Old-Fashioned Values In Contemporary Romance by Sally Brandle (Romance Author University)
Absolutely! Hollywood churns out weekly television episodes and blockbuster movies showcasing honesty, loyalty, responsibility, compassion, etc. because their audience longs for them. When you feature uncompromising, principled key players in your stories you gift a reader with stability in challenging times. Consistency in the actions of your characters makes them convincing. Choose wisely about what each character judges to be important and craft your opening scenes so that your readers immediately get a vibe on how they will respond. Human nature in real time is undependable, but it shouldn’t be so in fiction. You may not create the next Superhero or win a RITA, but your book may be the bright spot in a reader’s dismal day. Bring on everyday people with truly heroic manners and pit them against villains with equally strong values. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Disclaimer time-I write Romantic Suspense and strive for diabolical antagonists. Nonetheless, highlighting standards of behavior without drifting into paragons of virtue status is possible in all romantic sub-genres. Popular tropes listed below provide ample opportunity for old-fashioned values, some of which seem to be struggling in our modern-day times if you watch the nightly news. The wonderful drawings by my friend, Pat Coonan, may help clarify my ideas. Values are italicized.
Two unsuspecting strangers trapped together in an elevator, or in a remote cabin, or stranded on a desert island. You get the drift. How romantic—especially if you can eliminate cell reception or other electronic demands! When you bring amore onto center stage by having your characters be fully present without technology or an agenda, know there are deep sighs from your audience at the thought of uninterrupted moments. Throw in a dash of quality time spent together solving oncoming conflicts and—winner, winner, clover dinner! Once they survive, of course.
Enemies to lovers. Tapping complaints on a screen to a friend compounds strained relationships. In my opinion, meddling sidekicks become tiresome. But wait, door number two—work out issues directly with each other-not with the ‘help/advice/counsel’ of others. And after deep, meaningful conversation pauses, how about making your protagonists lend support when it’s not convenient? Today’s in-your-face and fast paced tempo creates anxiety and catapults energy between people. If the first meeting of your hero/heroine in your story is initially negative, remove the virtual rocks and get that dialogue flowing. Humor’s a great foil in a meet/hate scene. There’s nothing worse for me than reading a book where it’s apparent that if they’d talked things through, no conflict would exist. I can thank my first editor for pointing out that issue in my own debut manuscript. And thus began the twenty-seventh iteration.
I’m not who you think I am, I’m really a gazillionaire, or a prince, or I bought Apple stock in 1980. Emphasize the poser’s pride in a job well done—especially if the task gives them the willies. Carefully morphing your elitist/royal/techie to be courteous to the kid who refills their water glass in a restaurant gains additional votes from me. In a former life, I participated in prospective employee interviews. Before the final decision, I’d suggest we take the potential new hire to lunch. Their treatment of a server indicated how much of a team player they’d be. Test out the theory, I dare you. Showing how your formerly spoiled character becomes open-minded can be tricky but produces tissue moments.
Oh my gosh, I’ve let the right one slip away! How could I not see that the frumpy IT tech who gets jittery when talking to me is really a keeper? Loss or risk of losing that perfect someone in a lovelorn epiphany can be enhanced by your character doing an honest self-assessment. Follow it up with their rehearsed apology they know is deserved and determination to show Mr. or Ms. Keeper that they’d adored from afar correctly, even if their threadbare patience finally unraveled.
Destined to be together-no matter the obstacles thrown in their paths. Celeste de Blasis masterfully drew out separation in “Wild Swan.” I read the story decades ago, and still remember the challenges. Writers should use setbacks for teachable moments. I read plenty of romance genres and don’t often find this concept on the positive aspect of failure. When commitment to succeed becomes a force for positivity and encouragement, your writing will have a lasting effect.
Second chance at love. Showcasing the time-honored attribute of resilience, the age old picking up the pieces of life, dusting off pride/remorse/guilt, etc., and moving forward. Hopeless romantics are never hopeless. Give them a variety of circumstances for acceptance at what they can’t change and inner peace in their new version of lasting love.
