Monday, September 17, 2012

Hot Romance Stories--What Novel Matters Writers would write if they wrote romance

We realize the title comes precariously close to the woodchuck tongue twister (how much wood would a woodchuck chuck?), but we're throwing cliche caution to the wind today. Patti popped the question on Friday: Will you read romance?

The Novel Matters women have gathered at the roundtable today with another question in mind. Or two. Maybe three. We don't keep that good of notes.

It goes something like this:

Okay ladies, we don't write romance novels. We don't read them--at least not many. But we all LIKE romance. Each of us is married to a hunky piece of heaven, right? We're living the romance.

So, what if you did write romance novels? What if you could write the perfect romance novel--the one that hit all your literary buttons--what would the premise be?

Or premises?

Romance is enduring, so there's bound to be more than one premise up your creative sleeves.

A man falls desperately in love with a woman he met online, he moves to a new city to be near her, and discovers she's a conjoined twin.


A happily married woman lives a completely different life when she goes to sleep, even being married to a different man, until she forgets which one is real.

Bonnie, you clever girl! I love both of those ideas. Please write them. Here are my offerings:

A couple's marriage is torn asunder by the wife's infidelity. Ten year after the divorce, they are still broken people, but they decide to mend together and remarry.


The wife wakes up to find an impostor of her husband in their bed. But he is her real husband. She's suffering from Capgras' delusion, a rare neurological syndrome that makes her believe her husband is an impostor.  The "impostor" must make her fall in love with him or leave.

I realized after reading Patti's post, that the novel I'm writing is a romance. The most I will say about it is: it's a May - December - May romance. 

I mentioned in the comments that I liked The Painted Veil by  W. Somerset Maugham. What set that apart was that it was about so much more than falling in love, like learning what it is that makes a person good, like forgiveness and growing up and living for something beyond yourself. So in that spirit, here's another premise.

A man and woman who divorced young and hated each other their whole lives end up in the same nursing home and fall in love. 

Actually, I regard my Conspiracy of Breath, an unpublished manuscript, to be the most passionate book I've ever written. Like romantically passionate. Like steamy in places without being graphic. Here's the premise, and I do think the basic principle is one with which many women struggle: How does a marriage thrive when the woman is more "spiritual" than the man? Can it? In the case of Priscilla, she receives direct revelation from God (the book of Hebrews), while her husband is a practical, relationship-oriented leader. 

Probably the closest I will ever get to writing a romance is Lying on Sunday, which has a romantic element, but that wasn't the main element by any means. One of my very favorite movies is Sleepless in Seattle, so the type of romance I like is where the couple getting together is frustrated by any number of things, and they only manage to get together in the end, and the romance happens off screen. I love where the attraction is based on things other than physical attraction, so my premise would be a couple brought together, say over the phone because the nature of their business brings them together. There's an attraction that's frustrated by "The Great Misunderstanding" which takes most of the story to straighten out. When they finally get together, it's all the more satisfying. I know, it's been done and over-done, but that would be the type of romance I'd write.

I enjoy when romance is part of any genre as long as it contributes naturally to enhance story and is one of several layers. I've included elements of romance (love) in my books because it is important to the lives of my characters and their lives would seem imbalanced without it. 

Writing a believable romance with a unique premise would be daunting for me.  My hat is off to those authors who can do it!  If I took a stab at it, it might look something like this:

An author meets a woman who is the character from a story he is writing and falls in love with her but she doesn't love him.  He tries to write the story so that she falls in love with him but he soon loses control of the story and the lines between reality and story are blurred. He realizes the danger she is in and must write himself into the story to save her, which leads her to fall in love with him.

Maybe a bit far-fetched but it might even be an analogy of how God loves us and bent into our lives to save us. 
What about you? Romance not your genre, but you have a great premise anyway? Maybe all these ideas will generate enough creative fusion to blast us all into a future writing romance novels! Share your hot premise for a romance novel! 


Dina Sleiman said...

Those are all awesome! I would want to read everyone.

For my first novel--that's not quite a romance--the premise is that the young peasant girl turns her back on her true love because of her childhood wounds of poverty and starvation. She begins a long journey and meets a number of men, each who represents a facet of love but not the true thing. It's not until she falls in love with Jesus in an Italian convent that she's set free to find earthly love as well. My goal for this book was actually to dispel the myths typically found in romance novels. That's "Dance of the Dandelion" available on amazon etc...

My second novel only includes romance. It's more of a sisterhood coming of age type story. It's been to several committees, but is still unpublished.

