Magdalen is one of my favorite bloggers at Promantica. She doesn't review books, but she does blog about reading and writing, and her posts are invariably interesting! Today she's here to explain the art of writing a contemporary romance. Welcome, Magdalen!
You can get a reader in a romantic mood really quickly by setting the story in a romantic era, with romantic characters in a romantic setting. If you’re writing anything other than a contemporary romance, you’ve got it easy.
[Handy guide: Romantic eras include the Regency, pre-Revolutionary Paris, pre-American Revolution, and even some wars (all those yummy spies). Romantic creatures include vampires, mages, shapeshifters, and some literal Greek gods. Romantic settings include outer space, Atlantis, pirate ships, Almacks, and a sheikh’s Bedouin encampment.]
Contemporary romance writers have none of those things to work with. We’re required to dream up a romance from a few raw ingredients: one modern man, one modern woman, a plot, a real place that someone could visit today, and some realistic complications. Hey, it’s not easy. McGyver would have struggled with just those bits and pieces.
Everything in a contemporary romance has to sound plausible but also seem exotic. Billionaire sheikhs have to look like Oded Fehr: [Photo 1] And not like Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah: [Photo 2] Cowboy heroes are as sexy as the Marlboro Man, but don’t smell like an ashtray. Special Forces veterans never have PTSD severe enough to hamper their alpha hero status.
All of that is true because readers live in the same world as contemporary romances, but they don’t want a contemporary romance to remind them of their world. No broken toilets, no money problems, no screaming brats, no churlish in-laws, no cars that won’t start—unless the breakdown results in a meet-cute with the small-town chief of police who’s manning the switchboard, answers the frantic call for a tow truck, and comes out to rescue the heroine, only to discover she’s actually the straight-arrow auditor hired by the corrupt mayor to go over the police department’s books with a fine-tooth comb.
Ooh, I like that. I may have to write that...
In a contemporary romance, the laws of nature apply, the human body is limited to a narrow range of fang-less and fur-less specifications, and it’s a fine line between swoon-worthy and stalker. But we tackle all those limitations because, when it’s done right a contemporary romance reminds us that love really could be right around the corner. Sure, we’re not likely to meet a super-hot cowboy or an Italian magnate, but a well-written contemporary romance can let us dream.
After all, there’s no barrier of time, genetics, or science preventing a contemporary romance from coming true in the here and now.
Thank you, Magdalen! I'll take Oded Fehr any day. ;)
Magdalen is starting her own publishing company called Harmony Road Press and her series of legal romance novels, The Blackjack Quartet, is going to be published in 2012! To find out more about her and her work, please visit her author website at www.MagdalenBraden.com or her blog at www.Promantica.com.