Thursday, 2 April 2009


Nearly every story should have an element of romantic interest. Without sounding like Mills and Boon, love and romance are important elements in most people's lives.

The good side is, of course, falling in love. The bad side is the breakup of relationships. Nearly every reader or film goer has had the experience of falling in and out of love. You strike a chord with them; you recruit their encouragement or their sympathy when you detail these things. The reader has suddenly become engaged - he or she is now your tacit partner in the book.

This is why it is so important to have love and romance in your work. Not many people have met a seven foot, blue-skinned alien wielding a ray gun. The readers have to use their imagination there. They don't have to imagine what it feels like to be in love. They know.

Note that the title of this section is romantic interest. There are of course many other kinds of love, and you could quite profitably use all of them in your works: love of parents; love of children; love for a house, a piece of land or a country. Nearly all your readers will also know what those emotions are like.

It is also quite easy to write romance and other loves well. Just honestly examine your own feelings. How did you feel when you met someone special? How did you act when you were in love? What was it like when the relationship turned sour?

See, you know how it feels, don't you?

As Frank Herbert says in 'Dune': 'beginnings are such crucial times'.

Extreme care must be taken at the beginning of something.

Consider the first meeting of boy and girl (or man and woman, or any other combination you might want). The two may not initially like each other. Your path in this situation is to, gradually, over the course of the first half of the book, find ways in which they can come to admire and respect each other.

That admiration must turn to mutual liking, and then to love. It could well be that boy rescues girl from life threatening situation. The sex follows, as a celebration of continuing life.

Here is an example from my work in progress, "The Symbiont".

There were two people in the office. One was Under Secretary Whitehead, who always reminded me of a surprisingly clever caricature - the toad in human guise.

The other occupant was obviously a woman and, less obviously, an American.

Mister Charm-and-Personality was the first to speak.

"Where the hell have you been, Player? I've been tickling you for nearly two hours!"

Amazing! Even his voice was a guttural, batrachian croak. I replied with considerable restraint and dignity. Well, I thought so anyway.

"In the pub, where do you think? Tickler must be malfunctioning again."

His face turned an interesting shade of ugly.

"Your contract says forty-five minutes for lunch, not four hours!"

"Fine; so fire me. Better yet, I quit."

I turned to leave.

The woman, who had been following the conversation like a tennis spectator spoke for the first time; confirming that she was indeed American; West coast probably. The tan strengthened that impression.

"Can you quit in a few weeks? We need you for a while longer."

I looked at her with as much insolence as I could muster. And that was plenty. I've had lots of practice.

Pretty, shoulder length dark hair, oval face, nice body. Dressed in American office-casual - slacks and sweater, trainers, white socks. No rings or other jewellery.

She withstood my look with composure. Obviously she was another with more than the usual quota of arrogance.

"You want me for what exactly?"

She picked up a buff file from the corner of the Whitehead's desk. She quoted from it at length, without once looking at the pages themselves. Impressive.

"So you're the famous Richard Player? A legend in his own lifetime. How many research programmes have you -" she mouthed the word as if it were tasty - "sequestered?

"Don't strain your memory; I'll tell you. Seventy-two."

I shrugged. She continued.

"Which is the only reason you're still working here. Your personality profile puts you at borderline sociopathic. A drunk, a loner, a misfit; who hates himself marginally less than he hates the rest of the world.

"Make no mistake Player. You are only here on sufferance - because you're a useful tool. As soon as you cease to be useful, we'll put you in a psych ward for the rest of your miserable life."

I couldn't help myself. I laughed. A look of surprise crossed her face; then she followed suit. Her nose wrinkled nicely as she did so.

I pulled one of the nice leather swivel chairs over next to her and sat.

"You must know I'm a sucker for flattery," I said. "So, once again, what is it you want me to do?"

So what is happening here? Player, our protagonist, has just met this woman. He finds her attractive. This is clear by the sentence Pretty, shoulder length dark hair, oval face, nice body. So he is interested.

She, on the other hand, is not interested. She describes Player as borderline sociopath. Not an ideal start to a romance is it?

However, towards the end of the passage, they do find something which they can share - a laugh. A contact has been made.

Later we have this passage:

She looked at Whitehead in surprise - almost as if she had forgotten his presence.

I found myself almost liking her.


"You want?" she enquired. Whitehead reverted to Civil Service Mandarin mode.

"That is to say, that my masters, the powers that be, require it."

"Then let it be so," I said. "Miss Hill, let's go to my office and start digging."

We walked out together. I was old school enough to open the door for her. She was old school enough to take that as a courtesy and not a sexist and demeaning act that forever trapped her in an inferior socio-economic stereotype.

We talked as we drifted down the slo-tube.

"What is your name then, Miss Hill?"

She actually blushed.

"Juniper Hill," she said. "And please don't make any pathetic jokes about it sounding more like a piece of real estate. Call me June."

I bit back my flow of those exact pathetic jokes.

"Call me Dick, and please no jokes about it sounding more like a hobby."

She laughed again.

"OK, it's a deal".

We shook hands and left the slo-tube.

Now we have dialogue and the beginnings of a relationship. It is still a fragile bud, which could be destroyed by a single careless word or action.

Player and June work closely together for the next few days, building the relationship.

Oh, and let's not forget the murder of crows patiently stalking a cat on the outskirts of Lamingdon itself, seen from the train window.

"A murder?" enquired June.

"Collective noun for a group of crows," I explained.

She looked at me for a moment.

"You're just full to the brim with useless information, aren't you?"

"I try my best," I admitted modestly.


For the last two days we had carried out a ceaseless verbal war of sarcasm while we worked.

Fuelled with beer and Jack Daniels - the real stuff, the harmful version, not the New No 8, bland and packed with nanites.
June had spent both nights at my flat, though not in my bed.

"I'm claiming expenses for a hotel, of course," she confessed. "But I don't actually want to waste perfectly good money on a room. I'd rather invest it in alcohol."

"Thought all you Americans were sober, industrious, clean living, all that good shit."

"Yes, maybe, in America; but this is like being on holiday for me. I'm just copying the habits of you English natives."

"You picked a good role model then," I said.

She winked and drinked.

They are getting along quite well now, on a basis of good-humoured banter.

No comments:

Post a Comment