Can a man and a woman just be platonic friends? It’s a discussion I’ve had with people over the years. Some say yes. Others say no.
My only siblings were two older brothers, so I grew up around boys. As an adult I’ve had many wonderful non-romantic friendships with men, some of which lasted for years. Even today I have male friends who are single and heterosexual, just like me, but we’ve never taken the friendship to the next level. I simply don’t feel the romantic attraction, even though I genuinely like them as people and enjoy their company. Of course I have had some friendships which, over time, grew to something more, but they were the rare exception.
I’m including a male/female platonic relationship in my next contemporary romance novel. Those of you who are familiar with my other contemporary romance novels have noticed that my female leads all have a close female friend and confidant. However, I like a little variety, so this time around my female lead’s close friend and confidant will be a heterosexaul man. She thinks of him as the brother she never had, and he thinks of her as his other sister. No, they won’t be taking their relationship to the next level, although I may do this scenario in a future contemporary romance novel. For the moment, however, I’m still trying to decide which man she’ll end up with, but it definitely won’t be her platonic male friend.
One of my Facebook friends recently posted about Hollywood, saying, in part, All I’m asking is that you give me good characters, not tokens, and good stories, not lectures.
Such is the sorry state of the entertainment industry today. It’s no longer about entertaining. It’s about using entertainment to push a political agenda, and it’s not going over well with the general public. I think this is why TV ratings overall are down, and why there were fewer butts in seats at movie theaters long before Covid came along. I’ve never been much of a sports fan myself, but lately I’ve been reading plenty of news articles about how television ratings for professional sports have dropped dramatically now that the various sports leagues have made it about politics instead of playing the game. People seek out entertainment because they want to take a break from politics and just be entertained, and when you use entrainment to lecture people they’ll simply walk away.
My contemporary romance novels are written solely to entertain my readers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wanted to lecture anyone I would write whatever nonfiction genre would be the most appropriate for the point I wanted to make. However, I made the choice to write contemporary romance. It’s my favorite genre, and like my readers, I simply want to be entertained.
Fiction revolves around conflict, and how the characters react to and resolve the conflict. That’s the essence of a plot line, regardless of the genre. I stick to the outcomes readers want and expect. Good overcomes evil. The antagonist suffers the consequences of his or her actions. However, I don’t lecture my readers. I’m a storyteller. My job is to entertain my readers with my stories. I’m neither a teacher or a preacher, nor do I want to be, and I leave the politics to the politicians.
My latest contemporary romance novel, The Letter, differs from my others. This time I didn’t kill any of the characters. Not one. Which is a first for me. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a sociopathic serial killer. At least not in the real world. But as a novel writer, I have to create conflict and drama in my stories to keep them interesting, and when it comes to creating drama, death is about as good as it gets.
Most of the time, the dearly departed is a notorious villain with whom karma has finally caught up with. Big time. In most of my novels a bad guy, or gal, had it coming. The one exception was The Journey, where I had to kill a supporting character who I truly liked. So much so that I tried writing alternate scenes in which she survived, but they just didn’t work as well. Killing this particular character off heightened the drama, making the story more intense and a more interesting read. Nevertheless, having to write this character out made me feel genuinely sad.
There was one character in The Letter I thought of killing off. Like most of my victims, she was a despicable antagonist. However, unlike the others, this character also had a young child, and I simply couldn’t bring myself to create an orphan. So, this time, instead of an untimely if not painful death, it’s a terrifying near death experience. Surely you didn’t think I’d let a villain get away scot-free, did you?
Like my previous contemporary romance novels, The Letter has plenty of plot twists as the characters deal with unexpected challenges. The Letter is a story of things not being as they appear, which causes misunderstandings and people jumping to the wrong conclusion. Danny, the leading man, is more fallibe than some of his predecessors. He’s haunted by issues from his past that he can’t seem to exorcise, while Stephanie, the female lead, is a woman with backbone who calls it as she sees it. However, she sometimes does so without considering the long-term consequences.
The Letter is loosely based on a real-life event which happened to a good friend. She accidently stumbled on a letter to her then fiance from an old girlfriend, desperate to get him back. She was, of course, concerned when she first found it, but it nothing much came of it. They got married and life went on.
Look for characters from some of my other contemporary romance novels to make an appearance. Jesse St. Claire from The Betrayal, will make a cameo, while Paul, a supporting character from The Reunion, will have a more significant role.
I’ve been busy putting the final touches on the first draft for my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Letter, and I’m now entering what I call, the cleanup phase.
