Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Big Misunderstanding in Romance Novels

It is often said that there are two sides to every story, and it could similarly be said that there are two sides to every romantic relationship. That’s what makes writing romance novels so interesting. Look at any piece of romantic fiction and you will find situations where a female character sees something in a certain way while her male love interest has a completely different point of view. It is all about how individuals uniquely interpret the facts of a situation.

Often in romance novels authors will engineer a deliberate misunderstanding (aka The Big Misunderstanding) to give their story a twist, but an author doesn't need to rely on a contrived and trumped-up misunderstanding as a plot device – rather there are numerous natural misunderstandings that happen between members of the opposite sex all the time which could be utilised to drive the story forward, and these are often a result of characters interpreting situations purely from their own perspectives.

As an author, you are constantly trying to understand your characters. This might sound silly as it could be argued that once you’ve created a character you should understand your own creation. But this isn’t necessarily the case… When I was writing my latest novel, A Marchioness Below Stairs, I created a male character that I didn't understand all that well at first. He started off in my mind in one way, but when I tried to develop him further, I began to have doubts as to what motivated him, and I had to go back to the drawing board (or in this instance the writing pad), and reassess my portrayal of him. 

Authors are forced by their art to learn the skill of putting themselves into the shoes of others. That’s why writing creatively can be so draining – you’re creating a separate reality for each character in your book and in order for your story to pull at a reader’s heart-strings and come across as authentic, each character’s reality has to be convincing.

However, no matter how draining it is, I infinitely appreciate how writing has trained me to see real-life situations in a more objective way. Of course it’s possible to attempt to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and still horribly misunderstand their perspective, but at least trying to understand someone else’s viewpoint (even if you don’t succeed every time) is an incredibly important skill to learn if you’re intent on building happy relationships with people.

It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that your desires are naturally the desires of other people. It is a trap that everyone falls into at some point or other, I imagine. In a Regency Romance, the ambitions of a young debutante presented in London for the first time don't naturally coincide with the wishes of the fashionable bucks on the town - and therein lies the delicious tension we are all so familiar with and enjoy in these wonderful historical tales.

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