Monday, January 7, 2013

Story Satire #1: Tragic Romance

I'm back from break, and ready to write! This will likely last for the rest of the week, and then I'll want to sleep all the time. Anyway, the break has been good for me. I have an idea for a bunch of posts. I talk a lot about how to write well, but each genre has its pitfalls. Today I'm going to teach you how to write badly. This is a joke; if anyone cites me as a source for writing poorly I will point at the title of this post and deny everything. I am not putting this disclaimer on future posts of this nature. If the title says "Story Satire" understand I am not kidding.

(I'm sorry if the last sentence insulted your intelligence. I just want to make myself clear.)

So...here's how to write a tragic romance! Now you too can have readers bawling into a tub of ice cream without using any real writing ability!

1. Introduce 2 characters, a man and a woman, as the romantic couple. Put a social divide between them, such as money, status, life choices, parent's don't approve, prior engagement etc. This will add drama from the beginning. Remember, the bigger, the better. The less the situation parallels real life, the more your readers will love it. For example, if there is a prior engagement, the fiance is a cruel, ruthless pig that will never allow the woman to break it off, and the parents approve of him, and he's rich. Create the perfect storm.

2. One or both of the couple should be poor. The story should be set either in the past (the Victorian Era works well) or in the present. If set in the present, it should take place in a small town. Everyone knows tragic romances don't happen in the city. Romantic comedies do.

3. One of the lovers (preferably the man) should have a heart of gold despite coming from a cruel/humble background. Do not show how rough circumstances may roughen your character, because they haven't. Your poor character must act as if he/she has been raised by kindly nuns. That's not to say this character is not rebellious, but the rebellion is never life-threatening and often categorized under "fun." You want readers to like this person, and that means editing out anything that makes this character sound like anything other than a middle-class nice guy. Most people immediately relate to this role, and writing that character will save you from having to write a character who appeals to readers through tricky details like events, thoughts, and the unique way he sees the world.

4. The other lover (preferably the woman) must be trapped by her society. The Victorian angle works well here. She yearns for rebellion, but never takes one move towards it until the man she loves tells her to. She is a strong character, and you must show this by having her swear, drink, and contradict everyone. Everyone knows a strong woman is never kind. This will appeal to modern women, and you will not have to flesh out an individual for your character.

5. All love must be displayed through sexual actions. That spells out "true love" to your readers. This is more important than sweet, personalized actions real people use to tell others they love them. Such as: making dinner, romantic getaways, planning a date based around the likes of the other person.

6. Throw problems at your couple. Now, other writers will say that this is the point of fiction, and they're right. But you will do more. You will throw problems at your couple that are BIGGER and BADDER than anyone's problems. This is no place to introduce an issue common to your readers and explore how the different characters act. They'll react negatively, you know that. Have a screaming match/drug issues and get on with it. Layer abuse on status issues. Parents are getting a divorce? Not good enough. One should be sick with cancer (or whatever illness is in vogue) or commit a crime. A violent one. Send the male lover to war. Threaten the female with disinheritance. This all comes before the final problem: death.

7. One or both of the characters must die. Accidents are nice, but illness works best. If the story is set in the past, kill with tuberculosis. Call it "consumption". Brain fever also works well, since it is serious, causes hysteric fits, and in fact does not exist as a real medical problem. If in the present, use the most talked-about illness of the time. Cancer, AIDS, certain kinds of flu...it doesn't matter. Your characters must react to whatever you chose the same way they would if you picked another: negatively. Social connotations of each illness must be ignored. Hope will not be abandoned ever, even if the illness is always terminal. Hope causes pain later, because your reader will keep hoping your character will survive.

8. No medical action can be taken. That would defeat the point. All characters, even medical authorities, must shake their heads, weep, and say there is nothing they can do. This is not true of real life, but who cares? You can't let that character live.

9. As for writing and style, there's no need to impress anyone with delightful dialogue and spectacular prose. Write prose as poetically as you can, even if your point-of-view character is from the slums. Dialogue can be kept to a few passages of semi-witty banter (keep it mild, though. This is not a comedy) with long, tortured passages about how much they love each other. "You're my world" and "Who cares about everyone else. All I care about is you" will tear at the reader's heart, and perhaps even get reposted to a Facebook page.

10. Stick to these rules. Do not deviate. Other writers who spend too much time "honing their craft" may say that even a tired formula can be new and fresh when time is spent shaping and developing unique, 3D characters with excellent writing. They try too hard. Why fix what isn't broken?

Now you know what it takes to write a tragic romance that will get the nation sobbing. Get out there and write!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this post! Your advise is so sage and wise and awesome! I am soooooooo excited to get started on my very own best-seller, like Twilight! Now that I have all the essential tools I need I can see how wrong all of my writing teachers have always been. This, this is the path to success and fame!

    baha, this gave me a much needed laugh on the first day back to classes, so thank you!

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