Something about traditionally published romance novels has always bothered me. The author would reach the big climax scene, and then, once it was over, shazam! Everything magically falls back into place right then and there. It’s almost as if nothing bad ever happened. Then, one or two pages later, everyone rides off into the sunset and lives happily ever after. The end.
Wouldn’t it be great if real life was as simple?
The problem with traditional publishers
Traditional book publishers rely on formulas, and their authors must adhere to said set formula. In contemporary romance, it can mean that the characters have to meet by page ten. The first kiss happens on page twenty-two. The villain must appear by page thirty-nine, and it concludes with the aforementioned happy ending where everything falls neatly back into place.
The problem with formulas is the books become too predictable. I loved reading Danielle Steele back when I was in college. I could relate to her characters. Her stories were believable and entertaining. Over time, however, I started noticing a pattern, and I eventually stopped reading her books. They had become too predictable, and I got bored reading them. It was as if they plugged in a different set of names for the characters, placed them in a different location, pushed a button, and viola! Here’s the next book. And the one after that. And the one after that.
Why I choose to remain fiercely independent
In the real world the only things that are predictable are death and taxes. Everything else is about how we react to whatever we’ve been dealt. It’s all about the choices we make, good or bad. As a writer, it means the possibilities are endless.
I’ve always strived to make my stories as realistic and believable as possible. In real life, when things hit the proverbial fan, it leaves a lot of fallout behind. So, after the big climax, I include a cleanup phase, which is something I might not be able to do with a traditional publisher because it might not fit the formula. However, my job isn’t to follow a strict formula. My job is to tell an entertaining story that is also a believable story.
Why the cleanup phase is important
The cleanup phase gives my characters a chance to regroup and deal with the aftermath of the events that happened during the climax. It can be as short as an epilogue, or as long as several chapters. If a character is injured, readers will see his or her recovery. If a villain gets caught, the readers find out how long their prison sentence is. If a character leaves town, he or she has a chance to say goodbye. The leading characters will work out whatever unresolved conflicts they may have and be reunited for good. In other words, I take the time to tie up the loose ends before I end my story. I don’t write sequels. Therefore, each ending has to be as complete, and as satisfying as possible for the reader.
At long last, I’m finally in the home stretch for my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Letter. Its theme would be don’t judge things by their appearance.
Some of you may be wondering, what’s a theme?
A theme is separate from the plot line. A theme is the underlying part of a story, such as the moral, or perhaps a comment about society or human behavior. I’ve posted the themes from my earlier contemporary romance novels below, but don’t worry. If you’ve not read all of them I won’t spoil the story.
Forgiveness — The Reunion. Ian was the one true love of Gillian’s life, but he suddenly ended their relationship for no apparent reason. If she can forgive him, she stands a good chance of having a future with him. This theme carries over into a subplot concerning Ian and a member of his immediate family.
Adulteryand Its Consequences —The Deception and The Betrayal. Adultery is a great theme for the romance genre. It’s an opportunity to explore the repercussions for everyone involved, as it often affects more than the two primary parties. In The Deception, Carrie, a single woman, meets Scott, a married man who has presented himself to her as a single man. In The Betrayal, faithful wife Emily unwittingly catches her husband, Jesse, in the act with another woman. Both women’s lives are turned upside down.
Revenge — The Journey and The Stalker. Life isn’t always fair and things don’t always go our way. However, it doesn’t mean someone has intentionally thwarted us. Sometimes bad things happen. Unfortunately, there are people out there who subscribe to the notion of don’t get mad, get even, and their quest for vengeance inevitably harms others who are innocent. In The Journey, Denise seeks revenge on Jeremy for having turned down her romantic overture years before, while Craig, in The Stalker, relentlessly hounds Rachel for getting a promotion he felt she didn’t deserve.
Those are my themes, at least so far. We’ll have to wait and what my next theme will be. Until then, happy reading.
This may sound arrogant, or perhaps hokey, but I sometimes get weary of hearing myself say, “I write contemporary romance novels,” whenever I’m asked about what I do. People think I’m writing cheap, schmaltzy novels. Or they think I’m writing erotica. Neither is the case, as there is so much more to what I write.
I write stories about human relationships. Love isn’t limited to a man and a woman falling in love and living happily ever after. Love is about all kinds of human relationships. The love of a parent to a child. The love between siblings. Even the platonic love between close friends. The romance between and man and a woman is only a part of my stories.
One of my contemporary romance novels, The Journey includes a heartwarming subplot about the relationship between brothers Jeremy and Larry Palmer, as Larry puts his own life on hold to help his ailing brother through a life altering crisis. That’s true love.
In The Deception, another contemporary romance novel, a father literally takes a bullet meant for his child. That too is true love.
