Can Men and Women Be Friends?

© Can Stock Photo/boggy

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.  

Marina Martindale

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Entering The Clean Up Phase

Cleaning products.
© Can Stock Photo / JanPietruszka

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 has always bothered me with most of the so-called traditional contemporary romance novels that I’ve read. The author would reach the big climax scene, and then, once it was over, shazam! Everything would magically fall back into place right then and there. Then, one or two pages later, everyone rides off into the sunset. The end.

Wouldn’t it be great if real life was as simple?

I’ve always strived to make my stories as realistic and believable as possible, so after the big climax I include a cleanup phase. This 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, you’ll see his or her recovery. If a villain gets caught, you’ll find out how long their prison sentence is. If someone leaves town, they’ll have a chance to say goodbye. The lead characters will work out whatever unresolved conflicts they may have. In other words, I’ll tie up of all the loose ends before I end my story. I don’t write sequels, so each ending has to be as complete, and as satisfying as possible for the reader.

Marina Martindale

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Writing Relationship Fiction

Photo of an open book with stars coming out of it.
© Can Stock Photo/kudryashka

This may sound arrogant, or even hokey, but I 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.


Marina Martindale

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This Time I’m Doing It Backwards

A backwards clock.
© Can Stock Photo / ajt

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, The Betrayal. 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.

Marina Martindale

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I Don’t Do Formula Writing

No symbol of a circle with a diagonal line going through it. I received the nicest compliment from a woman who told me how much she enjoyed reading my contemporary romance novel,  The Deception. She even compared me to Nora Roberts, which was very kind. She went on to tell me that unlike Nora Roberts, I don’t use formula writing.

She also talked about how every Nora Roberts novel follows the same pattern, and that her books are very predictable.  What she liked about The Deception was that fact that it wasn’t predictable at all. The plot twists kept her attention and kept her turning the pages.

Her kind words meant a lot. They certainly made me feel validated. I work hard to create realistic, three-dimensional characters, as well as write life-like story lines. As I write, I tune into my character’s minds. I try to see what they’re seeing and to feel what they’re feeling. I’m concerned about the conflicts they’re facing, and how they’re going to resolve them. Therefore, I simply cannot be preoccupied about having to have the leading lady met the leading man by page ten, or about having my climax occur twenty pages before the novel ends. That kind of rigidness would destroy my creativity and stifle me a storyteller.

Real life isn’t a formula. Life is unpredictable, and so are my contemporary romance novels. I’m pleased to know that my readers like my unpredictability. 

Marina Martindale

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Blame It On Too Many Soap Operas

 

and My Misspent Youth

© Can Stock Photo / ginosphotos

People often ask me what motivated me to become an author. Or why I write contemporary romance. I blame it on my misspent youth. I was a soap opera junkie for many years. It began when I was in the sixth grade and it continued into adulthood. I suppose I could blame it on my mother too. Instead of telling me to go do something more productive, she got me started on her soaps.

I used to schedule my college classes around my soaps. Mind you, this was in The Dark Ages, before we had the Internet, so having my first VCR was a truly liberating experience. I could now have a life. I was able to tape my soaps and watch them at my convenience. I taped my favorite soap everyday for many years.

What makes soap operas so compelling?

So, what was it about soap operas that was so compelling?  According to my high school drama teacher, soap operas were real life, exaggerated. Soap operas relied on classic plot lines, such as extra-marital affairs, illegitimate children, and long-lost family members. Viewers could make a connection because they were believable stories.

The other thing that made the soaps so compelling were the characters. I never watched the now defunct All My Children, but I know who Erica Kane was. Dr. Marlena Evans on Days of our Lives was my personal favorite. Two great actresses, Susan Lucci and Deidre Hall, played those memorable roles. They transformed these fictitious characters into believable, three-dimensional people.

I too strive to create believable, three-dimensional characters in my contemporary romance novels, such as Ian PalmerGillian Matthews, in The Reunion, and Carrie Daniels and Alex Montoya, in The Deception. I also work hard to create believable stories. My plotlines twist and turn, just like a soap opera. My characters get involved with the wrong people. Long-lost lovers are reunited, and people betrayed by the ones they trust the most. In other words, they’re real life, somewhat exaggerated.

Marina Martindale

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