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Author Topic: Inserting Romance into Action
Member # 1646

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I'm writing a very action-packed novel that doesn't leave much time for romance, yet I want two characters to fall in love. I've gotten to a part where they are alone together with quite a bit of time to get things heated up, but I'm just not feeling it. I'm sure if I sit down and think on this for a while, I'll figure out how to lay the groundwork, but I thought maybe you guys could help spark some ideas.

How do you spark romance between two strangers, especially when non-romantic events are shoving them forward?

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Member # 5952

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I think shared hardship does a lot to bring two people together. Rather than inserting the romance, I think it would work better to have it arise naturally out of what they've been through and what they've done, and who they are.

For me, there's usually something that I notice about the other person that tickles my fancy, whether it be a physical quirk or a personality trait. For instance, maybe now one of them will finally laugh, for the first time openly and with genuine enjoyment free of what they've been through, and the other person can think, gee, he's kinda cute when he laughs. Never noticed that before. The example is cliche, but you get the idea. Or a new personality trait can come through in the quiet time. Maybe a new passion arises, for a cause or a belief. Or they could reflect on everything they've just been through and sort of notice each other's role in events for the first time.

I guess another question to consider is, is one person going to be the more aggressive one and the initiator? Does one person realize before the other person, and is there going to be tension there, too?

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited January 15, 2008).]

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Member # 3574

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Shared experiences, especially danger, can draw people together who you wouldn't expect to be drawn to each other (what is that thing called where kidnapped people fall in love with their captors? Stockholm Syndrome??). But you need to show a build-up of the interest (sexual tension). When he pulls his gun/wand/sword, AT A GLANCE, in spite of what she's doing herself, she notices the lovely line of his back or play of muscles in his arm or the graceful/masterful/etc. way he handles his weapon, or she admires his calm courage in the face of overwhelming odds. When she figures out what's going to happen long before it happens, he acknowledges that she got it right, and thinks to himself how intuitive/wise/etc. she is. When she decks an enemy with a well-placed kick/hex/bullet, he's impressed. When he saves a child from a collapsing building . . . you get the idea. Little things add up to more and more interest. Perhaps they start out bragging to each other about their exploits and work at topping each other with their tales of wonderful/terrifying/triumphant experiences until it becomes funny (that's how my hubby and I started out and we're still happy together 37 years later). There must be laughter involved at various times, either startled laughter or smiles, or deliberately provoked laughter or smiles.

Romance or sex doesn't come out of nowhere. There has to be some attraction first. The resultant love scene could be a result of the couple needing to release the tension of going through terrifying experiences, or perhaps because they know they're about to die, but there has to be some attraction shown earlier in the story.

Of course, these are just my own observations . . . your mileage may vary.

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Member # 4849

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Okay, I've been biting my tongue...and I just can't anymore. Christine, if you invert the title of this topic, isn't that how you got pregnant? (LoL. I just kill me.)

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited January 15, 2008).]

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Member # 1818

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I'll back inarticulate babbler up,,,"insert" is a funny word choice for this topic, Christine. Whether you meant the joke or not, Christine, you made me laugh, so thanks for that.

So...do you want to insert love or sex? Because, depending on what kind of people the characters are, the sex part might not be too difficult. A series of chemical reactions, a little skin here or there, muted inhibitions, and BAM!...it's sex.

If you're going for love, then PLEASE don't make it a series of chemical reactions. I hate...and I mean HATE...in books or movies when two people who happen to be thrown together because the same alien/serial killer/robots/secret government agency is trying to kill them have sex and then expect me to be emotionally invested in their relationship. It's supposed to wrench my emotions when the hero's girlfriend dies because, well, I saw them copulate. That is probably my biggest pet-peeve with story tellers. I don't mind having a sex scene when it is called for, but please don't expect me to mistake "inserting romance" as love or any other kind of meaningful emotional connection.

I guess the only info I can provide that might be helpful is what initially made me fall in love with my wife. My experience was pretty close to being one of love at first sight, so maybe you can glean something useful from it. I was asked by an acquaintance of someone to give these 2 girls a ride to an event and bring them back. Not having anything else going on that day and being a young, single, male, I readily agreed. After the event, one of the girls invited me and the other girl into her dorm room to hang out for awhile. Again, young, single male, readily agreed. Well, the one girl I barely noticed, but the girl whose dorm room we were in I noticed a lot, and looking back I would say I began to fall in love with her that night. We stayed up forever just talking, chit-chatting about whatever. The other girl was there, too, but definitely on the periphery. Now, why did I start falling in love with this girl during what was, essentially, our first conversation? There was just an easiness to the conversation. I had no sense that either of us was trying to have a conversation, or that either of us was choosing our words to try to make any particular impression on the other. The conversation just happened naturally, and it was fun and funny and we both had a good time talking with each other. We had some similar interests (books!) which helped, but mostly it was the ease and enjoyability of the conversation. I had never experienced that with any girl before, and it really struck me. I remember walking to my car late that night (or early that morning, actually), and thinking, "I suspect she might be the one." And I don't even believe in a "the one."

