Writing Romances With Lots of Standards
December 30, 2020 at 12:07 pm #123324Rebekah.Elizabeth@rebekah-elizabeth
Hello, fellow writers!
My current WIP is not technically a romance, so I am sure that I seem a little out of place here, but I need some advice.
I am trying to create a romance in my story, but am having a really hard time with it. My main character, who I will name “Kimberly” for this post, struggles with feeling like she cannot commit to a relationship out of a fear of being left alone. She has been left by multiple people in the past, including past romantic interests, close friends, and family, and she worries that if she starts to date this guy (I’ll call him Carter here) he will eventually leave her.
So there are a few things I am struggling with. The first is trying to depict her lack of trust without it seeming like she is being dramatic, like a “woe is me” situation. I hope to eventually see her break through this distrust, which will also cause her to grow closer to God. Any tips on that front?
The other problem goes pretty deep. I have never been on a date myself (something most people find surprising for an almost-18-year-old), nor have I ever been close to being in a relationship. But I do have a few standards for relationship that follow some of the suggestions given by Barbara and Dennis Rainey in their series “Passport to Purity.” These standards involve dating with the intention of finding a Godly spouse, not going on dates without a third-wheel, not being in a vehicle or bedroom alone with the romantic interest, along with being careful that you are looking for Godly character in a person more than an attractive person. My family and I agree that that is how we think dating should look like and we think it will help relationships last longer and be more Godly in the long-run.
I am fully aware that most people do not hold as tightly to these standards as I do, and I respect that. I also realize that other ways of dating result in Godly relationships that last, and I am in no way shape or form trying to stay that this is the best set of standards someone should have, I am just stating my stance and the stance I hope my characters will take.
Again, I have never been on a date that would follow these standards, nor have I seen anything like this in action. Because of that, I am having a hard time depicting a date with Kimberly and Carter that (for the most part) is following these standards and is devoid of the typical Hollywood-esque relationship that is almost entirely based on physical things.
For this situation, I am asking for anything anyone might have that sounds similar. It does not have to be with the same standards as my characters, but I am looking for tips on depicting relationships with standards: examples in literature, books with similar relationships, thoughts, anything that could help me make this a realistic depiction of Kimberly and Carter’s relationship.
“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”January 1, 2021 at 1:40 pm #123398Zee@zee
Sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this @rebekah-elizabeth, but I have to wonder, since the story isn’t a romance, and thus the relationship between Kimberly and Carter is, at most, a side plot, I wonder if there might be a different way to show Kimberly’s lack of trust and fear of being hurt if she commits to a relationship? You might consider something that you’d have more experience with and confidence to write about. A friend or sibling that hasn’t always proved trustworthy, perhaps. A beloved relative that moved away, or died. Even the loss of a pet can make a person struggle to share his heart again.
I’m not saying you have to avoid the romance subplot, but I suspect there might be an equally good way of expressing this aspect of Kimberly’s character.
That being said, I write romances myself, and one of my goals in writing is to depict relationships where mutual respect, sacrifice and Godly love come above physical attraction. So it totally can be done. If you’re interested in more in-depth help, and you’re comfortable with sharing some of your work, please do get in touch–my email is btznvntATgmailDOTcom.January 1, 2021 at 4:39 pm #123399Arindown (Gracie)@arindown
I am really impressed with your convictions to write Godly romance. I’m also a teenage girl who’s never been on a date…so I don’t really know anything about this, but I do have some ideas.😄
Like Zee said, making Kimberly really insecure in other areas of life will make her reluctance to start a relationship with Carter more believable. You could also have it (for example) that Kimberly never shares her feelings with others, because it makes her vulnerable. So, she could “snub” Carter for apparently no reason, because she’s too afraid to tell him that she’s scared. Another idea would be to make Carter accidentally hurt her by not showing up on time, or missing a phone call or date, and then showing Kimberley’s fear because he’s “just like the rest of them.” Which he could later prove wrong.
