My hubby rented Marley and Me today for the girls.
We'd already watched it ourselves, but the kids wanted to see the movie about the dog.
A little while ago, my daughter came into my room with her hand to her head and sniffling. "My head hurts, Mommy."
"Is your movie over?"
I motioned her over. "Did you like it? Or was it too sad?"
She sniffled. "I think that's why my head hurts and I have a big lump in my throat."
My heart immediately went out to my poor little girl who was on the verge of tears. Of course I invited her to come snuggle with me. "Sometimes movies are just like that, a little sad at the end."
The sniffling came in full force now. "But... they shouldn't do that Mommy. Movies shouldn't have sad endings, they should always be happy."
I love the lesson that this brings. Granted, I liked Marley and Me, even though it had a sad ending. It was a good movie, but I gotta say, I much prefer to leave on a a bright note. It's like having a romance but then at the end, panning to twelve years down the road when they get in a car accident and die. What a downer!
I'm not saying it can't be done, but as a romance writer, I'd caution anyone who wants to "stir" the pot and leave off with a less than happy ending. Leave that for our "love story" or "Women's fiction" writers.
In my humble opinion, all romance readers are promised the following things. If you leave one out, you're doomed.
1.) A happy ending Guy MUST end up with girl and there MUST be some promise of a future. Not necessarily a ring, but that's nice too.
2.) Emotions I don't mind you making me cry, in fact, if you can get me into the story enough that I need a Kleenex, you've done your job. and the can be sad tears... if they are in the middle only.
3.) Sexual tension Okay, don't scream at me, you CBA writers. But let's face it. It's part of life and whether it's kosher to say it out loud or not, it's part of romance, Christian or not. You can't have guy and girl crushing on each other and falling in love without a little bit of sexual tension. They need to want and desire each other. That doesn't mean we need to let them "sin" or go beyond boundaries, and surely doesn't mean that we need to have a front row seat in the bedroom, but the sexual tension MUST be there. Otherwise it's, uh, too prudish. :-) And just plain unrealistic.
4.) A likable--albeit flawed-- hero *Most* readers of romance fiction are women. And women want a hero they can swoon over. If I'm reading a romance and I can't stand the hero, most likely I can't stand the book either. It's irritating. Now, he can be FLAWED and need work, and that's where your heroine comes in. (sound like real life, girls???) But don't make him so flawed that we can't stand him. A good example of this is Edward from Twilight. Seriously flawed dude. But...most women still oohed and awed over him. Teenage girls did anyway, and I gotta admit I was hooked too. There was just something about him that drew you in. I did a whole other post on that here, but the bottom line is, your reader needs to fall in love with your hero.
5.) A quirky heroine Whereas most women want to fall in love with the hero, or need to in order to get the "emotion" part of the story, they need to be able to relate to the heroine. This is difficult though, because us women, well, we're different. We can't always relate to each other, so how do we create heroines that the vast majority of women can relate to? My answer is to make them relateABLE by giving them fun quirks. Don't put them in a box and keep them there. Go beyond the stereotypes, but make sure we are rooting for them to win. You can write a flawed heroine, but make sure she has a good motivation. Make us feel sorry for her enough to root for her to get the guy.
Discussion: Can you think of any other "must haves" in romances?