My third novel is the "marketable" historical romance, "Love in Three Quarter Time." The premise is that the belle of the ball who has fallen into poverty after her family faces tragedy must teach dance to the sisters of the young plantation owner who jilted her when she needed him most. It's a story of healing and reconciliation. Also, it's a story of her falling in love with Jesus and learning to hear his voice. I included a lot of elements outside the box for "romance." There are five points of view, subplots, a love triangle, symbolism, poetic passages, etc... Although, all of those are allowed in the long historical romance category. That one releases October 23rd with Zondervan First.

BK said...

Nope. Still no romance premises for me. I honestly can think of nothing that scintillates me for a romantic story thread. The world has been there, done that too much for it ever to seem fresh.

My first novel deals with love--regarding an already married couple who are separated by circumstances, but even then, that's not the main thread of the book.

This whole romance thing is a struggle for me. I have another novel I want to write where the hero takes on a massive, dangerous challenge to reach a goal. If I wrote that story the way the average woman would want it written, the prize at the end of that journey would be the woman. But I want something different, and I haven't learned to reconcile "mass demand" with what I want, so the character remains not completely fleshed out and the story remains just a spark bouncing around in my head.

Johnnie Alexander said...

I'm intrigued by the author who meets a woman who is a character in his story. How great that "he soon loses control" because that's exactly what happens when characters take on lives of their own. And I love that "it might even be an analogy of how God loves us." Please write this book!

Dina Sleiman said...

BK, you might want to look at some of Steven James's novels (if you can stomach them). He always has a romance thread because readers like that and it adds tension. But the girl is NEVER the prize in the end.

Dina Sleiman said...

Oh, oh, oh!!! (Can you tell I love this subject) WhiteFire publishing will have a book by June Foster coming out in 2014 that follows the romance pattern but has a really cool premise. I'm sure this isn't how we'll bill it on the back cover,, but.... A Christian man with homosexual tendencies finds himself falling in love with a woman and must be set free in order to give her the relationship that she needs.

Josey Bozzo said...

Mhy premise would be my own story. My husband had a crush on me in all through school, but I wasn't interested. Five years after graduating high school, we ran into each other again. However he was engaged at the time. I still wasn't completely interested, but he broke the engagement and we started dating. But having been hurt lots of times before, I held back alot of my feelings for a long time. Luckily he stuck it out and we are now married 17 years.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I think that I would write it between two people who are struggling to overcome addiction of some sort. There are so many more complications in that sort of relationship than most. And neither of them would be physically attractive. No. They would, however, have a depth of beauty that is so much more meaningful. :)

Lynn Dean said...

My first story (More Precious Than Gold, self-published on Amazon) is about a preacher's daughter whose faith is shattered along with her hopes when her fiance, a chaplain, is killed in battle. Fleeing her grief, she runs into the man who caused it and must learn to forgive and trust God's sovereignty.

The sequel is about married love stretched to the limits by hardship. The hero's main quest is to save his livelihood, but in the process he must win back the love of his children and the bride of his youth.

The story I'd really love to write is actually a time travel of sorts. An unemployed writer becomes caregiver for her spinster great-aunt and discovers several promising but unpublished stories featuring heroines through whom the older woman relives the parts of her life she regrets...stories that eerily foreshadow her young niece's life.

Camille Eide said...

I write what I'd call romance with meat. In a purely symbolic sense, of course. Relational drama that involves spiritual and emotional surrender or healing, often the need for sacrifice by one or more of the characters.

My first yet-to-be-pubbed novel is about a widowed man who finds healing and renewed faith in God and the ability to love again, except it turns out the woman he's fallen for is dying.

My 2nd novel is about a woman who runs a group foster home for unwanted teens, much like what she once was, who has issues with trusting God and men. She struggles with letting herself get close to the kids she loves, but learns to open up with the help of the generous, godly man she's recently hired. But when she finally realizes she's fallen for him, she finds out he has a suspicious past involving kids.

The next one I'm still toying around with is about a recently jilted woman whose life is further shattered when a bizarre, unexpected twist about her identity comes out in the midst of a family trauma. The helpful family friend she's falling for turns out to be her anonymous email confidante, the man of God who knows her darkest secret. I suspect it's a secret that will personally affect him, making it all the more unforgivable. Still not sure on that one though... I'm still in mulling/praying stages. Feedback welcome... :0)

BK said...

@ Dina--thanks. I think I've got a Steven James novel downloaded on my Kindle and just haven't had time to read it.

Kathleen Popa said...

Interesting premises, all of you. And Josey, your personal love story is very, VERY romantic.


Cherry Odelberg said...