So there. That's what lit the spark for me. Not quite love at first sight, but the beginning of love at the first sight. Hopefully some of that might be useful for you with your characters. If not, then I guess you just learned more about me than you gave a crap about learning.

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Member # 1214

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I think it can help to have them (or at least one--the POV character if they're not alternating) try to avoid falling in love. All those little things other people mentioned are great, but they do double duty if the character is irritated by noticing them.
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Member # 1646

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Oh no, definitely not interested in meaningless copulation! I want an emotional connection here.

I think I'm starting to understand where I fell short. Partly, it's those simple touches...noticing his eyes, his scent, etc. Partly, it's that the two haven't exactly fought side by side yet. The action has brought them together twice now. Granted, both times he rescues her but as she's not a damsel in distress, I think she may resent it. Which is something I could play off of now that I'm recognizing it.

Right now, I just want a spark. I'm a little better than halfway through the story and there's plenty of time for things to work out, but I found myself writing a scene in which the two are trapped together (hiding) for an extended period of time, have nothing better to do but talk, and somehow the conversation feels too clinical.

Thanks for the ideas!

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Member # 3233

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If you want this a romance story, you have them be taken by the first sight of each other. Give them one or more reasons why they will not allow themselves to give in to their feelings, and them give them all the opportunities to do so. For a romance, start this early in the first chapter.

Little things that will help with this is where they are about to be fighting together, have one of them paying attention to the other, a long look at how cute the other is, then remember that one is supposed to be watching for the enemy's attack.

when they start to start something, have something break them up, either from outside or remembering they are supposed to not like each other and pull away.
Mainly show their interest in each other during their unguarded moments, and then have them harden themselves to each other other times, and then be businesslike in between.

Of course, a romance is not an action adventure. Different "yuck" factors for each audience. Be light for the opposite target audience.

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Member # 2442

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Starting out with an attraction doesn't leave any surprises. I like it when I am unsure for a while if the characters will get together ("do they? don't they?").

I've always felt the opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy. Love and dislike are often opposite sides of the same coin, and it's used as a common device to introduce romance in movies and books. When you first meet someone, sometimes they have habits that annoy you, but when those habits have a clever, useful, or insightful result, you start to warm up to the person. There is a chance for character development when a MC made false assumptions in the beginning about a companion, only to discover there is much to admire in the person.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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If the discussion is too clinical because they are trying not to show the attraction, that can work, too. But you might have to insert a few distracted trail-offs in order to indicate that the clinical discussion really isn't what's going on between them.

Makes me think of something I remember happening in the movie CASABLANCA (which may not have actually happened at all, come to think of it--have to watch it again).

The day after Ingrid Bergman's character has shown up at Rick's, Humphrey Bogart runs into her at the local market. As I remember it, they start talking about something for sale in one of the booths, but what they're really talking about is why she left Berlin without telling him why or saying "good-bye," and all they succeed in doing is driving the vendor crazy because they leave without making a purchase.

If you can create double meanings like that in the conversation, the readers who "get" what you're doing will love it, and those who don't "get it" will still be okay with what happens in the scene.

Tricky to do, but worth the effort.

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Member # 1646

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That's an interesting thought, Kathleen. I may have to go back over this scene and play with it a bit more...or I may write on and come back to it later. I've been looking at it for 3 days now and I'm not sure I can stand anymore! On to the next scene and something completely different...pain and torture...or maybe not so different.
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Tricia V
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I don't remember the market scene in Casablanca. At least not that conversation. But it's been many years since I sat down and watched the whole movie. I think the last couple of times I saw it, I caught it in progress on PBS.

I think the POV character has to experience the attraction right off, but maybe the other person doesn't until later.

An odd thought I had one time, I didn't realize I was attracted to someone and then I was holding a pencil and wondered if they had held the same pencil, and that thought made me all flush and thinking other things, like if they wondered what my raven tresses smelled like. Well, I hope you use that because I can't believe I just posted it on the internet. I'm just saying I've had sudden chemical reactions to people when they are not present, and not the first time I met them. In this case, I think I was ovulating and he was the alpha male. So you could have one character (the man -- I'm assuming this is a man and woman pair, but I'm small minded like that) attain alpha male status through some deed. You don't have to write out all this BS, just have it happen.

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Member # 1818

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I didn't realize people outside of fantasy novels had "raven tresses," Tricia.
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