For the dating thing…that’s a hard question. So many books portray romance in the wrong light. I honestly can’t think of a book that I can recommend at the moment, but I’ll keep thinking.😁
My idea for the dating scenes would be to make conflict, which will make the dates interesting. Maybe Kimberley’s fear comes out as anger sometimes. Maybe they misunderstand each-other. Maybe she really dislikes who he chose as a chaperone. I think emotion in stories can be even more compelling than physical action, so I would try to base the scenes on this. Awkward silences. Trying to hide tears. Fidgeting with napkins. Nervous laughter at the wrong times. Him trying to come up with jokes to ease the tension, and failing. Her trying to repress the fear of doing something wrong, and failing. Stuff like that.
One of my favorite scenes that I’ve ever written on a story was a talk between two characters that “liked” each other, but can’t have a relationship because she’s about to go on a dangerous mission, and will probably never return. The reason I love it is because it’s so awkward. She wants him to know that he’s her hero, without being “romantic” about it. He’s trying to apologize for saying she looked pretty, without being sorry for it, and without leading her on. They’re also both trying to be optimistic and not cry because they’ll probably never see each-other again. It’s a perfect mine of emotion.
I don’t know if that was any help. I’ll still think of a book or two.
Not all those who wander are lost.January 1, 2021 at 5:54 pm #123404Rebekah.Elizabeth@rebekah-elizabeth
Thank you for your feedback! I really appreciate the time you two have put into responding.
Okay, so there is a little bit to unbox here.
I hope this post doesn’t get confusing, ha.
So, in the first book of my series, Kimberly lives in a different country with her best friend Hannah (also a main character, I have 2 protagonists at the moment), and they are supper happy despite Kimberly’s broken family life. Hannah is almost like the family that Kimberly wishes she had, and she loves it.
Hannah has her own story. Her father passed away when she was younger, and so she had to grow up way faster than she wishes was necessary.
But, through a series of chance, luck, and a few action scenes, Kimberly and Hannah meet new friends and find themselves going on a trip to a different country with these new friends. In this second country, Kimberly and Hannah are introduced to Christianity. Kimberly, thinking that He might fill the gaping hole in her heart, welcomes Christ. Meanwhile Hannah finds out that her deceased father was also a Christian, doesn’t understand how a good od could have let her dad die, is enraged by Kimberly’s decision to follow a God who is willing to let their followers die, packs her bags, goes home, and cuts off all ties with Kimberly.
Meanwhile Kimberly’s family is also enraged by her decision and cuts off what little contact had remained between them, clearly stating that Kimberly is not welcome back home. Kimberly, knowing that she couldn’t go home but could probably learn more about God in the new country, decides to stay.
My current WIP consists of Kimberly grappling with a few things. Primarily “Was God worth all of this?” and “Will He leave me too?”
She suffers from a lot of trust issues, and so Carter (who goes to her new church) coming in and wanting to be her friend seems a little too good to be true.
Thought I’d give a quick run-down to give you a closer look into what I am working with.
Right now, my characters are transitioning to a world I have been creating for the past few months. I intend to completely redo the entire 130,000-word (incomplete) series of novellas and possibly make it a two-book series that takes place in the new world I have created. (I know that saying two books makes it sound like the books will be short, but I am both not done with the original novellas and I also intend to add more to them when I work on this next draft.) I might see if the story changes at all when I get to this point after I rework the novellas, and if it does, there might not be a romance. (I’ll also probably send it to other people to see what they think.) But my other current idea involves them starting to date, then he feels called to join the military. He does so, with her blessing, but she still feels like she’s been left again. There are a few more building factors to that situation, but I will not delve into that at the moment.
I really love the advice the two of you have given me, and, Zee, I’ll keep you in mind once I have reset the story and get back to the point where I am thinking about adding the romance.
Arindown, thanks for the thoughts on making interesting dates! I think I am going to apply some of this, and I appreciate the ideas! Please keep me updated if you think of any books or stories that portray godly dating. (:
Again, thank you for the time you two have put into responding. 😀
“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
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