Giving Props Where Props Are Due

By David E. Sharp

Romance is a genre that gets a lot of flak. And I must admit I am not an avid reader of it. But I am a librarian, and as such, I hold that every book has its reader.

I was recently privileged to live out a love story of my own, culminating in my recent marriage. My real-life story synch up with one of the most popular and widely read genres of all time.

Windblown, shirtless, and brooding. The typical romance protagonist. Mostly.
The Backdrop

Romance novels must have an immersive setting to hold the vivid and emotional tales they weave. Readers of romance aren’t looking for statistical play-by-plays of a relationship. Let’s see how we fared:

Open to a valley sitting at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Residents of the sleepy community are generally happy as they navigate the multitudinous errands of day-to-day life. They occasionally complain of Monday morning commutes and burned toast. They are naïve to the great pestilence hovering over the horizon that would wreak havoc upon their lives and distance them… socially.

The Hero

Romance heroes don’t always have to have chiseled abs and a tendency to misplace their shirts. Of course, that option is still on the table. But they do need a certain intrigue. And a flaw to overcome. Often, this comes from a troubled past.

A bold and mysterious Librarian comes to town. He has billowing sweaters and long flowing daydreams. But his bookish tendencies and previous misadventures with love have left him… well not so much scarred as awkward and a little silly. He may have a history of cracking a joke at the wrong time, and ladies don’t always appreciate that.

The Heroine

Your heroine must be as strong a character as your hero. It may be that she discovers her strength as the story unfolds, but they must rival one another. This is a romance, after all. It doesn’t work if either of the major characters gets stuck playing second fiddle. She must have her own flaws to overcome, and she must be uniquely qualified to challenge the hero and bring him healing.

A Psychology Graduate with a wicked sense of humor and an overdeveloped competitive streak joins a regular church boardgame night. Life hasn’t always given her an easy road, but she is determined to push through and find victory. First on her list of conquests is Milton Bradley, soon to be followed by the Parker Brothers.

The Rivalry

Love, at first sight, may be tempting, but a romance story needs to build. Often the lovers-to-be begin as rivals. Their conflict will evolve into romantic tension.

The Librarian joins the game group and meets the Psych Grad. The two become instant rivals in the field of Apples to Apples and Pictionary. Other gaming group members rule that their mutually competitive nature should exclude them from ever being on the same team. Rumors circulate that they will either destroy each other or start dating.

Opposition

So, they develop feelings for each other. But you can’t just jump to happily ever after. You’ve got to heighten the conflict or the tension leaks, and your story deflates. Time to up the ante.

A pandemic envelopes the whole world and throws some significant wrenches in the love-gears of our happy couple. They’ve just begun buying a house, and their wedding is scheduled in a building that will no longer be open to the public. Loved ones fall ill -in some cases very ill. The Psych Grad’s grandmother, who took every possible precaution, is hospitalized.

They video conference with family members to pray and comfort one another. The daily updates are emotional hills and valleys. One day prospects look okay. The next day they are worrisome. Life takes a different perspective.

The Happy Ending

Whether you’re into happy endings or not, they are a staple of romance novels. Not everything has to wind up sunshine and daisies. Still, the hero and heroine should end up together and be reasonably content. If they aren’t, you may be writing a tragic love story like Romeo and Juliet or maybe literary fiction.

The grandmother overcomes the virus and must stay with the Psych Grad’s parents until she has rehabilitated enough to return to her own apartment. Coincidentally, the wedding has been relocated to the backyard of the same house. The grandmother can witness as the Librarian and the Psych Grad pronounce their vows.

When the Psych Grad talks the minister into dropping some Princess Bride references into the ceremony, the Librarian no longer worries that his ill-timed humor will go unappreciated. Healing takes place, the relationship is sealed, and a foosball table that appears in their wedding gifts ensures a semi-friendly rivalry will live on for years to come.

Then a windstorm knocks down their fence. But that’s another story.

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