed his friends, but will probably kill others in the future?

Technically, both are variations on for tyrannicide; killing a tyrant who needs killing. You could take the example of suggesting that someone should shoot Saddam Hussein, and thus preventing a war, as well as preventing his routine slaughters. WFR is the classic example, especially in fanasy. The second case could be a new look at tyrannicide in a democracy – enforcing a new definition of term limits upon traitors.

Morally ambiguous? That depends on how fine a line you walk. And how much fun you have pushing the main character.

From one point of view, Goodkind’s book is certainly Superversive because of the ending, which is one of the best examples of a bad guy being defeated by the power of love that I’ve ever seen — and no, it’s not an exaggeration, the solution is love … and a magical super weapon. It’s also a coin toss about whether or not it is even a revenge novel, as Richard happens to possess the key to said magical superweapon, so Richard must also defeat Darken Rahl in order to stay alive.

In the case of Winterborn and the lead, Kevin Anderson, it splits the hair a little finer. Anderson has thought out his actions, and has come to the conclusion that the only way to protect the country is to fulfill his oath to defend against enemies both foreign and domestic – and these folks are very domestic. Rational, reasoned, and his actions fit within his conscience.

Unfortunately, that’s where one gets to a sticking point – when does a righteous cause become entangled with a personal vendetta? All the reason in the world can’t separate a person from his own emotions for very long. What happens when Kevin Anderson starts to enjoy his work? Answer: his conscience gut-punches him and leaves him crying into his New England clam chowder (long story).

At the end of the day, a purely revenge novel can’t be Superversive. There really must be other elements to the story. With Wizard’s First Rule, there is a dark and terrible overlord who is coming to kill the hero who is thrown down through love (it works. Trust me on this). With Codename: Winterborn, there is throwing down a traitorous cabal willing to destroy their own country, and may not be taken down any other way … there are also Catholic missionaries riding to the rescue in act three, but that’s another kettle of strange.

That is not to say a revenge story is outside the bounds of Superversive fiction, but it cannot be Superversive for the revenge alone. It must at least have some element of redemption. It must have some element of justice. At the very least, it must have something bigger than oneself and one person’s goals. It must be more A Desert Called Peace, and less The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin Classics).

Declan Finn is a Dragon Award and Planetary award nominated author. His “Catholic Vampire romance novels” can be found on his personal website. As well as all the other strange things he does.

Sex, What is it Good For? (In novels)

In the last Superversive Roundtable discussion, we discussed romance novels, and how fast they went to sex scenes. And, seriously, a sex scene … why bother?  In the context of literature, almost a sex scene in it has been a horrid waste of time, energy, and irritates, at least, this reader. Heck, I’m up to book three of a vampire romance series — (yes. Really. It’s called Love at First Bite, honest) and I haven’t had to use one once.

Why? Because I find sex scenes boring.

I am not certain how much of this is my own personal opinion and how much of it is a critique of how sex scenes tend to be inflicted on the reader.

One of my major problems is the OSS, or the Obligatory Sex Scene.

For example, in the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child novel Mount Dragon, our protagonists, after having found shelter and water in the middle of the desert, after nearly dying from thirst, while on the run from a nutcase with a gun…. are so happy they start having sex…

Huh? What the heck?

The OSS I just mentioned is quick. If it’s longer than half a page, I’d be surprised. But it was just dropped into the middle of the book, and was so jarring it broke the pace. It had been a nice, solid thriller, our heroes on the run from a psychotic killer with a rifle, and then…. they’re stopping to have sex? Really?

Looking at it objectively, what is the point of an OSS?

Playing Thomas Aquinas for a moment, I’m certain someone could object: “Physical intimacy shows the the relationship involved has gone to another level and has thus impacted the characters.”

Yes, this is perfectly true, but does that necessitate a five page sex scene? Or even half a page? If one wanted to tell the reader that, yes, two people slept together, I can do that right now: “X and Y fell into bed, kissing passionately as they stripped each other’s clothes. They then turned off the lights and hoped they wouldn’t wake the neighbors.”

Done. Two lines and a bit of smart ass can carry something a long way.

Objection two: “Things can happen during the scene that are relevant to the rest of the novel.”

True, but rarely does it necessitate going into intimate details. In fact, I would suggest that anything interesting that happened could be covered in the next chapter. “On reflection, s/he noticed something odd while lying on his/her back. S/he didn’t really notice it at the time, but now that it’s quiet…..”

Done.

Exceptions can be made to this rule, obviously. If the couple rolls off of the bed as someone walks into the room, be it with room service or with a gun, then that is a useful detail.

There are moments when character can be served, strangely enough. I’ve seen sex scenes done well. I don’t mean the sex scene in the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, where he dwells on a nice neat serial killer, his girlfriend comes in, starts kissing and disrobing him, and the next line is, literally, “How did that happen?” I mean a sex scene, rating R to NC-17.

