Our Love is in The Trope

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Credit: Bigstock images

Happy Valentines Day, AO&R readers!

Whether it’s something you celebrate or not, I think it’s hard to survive February without getting sucked into the cutesyness of it all. The huge red hearts, the dozens of roses, the white teddy bears. It’s everywhere you look. Even at my kids’ school, where the little ones where handing out lollipops to one another.

Anyhoo, all this loving got me thinking about romance in books at how there tends to be set tropes that are followed. Even in YA! Just thinking about the last half a dozen books I’ve read, every single one of them follows a similar romantic path. Even though it’s predictable as readers we often gravitate towards the same trope over and over.

So what are these romance tropes? Ah … here’s the ones I think are most common in young and new adult books:

The Love Triangle: The dreaded love triangle is actually one of my favourites. I think perhaps it was overdone a few years back, which is why so many readers now shy away. I’m still a sucker for a well written triangle though, where the heroine (or hero) has to decide between two suitors. Some of my favorites = The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. Matched by Ally Condie

Friends turned lovers: When the characters have been friends for years and suddenly their friendship grows into more.  I think this one makes for a sweet story. My favourites = Frigid by J Lynn. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover.

Enemies to Lovers: When the characters hate each other’s guts, but we all know hate is only a step away from lurve. The sizzling tension that comes with this trope gives me all the feels! It’s got to me my absolute favourite. Best examples = The Lux Series by J L Armentrout, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

Forbidden Love: This is a fun one too, and it also sizzles with sexual tension. Usually the couple are deeply in love/lust with each other but the can’t be together because Montagues and Capulets. My favourite examples = Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Fallen by Lauren Kate.

Opposites Attract: She’s a book nerd, he loves sports. She hates self absorbed people, he is one. (well she thinks he is) This trope can work well too, although I haven’t seen as much of it in YA as I have the others. Top picks = If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Sephanie Perkins.

Are there any other typical romance plots you’ve noticed? If so share, share away in the comments. I’d love to hear all about them.

 

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Stacey NashStacey Nash has written one of all of these tropes. To find out more about the love stories she’s had published or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

Three romance-writing lessons

In honour of Valentine’s Day, we’re talking all things love here at Aussie Owned and Read. So I thought I’d look at three lessons in writing romance we can all take from a relatively unknown playwright I grew up with, one Mr Walt Disney.

  1. Sometimes, you need a knight-level romantic gesture. Now, let’s get one thing straight. I’m very pro women saving themselves. I’m not exactly at bra-burning level of feminism, but I sure as hell don’t believe in waiting around for a knight in shining armour to ride in on his horse to save me or my fictional princesses (although give me a few glasses of wine and I’ll karaoke to the contrary if I Need A Hero comes on).
    However, what I do think works well in fiction is a grand gesture from a leading man toward the leading lady, or vice versa, or a leading lady to another leading lady, or a leading man to another leading man (just not a leading man to a leading dog. Because bestiality and no).
    But I digress! Romantic gestures. They rock. Sure, in Sleeping Beauty it might mean fighting through a thorny garden and slaying a dragon to deliver true love’s first kiss–but in a modern-day romance, it could be Heath Ledger singing “I Love You Baby” on the grandstand at the high school in Ten Things I Hate About You. It’s all relative to the story’s scale. Either way, a romantic gesture, whether from the hero to the heroine or vice versa, is a great fictional tool.sleeping-beauty
  2. Love can come in unlikely packages. Whether you’re talking Beauty & the Beast or even to a certain extent Cinderella,  delivering love in a place we wouldn’t traditionally expect it is a great tool that can be used in writing romance today. The reason this works is because not only can it surprise the reader, it also follows something we all know to be true–to a certain extent, opposites attract. At the very least, they make for strong conflict, which creates great scope for some tension-filled scenes (and the potential for a follow-on best-selling movie. Fifty Shades, anyone?).
  3. True love is 4 reals. In Disney movies, the hero and the heroine always end up kicking arse. True love conquers all, baby–there’s nothing it can’t do!
    beauty-and-the-beastI think, when writing fiction today, that’s something we can take on board, too. Sure, there are some HFN endings in which perhaps the hero or the heroine passes away, which obviously implies that it doesn’t quite conquer all (or certainly not death)–but in those novels, invariably we have true love existing or the impact of a hero/heroine dying wouldn’t hurt us as much as it does. If the person passing away was just some guy or gal the leading man or woman was a little close to but didn’t really love, would we care so much when they left us for a walk on the fictional rainbow bridge? No.
    In real life, many people either have found their true love, or are searching for him or her–while we don’t mind reading about the kind-of-almost-maybe loves, what gets readers truly invested, particularly romance readers, is knowing that the love they’re watching unfold is true love. The Big Love. The all-consuming, everlasting love.
    That’s why I think having “true love”, Disney-style, is a great fictional tool we writers can all employ.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads to make you feel. Her latest new adult contemporary romance, with lots of true love and a truck-load of love in unlikely places, is on sale now for $0.99. Get your buy links for Seeking Faith now via her website here or find out more info over on her Facebook page.