The spotlight of success, winning the lotto, or another circumstance dramatically changes the life of one of the players and they leave their soulmate behind. Agonizing to witness, but you can write the HEA. Humility touches a different heartstring and a delicate touch will bring results. Pair it with a focus on inner beauty to up the intensity.
Fake relationship via a hired date, fiancé, or spouse. Put in a twist where the couple works together to help each other grow. The love-for-hire can purposely over deliver on a promise to goad the ‘contractor’ and fight the ensuing results.
Forbidden love provides a time-tested formula for conflict. Placing a moral compass of top-grade integrity into the mix generates heart-wrenching passages. The simple beauty of love in a complex world can be showcased. Not an easy task, but worth the effort.
Friends to lovers. Childhood friends, working friends, a sibling’s best friend. My cornerstones for friendship are honesty and loyalty. No matter what, or whom, separates your lovers, deep down they know a true friend won’t fail them.
The secret baby. You thought I’d forgotten this popular trope? Not a chance. A person who takes on the responsibility of raising a child without assistance often leads to a plot driven story, so choose wisely. Sketching out the unaware parent’s character arc to compassion and forgiveness when they realize the truth requires skill. At the onset bring in mentors to willingly assist the baby’s parent and develop secondary characters possessing strong values: positive or negative. How your protagonists deal with tongue-waggers can offer a great outlet for witty or insightful remarks showcasing their devotion.
The above are a few examples on integrating old-fashioned values into contemporary romance. I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you to please arm your antagonists with even stronger visions of what’s meaningful and worthy in their world to make your story conflicts realistic. For my devious antagonists, I refer to Gavin de Becker’s non-fiction book, “The Gift of Fear.” If you want to read a bone-chilling account of how real-life social deviants justify their acts, pick up a copy. Consistency, commitment, and efficiency are standard behavior traits. Or read the book to learn why to trust your instincts when those twinges of fear march up your spine. Speaking of marching, I’ve got a contracted book screaming for attention. I certainly don’t want demerits in reliability or efficiency!
Torn by Vengeance - Love Thrives in Emma Springs Book 2
Corrin Patten is solidly on a path to make partner in a prestigious Seattle law firm when an ominous threat from her past turns deadly. She can handle circumstances necessitating a temporary move to the backwater town of Emma Springs, but its charming physician is another matter, as she’s issued a permanent moratorium on men.
Dr. Kyle Werner revels in trust from patients he regularly treats in a community he's never wished to leave. Yet Emma Springs lacks one thing, a woman to share his perfectly bucolic life. He's read about pheromone attraction, but never experienced desire until meeting Corrin. They make an unbeatable team, but convincing her that his interest is sincere while they dissect layers of deceit requires the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Can they defeat the wealthy stalker bent on mistaken revenge against Corrin and destruction of the peaceful Montana setting?
If you thrive on tenacious heroines, sizzling attraction, and a shadowy villain with a grudge, you’ll love this prescription for thrills.
MORE IN THE SERIES
Multi-award winning author Sally Brandle weaves slow-burning romance into edgy suspense stories. Sally left a career as an industrial baking instructor to bring to life stories motivating readers to trust their instincts. Her rescue Aussie is her companion during long spells of writing or afternoons spent riding on the wind with her twenty-nine year old Quarter Horse. Sign up for her newsletter at www.sallybrandle.com for freebies. The Hitman’s Mistake opens her Love Thrives in Emma Springs series of stories (sensual without intimate scenes). Torn by Vengeance, Book 2, continues showcasing friendship, courageous women, and the men who deserve their love. The Targeted Pawn, Book 3, releases 3/2020.
Visit Sally Brandle's Web Site.
Sally’s Blog link: https://smpauthors.wordpress.com/author/sallygfrog/
This giveaway is now over. The lucky winner is: Karen Mercer