John Ringo’s “Paladin of Shadows” series (Ghost, Kildar, et al), has sex scenes and nudity. However, the point of the hero, nicknamed Ghost, is that he is not a “nice guy;” he hangs out in strip clubs, and some of his contacts are strippers… it’s rather amusing reading a scene where a stripper is informing him of pertinent information during the course of her duties.

The sex scenes themselves are surprisingly thought out. The first novel, Ghost, is a series of vignettes. The second vignette is described as “two-thirds bondage porn and deep sea fishing, and who knows which is worse” (I’m paraphrasing there). Before the sex scenes take up whole chapters, the character Ghost has a discussion with the two young ladies he’s dealing with… and their parents. The conversation that follows is one part clinical dissertation on bondage subcultures, and five parts comedy routine.

After that, you can skip read, unless you really want to learn more about leather goods and deep sea fishing than you ever really wanted to.

So, here we have someone who makes sex funny without it being gaudy. In fact, the amount of thought put into many of Ringo’s later sex scenes shows a lot of character, intelligence, and humor.

Even then, are they necessary? Surprisingly enough, some are, and two are crucial to the stories they show up in. Almost all of them impact the characters in some way. And almost all of these scenes can be entertaining for reasons that are anything but sexual. Why Ghost does what he does (and I don’t mean sexual maneuvers or positions) tells the reader more about the character than a hundred pages of sex scenes from any given novelist….

Laurell K. Hamilton, I’m looking at you.

Laurell K. Hamilton created a novel series about Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. It was a nice, solid series, set in St. Louis, with a well-constructed, detailed world, where vampires were public figures, werewolves are treated like HIV cases in the 80s, crosses work against vampires, and demons aren’t the actor in a suit you see on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

For nine novels, the series went well. There was sexuality here and there (a major character was a French vampire, after all), but it never really got in the way of the story. By book seven and eight, the main character was sleeping with both a vampire and a werewolf, but the OSS’s were few and far between, and they were easily skipped by turning a page. Quite painless, overall.

After book #9, Obsidian Butterfly, I was warned off several novels because they opened with a hundred pages of vampire rituals of who gets to have sex with who. I went back for book #15, because it featured the return of Hamilton’s best, scariest character: a mild mannered, white-bread fellow named Edward, a mercenary who started hunting vampires because humans were too easy.

However, I had to skip a hundred and fifty pages of the novel. It was one, long and drawn out OSS. Not a menage a trois, but a bisexual sextet among Vampires and were-creatures. Yes, you read that right. Much of the rest of the book had pages of Anita Blake defending her sex life. “The lady dost protest too much.”

When the author herself was asked about the overabundance of sex during a Barnes and Noble interview, Hamilton’s best defense was that “I only get complaints from men. I had two reviewers tell me that they’re disturbed that a woman is writing this sort of stuff. ”

Ahem…

Dear Madam. Hamilton: I get disturbed with John Ringo writing about a man and two coeds on a boat with bondage gear. For the love of all that’s Holy, what makes you think that a bi-sexual sextet with were-furries would go over any better, no matter who or what you were?  So, you’re going to defend yourself against criticism with some kind of strange faux-feminism based off of two reviewers?  How about “I want more plot than sex scene,” are you going to blame that on me being male? Really? Really?

Again, I’ll go back to John Ringo, only a different series — The Council Wars.  One short story is seriously NC-17, and reading through it, I would be hard-pressed to see how it could be written otherwise. With Hamilton’s novels, I could skip over a hundred pages and not miss a single plot point. That’s screwed up.

As I said, in my book series, there are no sex scenes. Book one and three have some interesting and creative make out sessions, but that’s about it. Can I write a sex scene? Sure, they’re easy. I’ve gotten requests from lady friends of mine for erotica (please God, do not ask. It’s a long story).

But are they necessary? Not really. Did I need intimate details to add to the plot, the character, or anything related to the story? No.

Frankly, I think a PG-13 novel sometimes requires more skill than an NC-17 rated. I find that sex sequences are a cheat, sort of like premium cable—just because you can use four letter words doesn’t mean you have to write them into every single line.

I have actually made my lack of OSS’s in my novels work for me. For example, the hero of one of my books has had a long term girlfriend … they’ve never had intercourse because every time they do, someone tries to kill them. And there are other creative ways around a problem.

Just because an author can throw in a sex scene doesn’t mean s/he must do so. Doing sex scenes well takes skill, and making them relevant takes talent; most people don’t have it. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer had several moments where our heroine’s sex life was literally going to get people killed (Season 2, Season 4, et al). Sherrilyn Kenyon, a ROMANCE NOVELIST, wrote at least one book where the LACK of sex was a key plot point, and another where intimacy between the hero and heroine was surprisingly crucial to the story. Ringo was mentioned above.

So, it has been done well. Just not very often.

To answer the opening question: Sex, what is it good for?

In novels… yes, it can be good for something. It just rarely is.

Declan Finn is a Dragon Award nominated author. His “Catholic Vampire romance novels” can be found on his personal website. As well as all the other strange things he does.