My top three romance likes and dislikes

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This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re talking all things loooooove. I don’t read much pure romance but I do enjoy romantic subplots in other genres, so this got me to thinking about what romantic plotlines I love … and which ones set my teeth on edge.

Loves

Characters who are friends first. There’s no doubt that the sizzling attraction of lust-at-first-sight is a thing (and is totally hot), but I love the slow build of a relationship that turns from friendship to romance. Traditionally this is written as one person realising before the other. Then awkwardness often ensues. But still, I like the basic idea — probably because it feeds into my own experiences.

The realistically developed romance. This is tied into the point above, but it applies regardless of whether there’s an existing friendship. I’m not saying that sometimes people don’t jump straight into the sack together (that’s basically a new adult trope!), but I like it when the development of the underlying feelings happens over a period of time.

Diversity in relationships. The more LGBTIQ+ plotlines I read, the more I adore them. I don’t know what that says about my own tastes, exactly — but it’s someting awesome, for sure! 😉

Loathes

Insta-love. I know I said I like lust-at-first-sight, but love-at-first-sight? No. Nuh uh. I’ve very occasionally seen it done well, but only in instances where some supernatural element — reincarnation, say — is at play. I get really grouchy when two sensible-seeming characters decide that they are destined to be together forever after one date. Ugh.

Plots that rely on characters not communicating. I hate it when characters don’t speak their mind when everything suggests that they should, including their own personality. I once threw a book against a wall because the husband commented that his wife must really like the father of the baby she just had, and she said yes (trying to be coy and meaning it was him). He assumed she’d had an affair, because his question was in the third person. And she didn’t correct him, even though he was standing right there. (I still get mad about that.)

Broody, unpleasant love interests. You know the trope: he is a prick to her, either because he’s caught up in his own thing or he’s “trying to drive her away for her own good”. I HATE THAT AS A PLOTLINE. It’s so patronising! I’d prefer to see a man* who is willing to fess up about whatever the problem is and let the female lead decide what she’s willing to tolerate. Even worse are books where the man is “fixed” by the woman tolerating his BS until he gets over it. Ugh.

* I realise this sounds sexist, and I don’t mean it to be. I simply can’t recall ever seeing the roles reversed, with the woman driving the man away for his own good. If I read a book with that storyline, I’m sure I’d hate that too! I’m an equal-rights hater of patronising, cranky characters.

Obviously this list is highly subjective. I’d love to hear what you think, regardless of whether you agree or disagree!

Cassandra Page is a writer of speculative fiction. You can find details of her books here.

Cassandra Page

The Month of Love: Rheia and Alexandros

 

Aussie_Vday PinkTo celebrate the Month of Love, Aussie Owned & Read are giving our followers exclusive content! It may be a love letter between characters, a special date, or a scene you’ve never read before.

Today, Cassandra Page is giving you an excerpt from her newly drafted fantasy novel, which she describes as “Beauty and the Beast meets Ancient Greece”. There is kissing. Such as, for example, this scene…


Alexandros stared at her, a wondering smile slowly blooming on his lips, in his eyes. But, although the muscles of his back tensed under her hands, he still didn’t move. “Is this real, or just a dream?” he whispered.

“It’s real.”

Heart in her throat, Rheia slid one hand up his ribs and around to the nape of his neck, pulling his head down so his soft lips met hers. They were parted with surprise or anticipation, and, remembering their last kiss, she slid her tongue between them, darting it in and out to test his reaction.

He moaned softly, pressing their lips together as though he wanted to breathe her in. Or eat her up. His hands were on her back, tangled in the cascade of her hair, and he pulled her to him, closing the distance between them. Her belly fluttered and a fire grew in her at the feel of his hard muscles against her chest, the rasp of his cheek against hers as their tongues tangled. His hands slid down to the curve of her waist, his strong fingers against her hips. “Rheia,” he breathed against her lips.

“Yes?” she said, taking a trembling breath. Her lips felt swollen from his kisses, and she wanted … more. But she didn’t know what. Her mother and Charis had explained what happens between a husband and wife, and that it could hurt or be marvellous. Rheia had found the notion intimidating, but now, wrapped in Alexandros’s arms, she found a new courage within her. She was sure it would be marvellous. He would be marvellous.