What? Whoa? Say that again?
You all (which is 5 more people than ya'll) DON'T write romance novels? Okay, okay, I know you don't write GOTHIC romance novels as defined in a previous post; but you don't write romance? So, Patti, what do you call A Well Watered Garden? Non-genre? Bonnie, how do you classify, Talking with the Dead? And Sharon, someone commented that Unravelled had a nice romantic thread. What genre is it?
If it has a love story in it - if two people fall in love, is it a romance? If the story is devoid of male/female relationships and love, is that the only way it can be not a romance?

Jennifer Major said...

My first novel, as yet unpubbed, deals with the survivor of an abusive marriage who knows there are good men out there, but cannot believe she is worthy of any of them. Years of mind games and physical battery have left her mind and body scarred. She feels physically and psychologically repulsive. She travels West (as in The Old West) to live with her sister and hopes to live out the rest of her life hidden away in in a loving family far from any prying eyes and angry men. She meets a Native American widow who she offends immediately with talk of savages and scalping. But because of a shared trauma, it is he alone who can help her battle her demons. Can she accept his help? Will she look past his colour? Will he look past the scars that cover her body? Will their nightmares drive them mad? Will they embrace the grace needed for them both to survive, or answer the call to keep running from their secrets?

Dina Sleiman said...

Jennifer, if you would be open to a small press, I would love to take a look at that one for WhiteFire Publishing. It's similar to our novel "Walks Alone." Might prove too similar, but...

Henrietta Frankensee said...

An older man takes a child bride (9 or 10). He had one before when he was younger and killed her because he didn't know that sort of thing could cause death. Now he is wise. She is terrified but learns to trust him and love him but not his patience. At 17 she begs him to consummate the marriage. She flirts, almost forces him. He has a really hard time resisting but he does. Then this other guy comes and gives her everything she ever wanted in that way.
Anybody recognise the story? I think this is what made Uzziah so wise and why Bathsheba had no children before David. (She was obviously very fertile.) And why she was able to teach Solomon so much wisdom. It didn't come from David.
The trouble with writing this story is that it is all about sex. It would take great skill to write non pornography.

Bonnie Grove said...

Dina: Z First? New imprint? I'm out of touch with the wild and wonderful happenings at Z. Congratulations on your upcoming release! We're thrilled for you!

Dispelling romantic myth. A formidable, and thankless task. There is something about love that makes us stupid--grinning, delirious stupid. :D

BK: Woman as prize is an issue for me, too. People aren't carnival booth rewards, and women shouldn't be understood as prizes to be won (even on a subtle level). I think the myth (to reference back to Dina's comment) that most people struggle with (or embrace) is the notion that there is just one person "out there" that was made for you. Fate. Soul mate. And the quest of life is to find that one person who will complete you.
That's tough to swallow, even for me. And I'm someone who is married to that "soul mate" that "perfect match".

Johnnie: I agree completely, Debbie's premise is so intriguing. Just those few words pulled me into her story world. LOVED it. I hope she writes it one day.

Bonnie Grove said...

Dina: WhiteFire might have a bestseller on its hands. I know in the US the gay "issue" is a big one. In Canada, not so much.

Josey: Great story! That novel would keep the reader on her toes. Will they, won't they? Ekk!

Susie: Ugly druggies fall in love. I would buy that one. Serious.

Lynn: I, for one, love time travel stuff. I hope you write it, Lynn!

Bonnie Grove said...

Camille: there's something in life we can only glimpse through stories of loss. Gossamer ideas that feel like the beating of angles wings.
Blessed is the teller who can story that shimmer.

Cherry: In terms of categorizing novels, it's tricky business. You're correct when you point out that Patti's novels and mine have romantic threads--strong ones. But you can't slot them in the romance genre (one of the issues writers like the six of us have is our work touches on so many different aspects, they often defy (or confuse) categorical description, and often are lumped into that "non-genre" lot.

Bonnie Grove said...

Jennifer: Very interesting premise! HIstorical, yet up to the minute in terms of the issues it address. We're cheering you on!

Dina: Woo Hoo! You're amazing.

Henrietta: If this story is burning to get out, try you must. Don't worry about details. Tell the story.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Cherry: Bonnie is right; our fiction is hard to categorize. Mine is labeled Contemporary Women's Fiction. That says it best. There tends to be a romantic thread through my stories, but it's not the focus of the story.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Thanks Bonnie and Sharon. I shall sally forth feeling comfortable in a non-genre label.

Despite that both my works in progress do end in relationship, and the theme of one is: every girl needs a hero - the kind of hero with full blown integrity; I think the chapters have more to do with psychological and emotional health and maturity; or God providing abundantly above all we can ask or think; than they do with romance.