Romance! As Understood By Little Girls

With Valentine’s Day coming up, and our theme on this month’s Roundtable being romance, I thought it was apt to write a little something about romance. But we don’t need just little old me talking about it. Oh no no, we need some fresh, young perspective! And so I decided to interview my little sister and her friend. Who better to give romantic advice than little girls? Cianna is 6 and her friend Chastity is 9. Let’s see what they have to say about this whole love thing, and about what makes a good romance story.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Chastity: No

Cianna: Yes

Oh? Why do you, or don’t you believe in love at first sight?

Chasity: I think it’s really really weird. I don’t think you can start a relationship before you actually have a relationship as friends.

Cianna: Because it’s cute

Tell me about your favorite love story.

Chastity: I really like the love story of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. And I also like the love story of Aladdin.

What is it about those love stories that make it your favorite?

Chastity: Um, I don’t know. They’re really cute and adorable and sweet how they… they just meet and grow in their relationship together, and um…. it’s really adorable.

What is it they do together, or for each other, that strengthens them and makes them a good couple? Like, do you think making sacrifices for each other is a good thing?

Chasity: Yes yes. Like I watched a Tarzan video last night, and Tarzan sacrificed his life for his whole family, and for the girl that was killing him.

Wow, that’s pretty intense. Why did he sacrifice himself for the girl that was killing him?

Chastity: Because he’s such a nice person. *giggles*

What about you Cianna, what’s your favorite love story?

Cianna: Robin Hood. (note: She is referring to the old classic with Errol Flynn from 1938… she’s obsessed with it!)

What makes Robin Hood your favorite love story?

Cianna: ummmmm….. Robin.

What is it about Robin?

Cianna: Well he’s nice and practically the main character in this story.

Is it because he’s brave and dashing, and puts others before himself?

Cianna: Uh huh!

And what do you think of the maid Marian?

Cianna: Well she’s cute.

Why do you think they fall in love with each other?

Cianna: Well…. it’s kinda cute….

Chasity: We it’s probably because they are both really caring and loving to other people, and put others before themselves. So they have a lot of similarities so… them um…

Cianna: Yeah that’s what I was gonna say.

Chastity: *giggles* Yeah right!

I was just watching it, and I think when maid Marian saw that Robin Hood was actually the good guy and really helping people, that opened her eyes. And then when maid Marian helped rescue Robin Hood, he saw how much she cared about him. And so he fell in love with her, too.

Are there any stories that it didn’t make sense for the people to fall in love?

Chasity: Uh…. I think in a dream? Oh I remember! It was in the Braidy bunch, when a guy just met the girl that day. And they get married in the guy’s house.

Then the girls started talking about something else, and laughing and giggly, and the conversation was at an end. Ah well, I managed to get some good thoughts.

 

The first thing I noticed is that in Chastity perspective, the best relationships start small. Growing from a friendship into something more. Cianna likes ones that are cute. I think these things relate- that is, I think having a relationship that grows from the bottom up is what makes it cute.

See, Cianna used to not like kissing. She would be the first to say “eww” and hide her face when the characters kissed in a movie. But that has changed recently, and I think I have my oldest brother and his new wife to blame for that. Because she used to think kissing was weird (which it kinda is, I mean if you really think about it….. kissing is really weird!) What makes it not weird is when there’s meaning and intimacy behind it.

Cianna, from basically the day she was born, has seen Jubal and Bethany together. First as friends, then as best friends, then dating, then engaged….  Now that Jubal and Bethany are married and can kiss, she doesn’t think it’s weird at all. Because their kiss has a lot more meaning to it. Part of that being that they saved their first kiss ever for their wedding day, and the other part that they really have grown together. Something my little sister has seen and picked up on.

In a good story, a character is not the same from the beginning to the end. It would be boring and disappointing if there was no character development. That goes for relationships as well; the two characters, and the relationship itself, need to change and grow. I believe the strongest relationships grow from friendship and a genuine care for the other person. But in a story, you might not have time to lay out the relationship from the very beginning. That’s where some skillfully placed back story comes in handy, with the present taking place where the relationship is changing. Also, a dramatic life or death situation is great for bounding!

Another theme I noticed from our short conversation, is that the principle of sacrifice makes for a strong romance. Now it doesn’t have to be a total self sacrifice in which one person gives their life for the other. (That can be very dramatic and good, but it’s also very sad, so be careful, you don’t want the fans and shippers coming for your neck.) It can be any sort of sacrifice: spending time helping them with something instead of something you had planned to do, caring for them when they are sick, putting yourself at risk by going and seeking out help to free them from a hanging, or fighting off the deep space pirates to protect them. Anything that shows they care enough to put the other person’s needs and safety before their own.

Good love is selfless, and grand acts of selflessness make dramatic love stories. Drama is good for stories, and selfless love is good for love stories.

However, be sure not to portray a flawless couple. Perfect couples don’t make for good romance in stories. No one would be able to relate, and you need conflict to make a story. But as long as you work into your story the idea of them growing and changing together, and include selfless acts and sacrifices they make for each other, you’ll have a couple that readers will want to root for.