“We should stop,” Alexandros said.

“I don’t want to.” She caught his lips with hers and he surrendered to her for several moments before pulling back. She growled, low in her throat, and he laughed softly. “Alexandros…”

“I won’t tumble you in Yalee’s sick room.”

That thought cooled her ardour a little. She pulled back to peer past his shoulder at the still-sleeping girl. An impish smile turned Rheia’s lips upwards as she remembered Yalee silently encouraging her to embrace Alexandros the first time they’d talked, when he was grieving. “I doubt she’d mind.”

“No, but I would.” He bent forward to kiss Rheia’s nose, his hands sliding back up to the safer territory of her back. “You deserve better. A bed covered with flower petals.” He kissed her cheek. “Wine and sweets.” Her ear, the breath tickling her until she squirmed. “A wedding.”

Cassandra Page books

Cassandra PageCassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

Her urban fantasy novels include Lucid Dreaming and the young adult Isla’s Inheritance trilogy.

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An exclusive scene from Die For Me by K. A. Last

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To celebrate the Month of Love, Aussie Owned & Read are giving our followers exclusive content! It may be a love letter between characters, a special date, or a scene you’ve never read before.

Today, K. A. Last is sharing an exclusive scene from Die For Me, the final book in the Tate Chronicles, due to be released in late 2016. This scene is from Grace’s point of view.

 

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Seth squeezed my hips and ended our kiss. “When are you going to tell me what’s bothering you?”

I sat back and ran my fingers through my hair. “Nothing’s bothering me.”

He regarded me with dark eyes. “I know you, Grace. Don’t say it’s nothing.”

“Yeah. Well, I know you, too.” I flung one leg over him and jumped off the bed. “You’ve been hiding something from me since came back from Wide Island.”

The mention of our time in the city threw a heavy shroud of silence over us. Neither of us wanted to talk about what had happened, especially me.

Seth took a deep breath and ran a hand down his face, staring at me from where he lay on the bed. I crossed my arms and waited out the silence.

“I liked it better when you were over here,” he finally said.

I moved back to the bed and sat on the edge, hugging myself, careful not to put too much pressure on my right side.

“I miss him.” I stared at the scuffed toes of my boots.

“I hope you’re talking about Ryan.” Seth touched my back and trailed his fingers down my spine.

“Of course I’m talking about Ryan.”

After everything that had happened, Josh’s name was not a word I could freely say around Seth. He sat up and nestled in behind me, pressing his chest to my back and wrapping his strong arms around me.

“I wouldn’t be upset if you … wanted to talk about someone else.”

I snorted, turning my head to look at him. “Yeah, you would.”

“Grace …” Seth sighed and pressed his lips to my neck. “The past is in the past. And no matter what you do, I will always love you. Always.”

I rested my cheek against the side of his head and closed my eyes. “I know.” And I also knew what he wanted me to say back to him. I did love him. I’d shown him that many times. I’d fallen apart over him, and that was the main reason I hadn’t told him yet. I was scared if I did it would all disappear. That somehow he’d leave me again. The last time I’d told someone I loved them, I had to be the one to leave. The word love and I didn’t have a good history. I tried every day to show Seth as much as possible how strongly my heart beat for him, but I couldn’t say those three words. I was waiting for the right time.

Seth hitched my leg and spun me around to face him. And you don’t think now is the right time?

You snuck into my head! I thought.

He stared at me, his mouth set into a firm line. Not angry, but hardly smiling either. You haven’t let me do that in a long time.

I reached up and ran my thumb over his lips in an attempt to relax them. Maybe I do want you to hear me say it. “But in here,” I said aloud, placing my palm over his heart.

His lips parted and my gaze dropped from his eyes to his mouth. Heat rose into my chest, consuming me with a powerful desire laced with panic. What if something happened to me, and I never got to tell him how much I loved him? What if my inability to heal myself meant that losing him was also a possibility? The panic over the thought consumed me, and I grabbed Seth’s face with both hands, pulling his lips to mine, crushing them with desperation. I couldn’t get enough of him, and something inside me snapped. I tasted the salt of my tears as they ran over our lips and into our mouths.

Seth broke our connection, a question on the tip of his tongue.

“I love you,” I said, before he could form words. “I love you so much it hurts.”

He leant forward and rested his forehead on mine, stroking my cheek with the tips of his fingers. I clung to him like he was my life source, and without him I’d die.

“Why are you crying?” he whispered into my hair.

Because I’m scared, I thought. I’ve already lost you twice.

I promise you won’t lose me again.

