Say Something with Your Writing

A Guest Post by Stephanie Draven


One of the things that annoys me about the critiques of the Romance genre is that it’s somehow trivial. As if love had not, in fact, given rise to empires or made them come tumbling down again. Maybe love is dismissed because it is often the interest of women, important to them–more important than battles. Or maybe it is because so many writers don’t understand that even when telling a love story, they’re telling a story about more than that.

Every story should have a theme–and ideally, more than one. In a romance novel, the overarching theme is a given: Love conquers all. That’s the argument. Everything you write in this story should support the premise that love overcomes all obstacles. That it is through love that our hero and heroine can get what they want. That’s the relatively easy part because the entire genre is built around this single theme.

But because it’s already built in, readers expect a second theme. And that’s where things get tricky. So what is a theme? ChuckWendig said it better than I ever could, but a theme is an argument that you’re making. It’s a thesis. Several themes of my most recent HQN Nocturne nove, Dark Sins and Desert Sands include: “War makes men into monsters,” “torture demeans both the tortured and the torturer,” “civilized nations ought to uphold laws even during wartime,” “women have a right to be sexy,” “women can’t and shouldn’t be owned,” “the human capacity for forgiveness is our salvation.”

Some of these themes are more controversial than others, but they’re all in there, and the story, the dialog, the plot…all of it works together to make an argument that supports these themes. So, did I set out with a list of arguments and then create a book around them? Not really. I had a central premise, but as the plot started to unfold, the underlying arguments started peeking to the surface. It was in the rewrite that I was able to uncover and expand upon my themes, which lends credence to my belief that there are no great writers in the world. Only great rewriters.

It’s in the editing that magic happens. Where you can spot the arguments in your subtext and use metaphors to hammer them home. So the next time you’re looking over your first draft, ask yourself what your book is trying to say. What fight is it picking? And if it isn’t saying anything at all, it might be time to put it back in the drawer and write something else.

*applause from the gallery!*

 Stephanie Draven is currently a denizen of Baltimore, that city of  ravens and purple night skies. She lives there with her favorite nocturnal creatures–three scheming cats and a deliciously wicked  husband. And when she is not busy with dark domestic rituals, she  writes her books.

Stephanie also writes historical fiction as Stephanie Dray  and has a series of forthcoming novels  from Berkley Books featuring Cleopatra’s daughter.

Stephanie’s Web Site

About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
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1 Response to Say Something with Your Writing

  1. Doranna says:

    Hey, Stephanie–thanks for dropping by! I’m glad you wrote on this particular topic, because I think a lot of people miss this aspect to romance writing.

    I tend to have a lot of environmental themes, and along with that, there are always subtle character themes. Without those elements, the romance just isn’t complete!

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