Thursday, February 14, 2008

Since it's Valentine's Day....

let's talk about relationships. Specifically, some of the things I think makes a good and lasting one. But more than that, I'm going to talk about how that shapes the romances I write.

Trust. This one is absolute for me. If there's no trust, there cannot be a viable, long-term relationship. There may be forgiveness, but there can be no security, and I think that's vital. That's why in many of my books, the realization on the hero or heroine's part that they can trust the other is a key moment in the developing relationship. Sometimes it happens early, sometimes later, but it's always there.

That's also why the "black moment" in my books so often revolves around a fear that the bond of trust has been broken, that one has betrayed the other. The emotional pain of that betrayal is equal to anything physical the character may face due to that betrayal.

Respect. I think this is one reason I'm drawn to historicals. Up until fairly recently, respect for a woman (unless she had something else going for her, like a title) was not a given (and some could argue not even now). So one thing that distinguishes my heroes from the other men in the stories is their willingness to respect the heroine. It may not be immediate, but again, realizing that he respects her is a turning point in the relationship.

It's similar with the heroines. She often doesn't start off automatically respecting the hero, whatever society has tried to tell her, and sometimes it's very much the opposite. Again, it's a major turning point in the development of the relationship when she begins to respect him.

Similarly, if either character does, or seems to do, something that diminishes that respect, it's detrimental to the relationship.

Sense of Humor. A character's sense of humor can be used in two ways -- to create intimacy (the grim , brooding hero who suddenly reveals a lighter side) or to keep characters at a distance (the merry gadabout whose jokes hide a wounded heart). I've done both, but I have to say, I think my most successful heroes tend to the ones who are generally not jokey types, but brooding guys who come out with an unexpected funny observation, usually directed at themselves. That's another key to humor and the main characters -- their humor tends to be at their own expense, not other's, which is a way to show they're good people.

Other writers will have different criteria for what makes a lasting relationship, and their characters and story will reflect that. That's why you could give a room full of romance writers the same general plot and they'd all come up with different stories.

What are your ideas about what makes a lasting, long-term relationship? If you're a writer, can you see those ideas reflected in your own work?

For the record, this is about as close to a discussion of theme as I care to get. :-)

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!


Kimber Chin said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with all three, especially trust (trust is the central theme in all my novels).

I would also add mental stimulation. I dislike those novels where, at the end of the novel, the heroine can finish the hero's sentences. Lord, how incredibly boring. What would they have to talk about? Keep the characters surprising each other (as they do in your novels).

15 years later, I would never finish my hubby's sentences. His views have evolved over time (as have mine).

Tanya Freedman said...

Hi Margaret,

I agree with Kim CS that mental stimulation also adds to your astute list of musts to keep the romance alive and well, in romantic heroes real and fictional. I myself love the mystery that surrounds any new relationship, whether in the past or present, real or in the pages of our books. And I'm still surprised that after 17 years of marriage my ever-reserved Englishman of a husband can still make me choke with laughter in the most unexpected moments. So, yes, Margaret, a great sense of humour especially in a gorgeous hunk such as your heroes is a MUST for me! Thank you for your continued titilation in your books and on this blog!