Writing romance and keeping it real : As teenage readers, most of us have picked the romance novels from the library shelves, fell in love with the swoon-worthy characters while flipping through those pages and looked for someone alike in people around us. At the SheThePeople Women Writers Fest, we put the spotlight on ‘love is love.’
SheThePeople senior editor Deepshikha Chakravarti breaks down the elements of romance novels with authors Douglas V. Davis, Zarreen Khan and Sara Nisha Adams. In a conversation that spanned from creating character arcs to the involvement of grief in love stories, the writers give an insight into the absorbing process of moulding a fictional world.
Douglas V. Davis, author of Yoga: A love story, describes love as “underlying everything” in the universe making it a part of each story penned down.
“We are always talking about love and it weaves its way into the story but in this case of romance, part of the fun of romance, part of people falling in love is how they come together under certain circumstances. So with the sub-genre it was great to write about the supernatural and my character’s travels and people he met along the way and just to all the travails they went through helped them fall in love and made it seem, it was a natural outgrowth. As I said, love underlies everything so if you are paying attention to it all it just comes together,” he said.
On the other hand, Zarreen Khan, who dived into the romance that blooms at the stage people least expect in her book My’s Best Friend’s Son’s Wedding, defies the age limits put on falling in love.
“I believe you can’t define love by age group, demographics or live stage. When I started thinking about this particular character, I wanted to stay away from traditional romance and explore love that happens in another life stage and to a different mindset and how it is different from the sort of love that happens when you are much younger,” Khan said.
“You should be able to fall in love wherever you want to and whenever you are ready for it and that was basically my inspiration for my character Minty Sood. And in my book her son has also fallen in love at the same time and he is getting married at the same time as she is getting married. It was an interesting area to explore how the two romances crop up differently and yet they share similarity because at the end they are feelings and love is a feeling we share universally,” she adds.
Sara Nisha Adams’ debut novel, The Reading List, centres around a widower taking to reading to honour his wife’s memory explores the process of dealing with grief after losing the one you loved. The author, who has put in elements of her life into the story, walked into the mind of a much older man to bring the character alive.
“With my character Mukesh, I wanted to focus on living with grief rather than forgetting your grief,” she said.
The picture-perfect idea of romance
Characters in romance novels tend to be the “perfect” picture of a person they make us desire to meet. However, flaws are inescapable whether in reality or fictions. Speaking the importance of putting on display the flawed characters in fiction novels, Zarreen Khan says,” A lot of our characters are inspired from real life and in real life people have their flaws no matter how perfect you feel they are and so when you are writing you don’t want to show a picture that is far removed from reality. Then it is fantasy and not contemporary fiction or romance”.
“It is the character’s journey that will have not only its failures and their own flaws and learning to deal with their flaws. It’s keeping it real in the fiction world,” she added.
Happy endings not easy?
From the moment we open a romance novel, we root for a happy ending for the characters. It isn’t much different at the writer’s end, too, as Sara Adams puts across that she finds ending really hard. “I always knew I wanted end this book (The Reading List) with hope and for that to be the message to lasts after the final page. I love happy endings.”
Adding to the subject, Davis asserts that he, too, loves happy endings but they are not easy. “It’s really difficult to come up with and obvious ending and work it into the story. I had to write and re-write the ending several times to make it work”.
A writing teacher told me that Hemingway had about thirty endings for The Sun Also Rises. “It takes that kind of work to come up with a simple ending,” he concludes.