Damn Good Romances – Part 1

This post is part of a series.

Part 1: Damn Good Romances
Part II: Romantic Tension
Part III: Romantic Conflict
Part IV: Emotional Intensity
Part V: Heart-Stopping Moments
Part VI: Uncertainty of Outcome
Part VII: Moment of Ultimate Vulnerability
Part VIII: Happy Ever After…For Now


Mark and I were arguing…sorry, “discussing” what makes a good romance, the other day.  We’re deeply hooked by the TV series NCIS, and working our way through Season 7 at the moment.  Two of the regular characters in the show are circling around each other, and there are endless hints about a potential romance.

Which is, frankly, driving me bonkers.  I want to see them get together, but of course, the producers won’t allow that to happen anytime soon, because Hollywood learned its lesson when it let Bruce Willis bed Cybill Shephard in Moonlighting and ratings plummeted overnight.

Still, I keep hoping and the NCIS producers keep teasing with little vignettes here and there where the two characters stare significantly into each others’ eyes and you can feel the ambient temperature soar.  (And if you know what happens in Seasons 8 and 9, shut up!)

The will they/won’t they between Tony and Ziva is what prompted Mark and I to argue.

Mark suggested that if the producers wanted to write a damn good romance for the pair, they should simply have Tony sweep Ziva off her feet and declare how he feels and be done with it.  Women would swoon and ratings would soar.

I countered with the Moonlighting example.  But I was trying to explain to a guy that has read limited numbers of romances that a damn good romance consists of a delicate balance of nearly a dozen different factors.

He held up his hand and began ticking off what he thought were the necessary ingrediants that made up a damn good romance.  A hero, a heroine, a kick-ass storyline, and the romance itself.  And sex, of course, d’uh.

I’ve been thinking about that argument.  Sorry, discussion.   Thinking a lot.

I taught romance writing at my local university for over ten years, on and off.  For me, breaking down the essential elements of a damn good romance comes easily and automatically.  I’ve been doing it for so long, that it never occurred to me that the average reader may not have ever deconstructed a romance novel into the raw ingredients that make romances work.

Why would you want to?  A story either works, or it doesn’t, right?

Well, yes and no.  If you’re a rabid romance reader, you might simply be curious to learn more about the technical side of romance novels.

Then, there’s the swifty destabilizing publishing industry, too.  With the free market that is forming, it will help you as a reader to recognize why romances do and don’t work, so that you can build more informed opinions about the books you read…and can then tell other readers about them.

It will also help you recognize damn good writers when you come across them.  Damn good romances are easy to recognize — being sucked into a romance and being unable to put it down are unmistakable symptoms, afterall.  But being able to explain why a romance is so damned good it often incredibly difficult.

If you’ve noticed a dearth of decent romances lately; if your search for a damned good romance seems fruitless; or you keep being disappointed in your reading, then knowing what goes into a decent romance will help you recognize the hallmarks of a damned good romance, so that when you’re shopping for a new title or a new author, or both, you narrow your chances of being disappointed once more.

This series will help.

Next:  Romantic Tension

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