At first blush, writing about romance may seem as easy as, well … falling in love. It isn’t, even for the hopeless romantics among us. At The Story Project we have the lucky advantage of penning the stories our clients tell us. It’s not up to us to devise romantic plot twists, adorable “meet cutes,” or emotional grand declarations. That’s best left to the Hollywood RomCom writers.
Our job is the not-so-small matter of coaxing couples to talk (yes, it’s mostly the men that duck for cover). And then there’s the challenge of writing a story — from first glance to “I do” — that captures the essence of their romance.
As a Valentine’s Day gift to the wanna-be romance novelists among you, or just those of you inspired enough to compose a truly personal card this year, here are some of our best tips for writing about love:
— Steer clear of clichés. “It was Kismet” or “we fit together like pieces of a puzzle” are as old as the hills (excuse the cliché) and read that way.
— Write in your own voice. Any attempt to parrot Jane Austen’s genius, or for that matter, Danielle Steele’s sauciness, reads like what it is: a stale imitation.
— The “meet cute,” Hollywood’s name for a charming, sometimes ironic way for a couple to meet, is one of the most used tropes in film. It’s also one of the most difficult to write. Skip it. A first encounter doesn’t have to be adorable or embarrassing to grab your readers’ attention. Sometimes reality works fine. I once asked a colleague how she met her husband. “We met in the office,” she said shrugging at the dullness of it. “We hated each other. It took two postings and three countries before we fell in love.” You gotta ask: how did that happen? There’s usually a good story behind every match, even if it’s not the made-in-Hollywood variety. Ask around if you need some inspiration.
— Search for words that really express the sentiment you’re trying to convey. Her “twinkling” blue eyes and his “amazing” physique are not exactly descriptive. Then again there’s this: “The elevator whisks me with terminal velocity to the twentieth floor.” Terminal velocity? Ugh, but the author made a gazillion bucks from it. See 50 Shades of Grey.
— Trust yourself. Consider what you really want to say and be brave. Putting it out there takes courage, but then again, so does falling in love.
If you need more inspiration, keep an eye out for The Story Project’s upcoming Short-Take telling a clients’ love story, True North: A Love Story in Five Maps, posting on our website (with permission) this coming week.
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!