The Betrayal, another contemporary romance novel, includes a story of a long estranged aunt who finally lets go of the rivalry she carried for her deceased sister and reaches out to her niece, accepting her like another daughter. That too is love.
The reason why I write contemporary romance, as opposed to science fiction or mystery or horror, is because I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity and dynamics of human relationships. Not only between lovers, but between close friends and family members as well. Of course those relationships can be part of the storyline in those other genres. However, the romance genre is the only one where the primary focus is on human relationships.
My newest contemporary romance novel, The Stalker, is now complete. My editor she tells me she loved it, which is always a good sign. She says it’s one of my best stories to date, and she should know. She’s been my editor since my very first contemporary romance novel, The Reunion.
The Stalker is the story of Rachel, a free lance graphic designer who first met Craig while both were working for a magazine. Craig was someone Rachel looked up to and admired, and they soon became friends. Rachel considered him a mentor, but unbeknownst to her, Craig wanted much more than a friendship. That friendship, however, would come to a sudden and unexpected end once Rachel got a promotion Craig felt she didn’t deserve. He’s now a bitter enemy who intends to destroy her at all costs, and he won’t allow anyone or anything to get in his way.
The inspiration for The Stalker came from a real-life event. A nasty and vindictive individual was, for a time, stalking and harassing a friend of mine on Facebook. He was acting like a jilted lover, but they had never dated. They were actually coworkers, who had only worked together for a brief time. He eventually moved on while my friend gave me her blessing for writing a fictional story loosely based on her experience.
While I may not be a formula writer, there are still certain rules for basic plot structure which all fiction writers must follow. A protagonist is trying to achieve a certain goal. An antagonist gets in their way. This creates the conflict that drives the story. The conflict builds to a climax, followed by a conclusion. This is the tonal scale for a novel writer, regardless of the genre. In my genre, contemporary romance, the expected conclusion is for the couple to end up married, or engaged, or to end the story in such a way that readers can expect them to make a commitment at a later time .
My first three contemporary romance novels, The Reunion, The Deception, and The Journey, all ended with the lead characters getting married, or, in the case of The Journey, getting remarried. However, I’ve deviated off course in my latest contemporary romance novel, TheBetrayal. This time I did it in reverse.
The Betrayal is the story of a married woman who discovers, in a rather bizarre way, that her husband is cheating on her. Therefore, my protagonist is trying to get herself unmarried. Along the way, she’ll find her true love, but this time the ending is different. Emily, the leading lady, is once again single, and while she and the leading man truly are in love with one another, neither one is ready to make a commitment. The ending leaves the other characters, and the reader, speculating that they will probably marry someday.
I took this path with because I think it’s more like real-life. Divorced people often are gun shy about remarriage. I also think readers like variety. I know I do as a writer, and having all my characters go up the aisle at the end of each novel gets redundant over time.
Look for The Betrayal to be released later this summer.
Most novel writers have to kill off a character at one time or another. We don’t do this because we’re mean or deranged. We do it because it’s needed to enhance the plot.
The first time I killed a character off was in my debut contemporary romance novel, The Reunion.Jason Matthews, a minor character, was one of the villains. He meets an untimely end, but it happens off camera, meaning the readers don’t actually see it. His ex-wife, Gillian hears of his demise in a telephone conversation with a police detective. They say show, don’t tell. However, there are times when telling can be more compelling. Jason was a character who was often talked about but never actually seen. Therefore, revealing his death in the dialog kept it consistent with the story.
In my second contemporary romance novel, The Deception, I killed off another antagonist. It happens near the end of the story. The plot revolves around the character’s conflict with Carrie, one of the lead characters. Carrie has finally won battle. Her nemesis, however, soon figures out a way to get even. This left me with two options. Save it for a possible sequel, or kill the character off. In this case the second conflict was directly related to the first, making a sequel redundant. Therefore, rather than have the story repeat itself, I killed the character off, thus ending the conflict once and for all.
In my soon-to-be released contemporary romance novel, The Journey, I killed off someone who was a supporting character in The Reunion. I honestly liked her, and I really didn’t want to kill her off, so I wrote an alternate draft in which she survives. It wasn’t a bad storyline, but it lacked the drama, and the punch, of the original draft. Her sudden and unexpected death was an intrical part of the plotline. It happens early in the novel, but she still maintains a presence in the rest of the story.
I’ve heard the joke among my author friends about how there are two kinds of people who know how to kill other people. Psychopaths and novel writers. This first one definitely, although I’m not so sure about novel writers. So far most of my characters have died in accidents. Or, like Jason in The Reunion, they were their own undoing.