Worldbuilding Wednesday #21: Building a Romance

Welcome back to another Worldbuilding Wednesday! I’m off on a tangent today. *laughs* Rather than discuss specifics of a particular world, I decided to discuss how I go about creating various sorts of stories, different genres. Any spoilers that are included will be related to particular stories I’ve already released so be wary if you’re spoiler phobic.

Dark sunset with clouds and dark horizon

Photo taken by my grandmother years ago

I write all sorts of stories: SF, fantasy, erotica. I’m working on a mystery novel right now for release sometime next year. I enjoy writing in a great many genres because each of them has different requirements, different things that readers expect. I’m still working on doing a good job of hitting those requirements but I do try hard.

One of my absolute favorite things to write is romances. I love writing about how people come together, how they meet, court and eventually find their happy endings together. It’s always beautiful to see people finding their happiness with each other.

Romance stories have a particular format. It’s pretty straight-forward and fairly predictable but it’s also very comforting to read. The two characters meet in some sort of interesting fashion. There are sparks right away, good or bad. Events conspire to keep them apart for a certain amount of time, during which they both work to deal with the obstacles while their attraction and the emotion between them grows. Eventually, usually after some sort of physical conflict with whatever or whoever is blocking them, they win and get to be together.

If it’s a romance, you won’t write the sex scene that follows. If it is, well, sexy times ensue. *grin*

Now, the key parts that make an individual romance interesting are to have great characters and a good setting. You’ve already got a plot. There’s no need to worry about that. Your individual style won’t really change as you write. So what you have to focus on is writing good characters and putting them in an interesting setting.

I’ve already talked a lot in these weekly segments about how I create various worlds. Creating a world for a romance story wouldn’t be any different than creating one for any other sort of story. I’d still follow the same steps: decide the scale, decide if I want to write seat of my pants, as I go or in advance, decide if it’s real world based or something more fantastic. The only difference would be that my focus as I make those decisions would be on how they affect the characters I’m going to create.

Let’s use an example to make this easier to understand. I decide that I want to write a m/m romance story. So this is the process I would follow:

First, pick two names: Maximilian and Torey, chosen more or less at random.

Second, what sort of romance do I want? I could go with the standard two characters meet and there’s instant attraction. It’s timeless and works well, but I want something different. I rarely get to read romance stories where the two characters are married so I’m going to go with a marriage of convenience story.

That drives my third story choice to a middle-scale story. I need to explain how these two men would need a marriage of convenience and what sort of society they live in since that’s something that doesn’t happen very much in the modern world. I will need some idea of their families, so that’s another two sets of names to choose. I’ll need some idea of their ages as well so that I can get a feeling for their education and careers.

For my example I’m going to say that Maximilian is from a rich family, that he’s the third son and about 25 years old, and that he’s a scholar or maybe a mage if I decide to make this a Fantasy Romance. Torey is younger, I’ll say 22, and he’s from a poor family. I think I’ll say that he moved to the city from a small village in the outskirts of the country to find a better job to help support his family. And I’m going to say that he works at a small restaurant that the scholars go to for lunch. That gives them an excuse to meet.

So, every story needs characters, which I have, in a setting, which I’m developing, with a problem. The problem in this case has to be one that will be initially solved by Max and Torey getting married. That implies to me that Max’s family, we’ll say his father, has decided that it’s time for Max to get married and start producing heirs to the family. Max doesn’t want to leave his scholarship. He likes being a scholar and doesn’t want to go home.

Torey’s problem would be a simple one, too. He has that family back in the country who need his wages to survive. I’m going to posit that one of his little sisters has gotten ill and the family needs more money than Torey can send them. So he’s worried about his family’s survival and motivated to do things that he normally wouldn’t.

