Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. The Babe Magnet and I have been married . . a l-o-t of years! (I was a child bride, honest!)
Oh yes- and we'll have no jokes about July 14th being the date of the Sorming of the Bastille, believe me, my brother and sister-in-law made them all at the reception.
But thinking about our wedding day reminds me of how my mother and some other members of my family weren't exactly keen on our getting marie. We were too young (I had just turned 23). We didn't have any money (very true) We were in love with the idea of being in love. We'd only just finished university and had no jobs to support ourselves with - again, true. I'd qualified as a librarian but the Babe Magnet was doing an MA in Leeds, so I basically took any job I could find.( I ended up working in the University bookshop which is where I learned to read boks without ever cracking or even marking the spine but that's another story.)
Anyway, looking back, as the Magnet and I toasted yet another year of togetherness, with just a touch of 'we showed you!' to those who had never believed we'd make this last, I commented - as I've done several times in the past, that it's only now, when we look back on not yet quite at the Ruby Wedding stahe but not that far from it! - that it's only now that we can really say well this thing worked. That we managed the happy ever after (OK, the mostly happy but with plenty of ups and downs and not quote EVER after) that we hope for for every newly married couple.
And it's that believeable that seems to be causing a bit of a stumbling block for some new,unpublished writers these days. I read and critique for the courses I run, for the New Writers' Scheme run by the RNA, and one of the things I find that these new authors find troublesome is the fact that they are supposed to show that their hero and heroine are in love with each other. The conflict they can create - sometimes successfully, sometimes not so convincingly - the sexual passion is easy to describe - lust is easier than that other four letter word to display it seems. But when they come to actually showing why these two characters should actually love each other, they don't seem to think it needs illustrating.
The conflict is resolved, the arguments stop, the hero turns to the heroine - or vice versa - declare 'But I love you!' . . . .and everything is all right? Perfect? Sorted?
. . .Er no.
Love doesn't just spring out of the air and hit you right in the face like that - not lasting mature love, love that stays strong over the years and weathers the storms life throws at us. I've written of love at fiurst sight, had stories that turn around in just a very short space of time - but I still have to put in something that shows the hero and the heroine - and the reader that these two are meant to be together. That they share something special. Something unique. They give each other something that only they can give. That no other person, lover, friend, even a previous partner, can ever provide.
They are, quite simply, the love of each other's life and we want them to stay that way.
But all too often unpublished writers don't take the time to show how that comes about. They get so deep into the conflict that they show their hero and heroine sniping and bickering all the way through the story. They show him being mean to her , accusng her -of being a gold-digger? Of betraying him? Or she attacks him for ruining her father, or only wanting her because she's pregnant with his child, his heir. They forget what used to be called - in the good old days when I had my very first editorial interview and lunch - the 'getting to know you time'. They don;'t answer the questins
What is it that she sees in him/or him in her - it's not just that their gorgeous. It';s not just sex. Wer're talking here about emotions, about caring, about shared beliefs, about vulnerability . About valuing each other above and beyond anyone else. About being able to disagree over something and yet still stand up and defend the other person;s right to feel that way - and to express it.
About the things that will keep these two people together until their 10th wedding anniversary - their 20th . . .longer.
So when you're working through your romantic novel, don't forget that that 'romantic' bit means it's a story about LOVE - about the things that wold keep your hero and heroine together when everything else seems to be driving them apart. What things would still be there on their silver anniversary? Their Golden one? What would they share, what would they want to look back on?
If your story ends with the need for forgiveness - from one to another, would it really be forgiven - and totally forgotten - or would it come back to haunt them and cast a shadow over their future? Don't just have the hero thinking he's sorry and he's changed - show it. Don't just have one person annoounce 'But I love you' and all is forgiven - with no explanations, no contrition. Are the seeds of the future in the present - and the past - of the story you're creating for them?
Are the things this couple need to learn in order to be loving faithful loyal partners included throughout the book, not just in the ending - are they there in the charactres themselves? What are the real, deep truths of these people? The ones that will last much longer than the fnal word on the final page of this actual book - the story that will go on into that ever after and bring them happiness together?
Why will your hero and heroine love each other now and still love into the years, thirty, forty - fifty years from now?
Because the happy ending of a romance really should be the beginning of the true love story of the rest of their lives.
(* I used these names as they are the names of the hero and heroine of my latest book - the one that, thankfully, was accepted last week. I don't have a title fori t yet - I'm trying to convince my editor that the working title of The Devil and Miss Jones is just perfect - she agrees but everyone else has to love it . . . watch this space.)
Kate's most recent book, The Proud Wife is still around on the Mills and Booon site, and Amazon.com. Her next book will be The Return of the Stranger which is out in the UK on September 2nd, and in Presents EXTRA on October 4th. She's still waiting to hear about the official title for The Devil and Miss Jones.
You can read all her most up to date news on her web site and her blog