Friday, June 8, 2012

Essence of Romance

As I arrived at the one day conference early, I grabbed a seat in the front row and thought to myself--prepare to be inspired.  Yes, I am one of those kind of people who obsessively need to be close to the action.
But let me start from the beginning.

Four years ago, one of my critique partners--I write paranormal romance--had gone to a conference in California and heard a rather famous Hollywood scriptwriter, Michael Hauge, speak about storywriting.  About why some movies/stories work and go on to become mega blockbusters and others don’t. 

Now Hauge was here in New Jersey, my home state, and he was giving the same talk and focusing on romance.

He said that many love stories don’t work because there’s no logical reason why two people get together other than the scriptwriter/writer wanted them to be together.  Even though a “spark” can get two people together.  Even though physical attraction between two people is important, the beautiful faces and gorgeous muscles we see gracing the silver screen or the covers of so many of our novels ALONE can’t sustain a relationship over the long haul in real life and in our fictional world--and the reader knows it. 

If the writer wants the romance to be believed, she must first have the hero ask the question: Why is the heroine his destiny?  Out of all the millions of women out there, why is she the only person for him/her?   And then the heroine must ask the same question:  Why is the hero her destiny?  Why is he the only one for her?

Let’s focus on the hero for a minute.  According to Hauge, the answer lies in the fact that the heroine can see beneath the hero’s identity. By that, Hauge means she can see through the face he puts on for the rest of the world, the face that hides who he really is.  She can see through the person he pretends to be.  The heroine is the only one who can connect with the hero’s essence, with the person he has the potential of becoming once he achieves his inner goal, his character arc, his growth toward becoming a better person. She sees his goodness.  

Hauge says that a romance or a real love match between the hero and heroine will be believable if the reader can see their connection on that level.  

The hero in our stories, just like men in real life, put on a face to meet the other faces, wear a mask to hide a hurt or a wound they’ve suffered in childhood.  They need the courage to take off the mask and fully inhabit their essence. The heroine can see through the mask.  

The trick, of course, is to show this on the screen or in the novel so that the reader can see the connection being made between the hero and heroine.  

One of my favorite movies--Breakfast at Tiffany’s--illustrates this concept perfectly.  George Peppard, the hero, plays the struggling literary writer Paul, who allows himself to be “kept” by a socialite. But when he meets Holly, the heroine, girl about town, played by Audrey Hepburn, she immediately sees through his mask and calls him Fred, identifying his true essence, because he reminds her of her brother--who represents all innocence and goodness.  Paul, the hero, likewise, isn’t dazzled by Holly’s outer suave sophistication because from their first encounter, he sees the small town Eula May underneath the Holly, the role she’s assumed to cover over her hurt.  

 The smash HBO series True Blood also illustrates the power of this concept.  Sookie Stackhouse, the heroine, is unable to connect romantically with anyone until she meets Bill, the vampire hero of the series.  In the first season it's clear the two are meant to be together.  She can see him as a man.  She's not freaked out by the fact that he's a vampire.  He asks her early on--who else can you be yourself with   but me?  Because he's a vampire, she cannot read his thoughts, and that's a great relief to her.  Even though it seems impossible for a "human" and vampire to get together, the audience roots for their relationship because they seem so perfectly suited for each other.  Interestingly, later there's a complication and a third character--Eric, another vampire, becomes a contender for Sookie's heart, but he's only a viable candidate when he's injured many seasons later and loses his memory.  At that point his essence is revealed to Sookie, and she can see him more clearly.  

After the Michael Hauge conference, I rushed home and examined my own work in progress. 

Had I written a blockbuster or a dud? 

Was my heroine Ella’s love for Simon, my hero, more than just physical attraction?  

I scoured my manuscript looking for evidence . . .


In my novel Wild Point Island, my hero Simon Viccars is a loyal revenant, a descendant of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, but he’s been trapped on this island he lives on now for over 400 years.  Once human he’s been changed into another life form and given immortality, but at the price of his freedom.  When he saves the heroine Ella, a half and half, from her uncle, when she returns to the island, she's the only one who's able to see through his identity as a loyal revenant.  She rejects the idea that he has gone rogue to be free of the island. She believes he really wants to help her in her mission to free her father, even if it means forfeiting his own chance of leaving the island.  

Likewise, the hero must also be able to see beneath the heroine’s identity to her essence.  He must be able to see the person that she has the potential of becoming once she achieves her inner goal.  
Ella Pattenson’s desire to begin a physical relationship with Simon, a revenant on Wild Point Island, does not fool him.  Her insistence that she is ready, willing, and able to share a future with him, although tempting, does not lure him off center.  He understands that she first must come to grips with her past and the decisions her parents made before she can understand the kind of future she wants.  He sees her almost more clearly than she sees herself.  

This powerful connection between the hero and heroine makes the reader root for the love relationship to succeed.  We want them together by the end of the story.   
That’s what a good love story is all about.

Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is officially released on June 15, 2012.  It is my first published novel.  To read an excerpt -- Prologue and Chapter One where Ella meets Simon and the sparks fly . . .  log onto my website:  

You can order Wild Point Island as a mass market paperback or ebook on  or

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