FIRST PRINTED IN THE ROMANCE WRITERS OF AUSTRALIA MAGAZINE, HEARTS TALK
I like to think that my stories exist in a kind of hyper-reality. Realism with a healthy sprinkling of pixie dust
My heroes and heroines could actually exist, they’re just a little prettier, have a mite more disposable income, are a smidge less time-poor, a tad more self-aware, and boy are they able to come up with the kind of zingers, on the spot, that we only wish we could spit out!
In other words, romantic fantasy.
While the fantasy part plays a big part in what makes our kinds of stories so beloved, so heart-warming, so whisk-you-away-somewhere-magical, I believe there is something more grounded, more regular, more day to day that can truly elevate a romance to the next level.
Today I am going to introduce you to one of my favourite bits of writing the stories we write – The Dance.
It can be banter so beautifully choreographed they are clearly on the same wavelength. Perhaps he washes the dishes and she dries (or perhaps for some that would still be considered romantic fantasy ;)). It can even be an actual dance! Whatever the situation, the our lovely couple finally shed pretence, pride, and fear until they appear to us, and one another, vulnerable and real.
Here are a few examples of when my couples have enjoyed their Dance.
In my novel LOVE ME TENDER Serafina appears a gangly, shy, computer geek – a thinker. Murdoch’s a big burly builder – a doer. Polar opposites, stuck working in the same house, they trip over one another constantly until Murdoch finds himself stuck and in need of help from the indoor girl…
Turns out Serafina learnt plenty about manual labour from her mechanic father, she loves working on her own muscle car and she and Murdoch have more in common than he’d have ever allowed. Until The Dance.
An author would never say they had a favourite book, but I can say that one of my most popular – by way of sales, reviews, awards and reader feedback is THE MAGNATE’S INDECENT PROPOSAL. So naturally I have wracked my brain as to why that is. What did I do in that book that made it shine so bright? I’ve come to the conclusion that while that story is full to the brim with my usual rollicking romantic fantasy, it’s the moments of romantic reality that really connected.
Picture a man heartbreakingly handsome, perfectly cut suits, expensive haircut, clean shaven, not a spec of dust would dare mar his glorious perfection and you’ll get close to my Damien. Early on in their courtship he arrives at Chelsea’s, flowers in hand, to find her in “baggy clothes and her hair sprouting from a messy ponytail atop her head”. We have a nice moment of romantic fantasy – if I do say so myself – when Damien thinks, “She looked warm and ruffled and ready for bed.” But then Chelsea darts past in “a blur of tartan flannelette and bare feet” and the next thing he hears is her upchucking in some distant room. Again and again and again. Alas! Overcome by food poisoning.
When Chelsea begs him to leave he could rightly have done just that. Did he? Let’s see…
I mean, come on! Pretty darned fabulous, right? And vulnerable and real. Not only does the scene give him major hero points, it proves that this man who appears a mile out of her league has the chops to be a real human person, living a real human life.
I actually wrote a book about dancing itself once – THE DANCE OFF. The heroine, Nadia, is a dance teacher, the hero, Ryder, is a strapping, Alpha architect, unwillingly taking lessons so that he might dance with his little sister at her upcoming wedding. The lucky couple dance, a lot, and it’s hot, sexy, intense. And the zingers could light the block! But the dance scenes are pure romantic fantasy.
The moment of romantic reality comes when Nadia - a seriously stubborn, doggedly independent soul – chooses to swallow her pride and accept Ryder’s help as he teaches her how to drive.
The sexual chemistry between them is out of this world from the moment they meet – but the romance, the love affair, the path to happily ever after hinges on this moment where both appear vulnerable, open and connected in a private, real, lasting way.
If you feel like you’re missing that special something that will give your readers goose bumps, happy sighs and the best feeling after they close the pages of our books, try popping your characters together on the page, and simply watch them dance.
MORE ARTICLES ON WRITING HERE.