Sunday, June 28, 2015

Erratum: The Difference Between Writing "Romance" and a "Beautiful Romance"

A few weeks ago I posted an article about writing romance. In so many words, said I, romance in a story is just a couple of emotionally needy people making a series of bad decisions. I got a bundle of LOLs in my inbox and few likes on Facebook. I finally had romance figured out.

Or so I thought.

Today I read a letter written by a girl who just got engaged to the boy who was her first crush. It was about the most romantic thing I've ever read. The strange part is nothing really seemed to happen between them except growing up and intermittently hanging out. Yet, the story grew into a wonderfully beautiful heart wrenching tale of lost and found, and happily ever after.

Both are in college now. Their love story has all the ups and downs of "a couple of emotionally needy people", but what is was missing was the bad decisions. Of course it took them a long time to realize that they were in love. But not being together romantically from the very beginning was ok. They made the right choices at various times to explore and be in relationships and grow.

So if they weren't making a series of bad decisions, stuck in each other's own pride or prejudice, why was the story so gripping and powerful and emotional and just so ridiculously romantic you wanted to tear your own heart out so it would stop hurting and cry for joy at the same time?

At that moment I realized that there is a difference between just plain romance, the kind of romantic tension in a novel I can script by having a character just say the wrong thing at the wrong moment and hurt someone else, and a beautiful romance, a truly beautiful story of love.

What is the difference? What is the golden ingredient?


Brooke and Erich--see even their names sound just perfect together--are best friends. For the rest of their future they know that they can be that way forever. That is beautiful. But their relationship was beautiful before they realized they were in love.


Listening. Caring. Loving. Sharing. Crying. Giving. Believing. Trusting. Sacrificing. Waiting. Hoping. Risking.

When all the emotions and drama boiled away, what remained was the single truth they had built together: they had each other. And there was one thing that wrapped it up and sealed it for good, a truth that bad decisions can only gaze upon from a languishing distance.

Friendship is being true.

They had each other not because they made mistakes, but because they were true. Like a redwood rising to its full glory, so long as its core, its heart wood is strong, the redwood is beautiful and grand. So in a romance, more than being pretty or petty, more than being selfish, more than running away from what you should run toward, what bestows beauty is friendship and its core is being true.

Even if it took Brooke and Erich a lifetime and an eternity to find each other, the thing that would make it beautiful beyond compare is that heartwood of being true. Like a Rembrandt waiting to be unveiled, like a Steinway waiting for its first concerto, in the moment of its discovery the beauty of its enduring worth is revealed.

Am I getting any closer to understanding romance? Maybe I'm still galaxies away, but I see a bright star of love burning, and it makes me want to be true.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Video Tutorial On Dense Atmospheres for Sci-Fi Freaks

If you are a sci-fan or author looking for idea, check out my video that explains the strange and different physics on worlds with dense atmospheres.
Photo Credit:Washington Post

Friday, June 5, 2015

Why Most Guys Are Bad At Writing Romance

(For all you aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers out there.)

What is it that makes a book or a movie "romantic"? What is the essence of romance?

The answer will surprise you.

For me, reading Jane Austen novels is like being dragged by my leg on the ground for several days by a slow horse over a bumpy road. For most women, it is like--well how should I know?

The good news is, I don't have to know how or why women react happily to that kind of emotional punishment. For you and I it is enough to know this one little blasphemous secret.

What is romance?

Well, I'm not going to tell you just yet. I've got to paint a little contrast.

There is a difference between suspense and violence: think Hitchcock vs. Michael Bay.

There is also a difference between romance and intimacy. One is the tension leading to the other. 

A good book is a lot of the former with sparing dashes of the latter delivered in carefully rationed tidbits and only after the audience is ravenous for it, or dreading it so badly they can't bear to put the book down. Sometimes the latter comes by surprise to take the reader from one state of emotion across the full spectrum to the other--like the sudden kiss in the movies that silences an argument between a guy and girl, where intimacy breaks through the barriers of circumstance and upends their world in a most satisfactory way.

Dare you bate a lion with a bit of steak?

What is romance?

Ok, I'll tell you. ...In a minute.

Ok now.

Warning: the following content is considered high heresy in writing circles as well as by fanatical readers of Jane Austen.

Romance is nothing more that a few emotionally needy people making a series of bad decisions. 

There, I said it. The secret is out. I have betrayed my own kind, like a brazen, traitorous professional wrestler admitting in public that in fact, it's just a show. But it can't be--can't it? And you still watch it, knowing, hoping, denying, hoping.

If only he would notice her. If only she would put off her pride. If only he could tell her how he really feels. If only she could see that the man she has is a shallow pompous shell of a jerk and the one she needs is the stable boy with the floppy Disney hair parted down the middle. If only he could forgive himself for the mistakes of his past and dare to be hurt by love just one more time. If only she would listen to her friends who tell her that he is madly in love with her--but he can't be, can he? If only... If only...

True, you need some chemistry; there has to be enough potential energy for fireworks.

But then begins the bad choices. First he puts his foot is his mouth. Then he chases her trying to make things up, but she won't give him the time of day.

Then she changes. She wants him, but he has moved on. And when he finally comes to accept her, bitter circumstances keep them apart. They fight against all odds, a rag-tag band of freedom fighters for love! And then they kiss. ...After all that.

Hitchcock vs. Michael Bay, which has you screaming at the television. "Look behind you!"

Austen & Shakespeare vs. Harlequin, which has you beating your chest, "Oh wretched man! Oh, terrible fate! Oh, gosh, I wish this would just end, but I'm just going to keep reading because this makes me feel worse than a binge on German chocolate cake after a month of broccoli and celery."