Monday, January 18, 2016

                                    IS IT ALWAYS HAPPILY EVER AFTER?

I just finished listening to a book on tape, Say When by Elizabeth Berg, which raised some interesting questions for me as a romance writer.  As both a writer and romance reader, I want the Happily Ever After, with the prince and the princess who, in spite of difficult challenges, manage to overcome them all and live happily ever after.  The wedding that follows is either described in detail or implied, but it’s almost always a factor.

So many of the stories we romance writers create deal with the cute meet, the push and pull of the courtship, followed by the falling in love and as I said, the Happily Ever After.  But what happens after that? Do our prince and princess continue on in wedded bliss?  Do some couples exist just as star struck with each other after 10, 15, 20 years, as they are the day they realized they were in love?  Or is it like real life where the ordinary intrudes bringing with it the necessity of adjustments and accommodations. Sometimes those adjustments result in a more mature and deeper love, but not always. As often as not there is resentment and disappointment and disillusionment. Sometimes in real life those marriages fail and even if they last, they’re not great.

In Say When the story opens with the wife telling her husband she’s unhappy and that their marriage doesn’t work.  The protagonists then go on to separate. From there we learn about some of what went wrong in their marriage including how she was unhappy for years and he never noticed, thinking things were great. As the story unfolds, he comes to recognize why their marriage wasn’t working for her and the role that he played and he determines that he’ll fix it and himself and is able to convince her to come back and try again.

We are also introduced to several other couples who have minor parts in the story but who also have their discord and periods of adjustment.  We see that their marriages have also not been perfect, but that they’ve figured out how to make them work and with that their love has deepened.

So what does this have to do with me as an author?  How does such a story apply to the books I write? I don’t think we should necessarily be telling stories of unhappy married couples.  We would be disappointing and in some ways failing our audience by not giving them what they’ve come to expect.  But it occurs to me that the push and pull in a marriage and the subsequent readjustment could be a very interesting and even sexy basis for a love story.

I think the story of a likeable and relatable couple who we get to know through a courtship that has enough angst for us to care about them and their love would be even more compelling if we continue to follow them after the wedding.  To see this couple that we’ve grown to love get lost in the details of their lives, take each other for granted, and almost lose their marriage, could be just the heart wrenching romance that we all love.  Assuming, of course, since I love my characters too much to ever let anything bad happen to them for very long, our couple wakes up and realizes where they’ve gone wrong just in time to find each other and their love so we can have our Happy Ever After.

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