Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Not/Why

I'm forgoing the usual book review this month because well, I've been to busy to read anything this month.  

This month I'm rehashing a topic I've covered before on my personal writing blog.  It's one of my favorite romance writing topics and I love to share it.  It's a really simple idea but one I never thought about until I came across it on the My Book Therapy blog by Susie May.

There are two types of romance stories:
1. Why Not/Why story
2. Why/Why Not story

In a Why Not/Why story the hero and heroine are kept apart by a Why Not or several Why Nots.  The biggest Why Not leads to the Breakup.  For the H&H to get together at the end of your story, you must establish a Why that can overcome the Why Not.  The H&H must change enough that the Why Not is no longer an obstacle to their love.
The quintessential Why Not/Why romance is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth Bennet hates Mr. Darcy pretty much on sight until the Whys accumulate enough to overcome the Why Nots.

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.  Yum

EUREKA MOMENT:  I can't even describe what a difference this next point made in my current story and how it really struck me.  Susie May points out that even though your story starts as a Why Not that keeps the H&H apart, you must show the Why before the end of the story where the big Why overcomes the Why Not.

This is so, so, so true.  Have you ever read a romance, where at the end you're asking, why exactly did this couple end up together?  I have!   My brother, who is the only male I know willing to sit down with me and watch a four hour BBC miniseries based on the works of Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskill, etc., makes a very valid point.  He hates romances where the H&H hate each other and then suddenly are head over heels in love with very little reason. 

The reason these scenarios bother him is because the author or screenwriter did not show the Whys soon enough in the story.  In Pride and Prejudice it takes a very long time for all the Whys to accumulate to the point where Elizabeth realizes that the Why Nots are no longer valid.  But that is the brilliance of Jane Austen.  She understood that her characters couldn't despise one another one day and then be head over heels the next.

Sometimes the author is so busy building the tension and conflict (Why Nots) that the reasons why the H&H would fall for each other aren't established.  The story can't just rely on the fact that it's a romance to explain the love that grows between the H&H.  At least one Why needs to be introduced early in the story.

The Why/Why Not structure is the Love at First Sight scenario where the H&H connect immediately but something (the Why Not) keeps them apart until the end when the Why once again overcomes the Why Not.

Jane Austen's Persuasion (I may not have mentioned this before, but I am a HUGE JA fan, as well as EG.) is a classic Why/Why Not.  Anne and Captain Wentworth fall in love long before the story even starts but the Why Not keeps them apart until the Why overcomes it.

I hope you're excited about this concept as I am.  If you're not, well, you darn well should be!  It's intriguing to me that all romances can be separated into these two categories and as a writer, when you know where your story fits, it helps with building both conflict and the love story itself.

So, my fellow writers out there, is your current WIP a Why/Why Not or a Why Not/Why or for readers, how about your favorite love story?


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