 

K. A. Last has finally finished her YA series and can’t wait to get it into the hands of her readers. She is the author of Sacrifice, Fall For Me, Fight For Me, and Immagica. She drinks lots of tea, is obsessed with Buffy, and loves all things purple (it used to be pink). K. A. Last hangs out on Facebook or you can find her on twitter and Goodreads. She’s also been known to blog once in a while.

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Romance has rules and a formula. Say what?

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of romance. I’ve always read books with romance, but it tended to be more adventure or fantasy with a side of romance. But my current New Adult kick has lead me to a plethora of books with romance as the main plot and while reading these stories I’ve noticed that there seems to be a pattern. So of course I had to research to find out if this was just a coincidence or an actual thing.

It’s a thing, guys.

There are rules or more importantly a typical structure to stories written in the romance genre. They aren’t etched on a tablet that’s kept behind a glass cabinet in the romance headquarters–that would be Harlequin, right?–but rather, they are unwritten rules that readers of the genre expect to find in their books.

So what are these rules?

The romance needs to be the main plot.

Sure it’s okay to have a story with suspense, vampire aliens, evil overlords, or killer zombies, but these other plots should not overshadow the love story.  Romance need to be at the plot’s center.

The heroine must be sympathetic

This one’s probably true of all good books, but in romance the reader needs to feel like the heroine is someone they’d want as their bff.

The hero must be attractive and irresistible

Tall, dark and handsome. Check. The hero needs to not only be attractive, but also have some or all of those traits we admire most in men. The ones many women pine for — an attentive lover, a kind friend, funny, intelligent … you get the idea.

A happily ever after

The hero and heroine must wind up happily together by the end of the story, and not just happy for now, but in a solid you’re-my-forever contentment. Usually the story itself needs to wind up happy as well. So no killing off main characters or doing anything that will make them miserable forever. Capiche?

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And that’s it.

But…

Avid romance readers tend to expect a certain structure to their stories and most of the best selling authors deliver, so this means there is a typical pattern to romance plots.  It was probably this more so than the rules that I noticed as I read. The plots were a little fomulatic and tended to go something like this;

 

  • Main characters are introduced. As is their reason for not being together
  • Something happens that forces them together and they hate to love it
  • There is a physical connection (usually around the midpoint)
  • They start to fall in love, but … there’s now a new/ worse problem that keeps them apart
  • Finally, they get past the problem to reach the resolution of the relationship
  • Everyone lives happily ever after

Of course all rules can be broken. Many authors have done so and got a my-book’s-a-bestseller award. But don’t let them fool you, breaking rules the right way isn’t easy. Maybe the important thing to remember is; just tread carefully.

So there they are, the common rules and standard formula of romance. That’s it from me, but what about you? What do you like in a good romance?

Stacey Nash (3)

Stacey Nash writes contemporary new adult romance with a smattering of other stuff and young adult other stuff with a smattering of romance.  To find out more about her books find her at www.stacey-nash.com, twitter or facebook.

What words made you bleed?

I’m a firm believer in that old Hemingway quote: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed. When I sit down to write a book, that’s exactly what I do. Figuratively, of course, although occasionally literally, too (no one in my house will forget the Great Sticky-Tape Slicing of 2004).

And with this bleeding comes a strong attachment to the words. I’ve recently become a plotter, and love planning what will happen in my novels. Part of that means taking some huge emotional risks, and really opening a part of my soul in the process.

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Perhaps that’s why, in my upcoming novel (How To Save A Life) I had a slight problem when the scene I loved the most in the manuscript was not received so well by some betas. It was a fairly controversial scene and for me, it was a great snapshot of what the novel was about — it really took the love, the hurt, the manipulation and the emotional blackmail to a whole new level, and gave little hints at what had been in my lead character’s life, as well as foreshadowing what was to come.

Overall, seven betas liked the scene — and two did not. While that might sound like a very straightforward equation (quick, pick the seven!) for me, it wasn’t that simple. Because I loved the scene so much, I worried I was blinded to the reality. Still, I couldn’t just let the scene go. I sweated over that scene. I cried over it. I bled that scene. I opened my heart and let it all pump out.

In the end, I altered the scene, but didn’t delete. Part of being a good writer is learning to accept criticism, and knowing when to stick to your guns. I think I am capable of both these things, and that the manuscript is 100 times better for the minor change (or at least, I’m finally sleeping a full eight hours, instead of waking at 2am and worrying over WHAT SHOULD I DO?).

I’ve never been so torn up about a scene before, and I can only presume it’s because I was so emotionally invested.

What I want to know is what words have YOU bled for? Whether it’s something you’ve written or something powerful you’ve read. Figuratively, of course …

Would love to know!

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Lauren K. McKellar’s upcoming release, How To Save A Life, is available July 21.  Preorder your copy here, or join Lauren’s e-news list for more.