That gives me the lead up to the opening for my story. Max goes to the restaurant and complains to Torey about how miserable he is, how much he doesn’t want to marry the person his father chose because she has ambitions for him that would keep him from studying. Torey sympathizes half-heartedly and Max asks what’s wrong because normally Torey is great for sympathy. So Torey tells him about his little sister and the expensive medicine they need and presto, a wild, desperate plot is conceived between the two of them. They’ll get married and that solves both people’s problems. Max is saved from his father’s plans and the wedding gifts will pay for Torey’s little sister’s medicine.

My fourth choice in this process is do I go real world or something more fantastic. Because I’m me, I’m going to go more fantastic. I like fantasy and SF stories so that’s where I’m heading for this. If you choose to do this yourself you’re of course free to do as you prefer.

So, I like magic in my worlds so this world will have magic in it. I don’t want it to be an overwhelming part of the story since my focus is on the relationship between Max and Torey so in this world magic is something that’s a very rare gift, that only the rich and powerful have access to. That means that Max will have some experience with mages but Torey will only have heard fantastic stories about them.

Bear in mind that this is all background to the story I’d tell. It’s world building. The actual story would start after they’ve gotten quickly married and are going to meet Max’s family across town. I might open as Max hesitantly and nervously introduces Torey to his father and mother, both of them convinced that it won’t work but determined to try.

Romance plots are fairly simple. The only real requirements are that something keeps the two characters from their happy ending for the majority of the story, and that they spend 90% of their time together when they’re on screen. That’s what allows you to build the emotions between them, the constant interaction.

So, starting from the initial introduction Max and Torey would stick to each other’s sides even as people tried to pull them apart to talk the two of them out of this madness. Max’s relatives would grill Torey about how they met but they could be completely honest about that first meeting at the restaurant. Torey hears all about Max’s projects so he knows what’s going on in his life. And Max knows about Torey’s family because Torey can’t help but talk about them endlessly to anyone who listens.

The young woman who was supposed to be engaged to Max would be another obstacle that they’d have to deal with. Me being me, I’d probably make her a lovely young lady who honestly is happy that they’re happy together. I think I’d want her to be kind, sweet and gentle, a really wonderful choice for Max because his father actually does care about him, even if she does have ambitions that Max doesn’t share. I think there’d have to be several interactions with her over the course of the story until they manage to convince her that no, they don’t want a third in their marriage and no, they aren’t going to want kids someday.

All through the story I’d want to have Max and Torey realizing that hey, I actually do like this guy. Hey, I really like it when he defends me. Hey, wow, he’s actually a lot more attractive than I wanted to admit before and whoa, I have the right to touch him. That’s one of the fun parts of a marriage of convenience story for me: watching the two characters grow into this relationship that they started out faking.

The conclusion would, of course, be after they deal with Max’s father’s resistance, after they get the fiancĂ© to leave them along, and after they’ve arranged for Torey’s little sister to get the medicine she needs. I think the dramatic confrontation at the heart of the story would have to be them publically showing how much they care about each other, otherwise known as a kiss. And the ending would have to be Max’s father sighing about oh, well, at least his sons are happy. Hopefully Torey’s family will get along well with their family when they go visit. Which makes both Max and Torey freeze because OMG, they have to do this all over again for Torey’s family!

*laughs*

Romances are fairly simple plot-wise but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t worldbuilding to be done. You just have to make sure that what you build supports and defines the relationship at the heart of the romance.

I hope that you enjoyed this little ramble. If you have any questions do ask. I’d be glad to answer them. Now I think I’m going to go write Max and Torey’s story because I just inflicted a plot bunny on myself.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this. Please do ask questions if you have any. I like sharing my world building but writing these takes time away from writing stories that I could publish. Thus, it would be greatly appreciated if you would consider leaving a donation. All money received goes toward keeping me writing and posting these columns. Thank you very much!

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About meyari

I am a writer of erotica, science fiction and fantasy. I've been writing for years but have just sold my first erotica novel and am working on self-publishing my non-erotica. I love sewing, collecting dolls, reading, and a great many crafts that I no longer have time to do. I've been happily married to my husband for 20 years.
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