Love hurts.Think back over romance novels you’ve loved or the genre-defining books that drive our industry. The most unforgettable stories and characters spring from crushing opposition. What we remember about romance novels is the darkness that drives them. Three hundred pages of folks being happy together makes for a hefty sleeping pill, but three hundred pages of a couple finding a way to be happy in the face of impossible odds makes our hearts soar. In darkness, we are all alone.So don’t just make love, make anguish for your characters. As you structure a story, don’t satisfy your hero’s desires, thwart them. Make sure your solutions create new problems. Nurture your characters doubts and despair. Make them earn the happy ending they want, even better…make them deserve it. Delay and disappointment charge situations and validate character growth. Misery accompanies love. It’s no accident that many of the stories we think of as timeless romances in Western Literature are fiercely tragic: Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Cupid and Psyche… the pain in them drags us back again and again, hoping that this time we’ll find a way out of the dark.Only if you let your characters get lost will we get lost in them. And that, more than anything else, is what romance can and should do for its protagonists and its readers: lead us through the labyrinth, skirt the monstrous despair roaming its halls and find our way into daylight.
Damon Suede
They got under each of my shoulders and pulled me up, Padma walking in front of me and holding her arms out for good measure. I walked on my own, but I knew that if they hadn’t been there, I might have fallen more than once. Side by side, we marched into the Ocean, all of us crying for help. What? I felt the swirling waves of Her worry as we floated just beneath the surface. Something’s wrong with Kahlen, Miaka said.In the water, they could let me go and I floated there, the Ocean holding me like a child. I’m so tired.Look at her skin, Elizabeth said. She’s so pale. And she keeps sleeping. Like she needs it.She has a fever, too, Miaka added. I was acutely aware that my temperature was off; I could feel the water around me warming from my touch....She fretted. This has never happened before. I don’t know what to do.Maybe if she stays in You for a while, it would help, Elizabeth suggested. What, Miaka? the Ocean asked suddenly. Nothing. But she did look like she was hiding something. What were you thinking?Nothing, Miaka insisted. Flipping through ideas, it’s all nothing. I think Elizabeth is onto something. She swam up to me. We’ll come and check on you every hour until you feel like coming back to bed. I didn’t want to say how much it bothered me that she said back to bed instead of back to the house. It was like she knew I wasn’t going to be standing again. Okay. They fled, off to make arrangements for their broken sister. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s happening.How long have you been feeling like this? She sounded uneasy, as if She suspected something She didn’t want to say.I squinted, trying to remember. It’s been coming on so slowly, it’s hard to say. She snuggled me into Herself. Just rest. I’m here. And I was so tired, I did exactly that. It was so unreal, how loved I felt. Right there, balanced with Her rigidity, Her absolute need to maintain order, I heard Her thinking of what She might sacrifice so long as She could keep me. It was such an encompassing feeling and that alone was enough to make me sleep.
Kiera Cass