I am 40,000+ words into my new novel. It isn’t a romance novel nor a love story. But two of the primary characters do fall in love, and that love and connection is critical to the telling of the tale. At least, it is critical to building a connection and emotional response between the characters and the reader. It is necessary that the reader becomes emotionally invested in the primary character, and that they share his feelings during the tumultuous climax.
How many times can a pair lovingly smile, exchange affectionate looks, embrace or entwine, before it seems like that is all that they do? What is the lower limit of longing looks, below which the reader fails to feel with the character? How much time must be spent on the romance in order for it to become felt and shared, without losing sight of the larger story? How do you keep the greater story from breaking the spell, when the spell is required to help propel the greater story?
In romance novels, the romance is the thing. The spell is the story. It may be calm and affectionate, it may be warm and lusty, or even downright pornographic. The romance is the story. But when the story isn’t about the romance, but the relationship is critical, how do you develop the balance?
I think of the movie “Titanic.” It could have been a story of the ship and its demise, told through its passengers. It was a romance, pure and simple. The mighty ship was just the vehicle. It could have been another balance, about the ship’s tale, with a romance.
There are so many instances where the romance is background. It scarcely matters to the overall story. It is simply something that is going on with some of the characters. But what if the romance is neither foreground nor background? How do you express it? What becomes too little, and what becomes too much?
Ah, the woes of the writer, romancing the words.