Writing about Love
by Nina Romano
What is love? Is it enough to state that your characters, especially the protagonist and the object of his/her affection are in love? From the reader’s perspective, no. How does this translate into what we define as significant in a romantic story? How do we write to bring the love to fruition so that the reader is able to imagine and visualize the characters’ feelings? Literally, what does this mean to a writer? Simply stated, it’s the writer’s job to prove it, to show the characters falling in love.
One of the most touching experiences that I’ve taken away from writing my latest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, is watching the unfolding of the romantic story between Darby and Cayo. They are two incredibly distinct people who fall in love, despite age differences, societal status, and ability to communicate.
In mainstream adult fiction or romance writing, it is essential to describe how and see why the characters in short fiction or novels fall in love. Why? To create an entire, credible story. It’s not sufficient to merely state their feelings about each other. The reader needs to understand their soul’s turmoil and confusion, because falling in love can be turbulent! What’s going on in their minds and how does it happen that one person tumbles helplessly head over heels for someone else? It’s a challenging task I set myself in writing the love story of Daby and Cayo.
Simply writing a physical attractive description of a handsome hunk, or a darling damsel, doesn’t cut it. What are the intricacies that make this person tick? What’s his/her backstory? Why is one person attracted to another being?
Every scene should resonate and consist of action and dialogue. It is in the word choices the writer makes that will convince the reader to understand the characters becoming enamored. The writer must see them fall in with each other and must also fall in love with them. The five senses should be in every scene: to see, to touch, to taste, to hear, to smell—and if not all of these senses, then at least a few of them. It is through these perceptions that we comprehend, not only the meaning of love, but of life itself.
I have written one scene at the beginning of this novel, where a shy young girl, Darby, gives the man she loves, Cayo, a buttercup pressed in a piece of wrapping paper from the dry goods store where she works. There’s writing on the paper, only Cayo, can’t read it. What kind of sensation does this provoke?
One of tenderness. Here she’s trying to say with a token that she loves him—he partially grasps the significance of the flower, but since he can’t read, he’s frustrated. He truly doesn’t know how to read the words on the paper, and maybe even in a larger sense he can’t “read” or fathom what she intends totally by giving him this flower. It’s a poignant moment, one that makes the reader reflect on the ways we talk about and express love.
There are also intimate love scenes as well. In each of these, I’ve endeavored to explicate with tiny dramatic staging, not merely overt sexual details, what happens in the sequential events of this couple as they fall in love.
I used a compassionate yet conflicting incident when Darby sits alone to open the Medicine Bag she’s received from Cayo—its contents beguile yet bewilder her. She unfastens the bag and pours out everything onto a pristine white apron, like an altar cloth. She studies these object—minuscule or otherwise, scrutinizing each item to grasp some inner knowledge of what these mean or meant to the man she loves.
In The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, each of my main characters, Darby and Cayo, use the word: “cherish” at different times. I feel that this word choice endorses and underscores the affection each feels for the other. Cherish means a person wants to care and protect someone lovingly. These characters each desire specifics that love encompasses. Cherish also implies to adore, to hold dear, to be devoted to, to revere, to esteem, and to admire. These characteristics are innate in the love that Darby and Cayo share for each other—it seemed to me to be the perfect love word to use, and it is still hauntingly with me.
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Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has had five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks published traditionally by small independents.
Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book 1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book 3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.
Her latest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western Historical Romance, releases February 2019 from Prairie Rose Publications.