Monday, April 8, 2013


by Susan D. Taylor

Recently, during a lively girls’ luncheon someone tossed a back-handed compliment in my direction. A recap of the gist: how marvelous for “you” (meaning me), to have an ambition to write about people falling in love. Furthermore, my friend went on to say how writing must be like a splendid getaway. She paralleled  her experience, explaining that whenever she read fiction, specifically romance, it was like being on vacation as though I enjoyed a similar experience being the writer. Right? Wrong! 

My friend is a lovely woman, a professional accountant, and in her world, yes writing romance would seem a sensational seductive pursuit.  From the outside, or from her side of the table, I could see what she envisioned. Me, writing about two people attracted to each other—the allure and journey of falling in love. Even the creation of story conflict didn’t seem daunting to her. Nothing to rock the to-do-list- boat because, hey it’s romance and every story must have a HAPPY EVER AFTER (HEA). How hard is that task? Errr…PLENTY! Aside from creation, there are tedious tasks romance writers are charged to complete.

Regardless, I understood her point. And I, in my own defense, clarified for her. Let me say just in case, there are others believing romance writers spend their days gazing through rose colored lens, it’s a bit more reality based. Romance authors do a whole lot more than storyboard steps 1-2-3 of the two lovers’ (or soon to be lovers’) path toward the HEA.

Contrary to her belief, and trust me, I did give her a less than glamorous rundown of what it takes to create a realistic romance. Regardless of subgenre, writers are required to create or recreate a world where a love story unfolds. Because romance is fiction, the writer can take liberties to create the environment. Not one-hundred percent. The craft of fiction requires imbuing into a story the substance in order to build structure.

The realistic details a writer contemplates serve a purpose, and are included within romance in order to amplify, cradle, and highlight the story structure of character arcs, plot points, conflicts, and even the HEA. Writers pepper facts into scene description, behavior, name it. I think of weaving (or the manipulation) of facts as the necessary act to make fiction plausible enough to hold a reader’s attention. After all, that is what a writer is responsible for at all points: reader trust. If the reader begins to question the world I’ve crafted, things can get dicey.

Writers spend hours researching everything from fashion to geographic points on a map. Just think how many details there are to address in a meal. Food, place settings, the color of paint or wallpaper, furniture within a scene. Who thought so much came into play if the happy couple is hungry? And yes, it does. It’s not the waiter, hero, or heroine. A writer decides upon red or white. The specific vintage. In Secret Desire, I can tell you deciding to serve Cappellano’s 2004 Barolo Rupestris wasn’t point and pick. That detail related to the hero’s lonely travels in Italy and his hope for the future.

Speaking of traveling, if the hero or heroine do venture forth, then the writer is hot on the trail uncovering precise modes of transportation. Ask any writer how much she/he learned about Tubes/subways, airports, bus stations, trains, private jets, motorcycles. Not only specific cars, a writer investigates the roads, highways, hot spots, back alleys, and tourist attractions her character encounters.

Some writers, me included, use foreign language. A few words here and there require an eye for distinctive characters such as accent marks, and used in the correct context and dialect.

What about history? Any writer worth her salt, who delves into the past, has a long row to hoe in learning customs, traditions, and historical references (to name a few) that deliver the story from the past into the present, all the while sparking the interest of the reader. This isn’t a dry history lesson, but boy the things a reader learns in reading say a Scottish Highland romance. All history should taste as sweet.

In writing romance, I’ve had the pleasure of investigating governments, law, real estate, insects, cattle (disease, breeding, and birthing), exotic Asian recipes, ballroom dance moves, vintage motorcycles, foreign countries including Libya, the military, NASA and JAX space programs, DNA, cell splicing, genetics, psychology, current fashion trends, patent trolls, copyright and licensing agreements, St. Petersburg, snow leopards, and Prada purses. The list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Only making a point and there’s a difference. I love the varied aspects of writing. From the moment a story idea sticks in my brain to imagining the bittersweet black moment that will keep my pair of lovers’s a rush. And yet, I also am thrilled, and must take care, as to what shoes will the heroine wear, the details of characters’ career choices, and the road they travel upon to get from just meeting to falling madly in love.

Each romantic story is a creation within my heart. And yet, the steps to making fictional romance appear real, are the many and numerous details that are included requiring research. Each fact undergoes a writer’s careful consideration, and a synthesis or integration providing the reader with enough realism to believe, or escape, into a love story that holds them captive.

So yes, writing romance is an act in which an author uses both heart and mind. The creation and delivery of a love story is very much—oh, so much—a right AND left brain based endeavor. And one, that I want to do again, and again.
I don't think I'm alone here. Chime in and tell me a favorite story detail you learned in reading romance, or as a writer, what was the most surprising detail you researched and book featured!
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