Help me welcome Handsome Hansel from the Dance of Romance as he tells us how he REALLY feels about Valentine’s Day.
Let me explain.
I have a (small enough) problem with Valentine’s Day that I have decided to poo poo it on a website dedicated to Romance in front of friends, colleagues, and our visitors. (Relax Carrie, I’ve got this. )
Each and every one of us are writers. And while we may not ALL write romance, those who don’t almost always have a love story sub-plot somewhere embedded in their story. Our readers would tap and swipe their fingertip to the nearest e-book store for another to read if we forced our characters together; made them profess feelings for one another just because they’re supposed to. Aka: Valentine’s Day on paper.
Let’s admit it… The ether of the holidays and New Years have barely evaporated and we are accosted by stores, commercials, and flower shops demanding we spend money to prove we (REALLY) love our significant others. Actually the burden is mostly on the men to prove this point. It’s on them to make this Valentine’s Day more memorable than the last one. After-all their wife of 20 years, fiancé, or girlfriend-of-the-moment expect to be swept off their feet. That puts a lot of pressure on us guys. Just like our second love scene in our first novel, our second novel, or our second trilogy puts pressure on us. Our readers and fans expect us to do something we haven’t done before.
I gave some advice, one semi-Gentleman Jack filled night, to a friend of mine who had been rather inattentive to his spouse for quite some time. I told him if he didn’t give her what she wanted somebody else would. Common sense. The same holds true for us as authors. We need to give our readers what they need and want. Otherwise they will leave us for another. Not that our readers don’t sleep around anyhow! We need them to stay loyal to us when we are back in port. (My notes say to insert obscure reference here.)
So how do we do that?
While we write romance we need to treat our readers as if they are our partners. A partner we truly care about and want to make happy at any cost. Ironically, not in actions but with words. We need to surprise, titilate and excite our readers with original story lines, character types which aren’t repeated, and a unique word for penis. (I’ll wait until the laughter dies down.) Isn’t that what we want in our own relationships? To be wowed? To be taken by surprise?
Now I understand comfort and complacency. My dad sends my mom a large bouquet of carnations on their anniversary. The number of carnations equal the anniversary they are celebrating and…side note… equal one less than my age. Credit to them; they’ve made it happen. My mom knows she’s getting these carnations but she wants more than carnations. Yet, if those carnations didn’t show up she’d be devastated. Our readers aren’t any different. They still expect what we’ve given them in the past but they want us to up our game. And while they may stick with us for another novel or two, at some point they’ll leave us if we don’t.
In order to do this we need to look inward. We need to reflect. Maybe even go back and reread what we have written. We need to push ourselves to be better… AND still be commonplace at the same time. It’s important we inject our future characters, plots, and story-lines with genuine, energetic intention. It’s difficult. Take it from a man – having to take each and every Valentine’s Day and make it bigger and better than the last is a challenge. But…under the right circumstances and with the right woman (reader), I (we) will find a way.
It’s best, I’ve found, to decide what you would want from your partner first. You still want the Valentine’s Day card waiting for you with your man-made breakfast but you also don’t want to go to the same restaurant year in and year out either. What would you want for yourself? Dinner in the city followed by dancing? Perhaps all of the furniture moved aside in the living room with blankets covering the floor and a candlelit homemade dinner in the center? What would give you goosebumps? What would make you giddy again? We need to do the same when we plan our stories. What would we like to read? What would excite us enough to where we wouldn’t want to put it down?
Fortunately most writers write for themselves as much as their readers and it shows. I’m a Pantser rather than a Planner when I write. I honestly don’t know where my story is going until I get there. My whole life I’ve been a spur of the moment type so I guess it’s carried itself over into my writing. For me planning can go wrong, sporadic has nowhere to go than where it already is. Whichever path you use to write, it’s important to know what you’ve already written to know what you need to write. It’s not an easy feat to stay true to ourselves and at the same time constantly reinvent.
As I write this it is still a few weeks from V-Day. Earlier I had spent some time at a local mall gathering ideas and people watching. I couldn’t help but notice the number of ladies walking around with Victoria’s Secret bags. (Some smiling. Some not.) Now, while they may have simply been underwear or pajama shopping, I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t beginning to anticipate their Valentine’s Day evening; nervously hoping everything comes off without a hitch. (Double entendre on purpose.) I wondered if they were secretly hoping to be surprised. I envisioned them waking Valentine’s Day morning like a kid on Christmas. I sincerely hoped they would get everything they wanted. Whether it be the simplicity of a cozy night at home or a $3,000 dollar diamond ring.
Our fans and readers do the same thing when they know we are about to put another story out. The fans will wonder what the cover will look like. They’ll anticipate the characters and where the story will take place. They look forward to our gift of another Valentine’s Day on paper. It’s up to us not to let them down by thinking outside the box and pushing ourselves to be better, more creative, and reverent.
I live in the city and state that came up with Sweetest Day. Think Valentine’s Day lite and it’s celebrated in October. While I respect the reason for these holidays I feel everyday should be V-day. We should be consistent throughout the year in our relationship with our significant other. The same can be said for our readers. In this day and age they follow us on Twitter, we have blogs and Facebook pages and it’s just as important during our 140 character moments with our readers we stay true to who we are and at the same time build the anticipation for our next novel so that our readers can’t wait until that day comes. Just as we all want our partners to flirt with us, tease us with naughty words whispered in our ear, and go out of their way to make us feel important; so too must we do the author equivalent with our readers.
If we always do that AND give them a Valentine’s Day they’ll never forget they’ll still respect us in the morning.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you manage to up your game with each new story.
Join us on Monday for LynDee Walker Talks Dialogue
Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.
I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com
- Learning to Love Again with Handsome Hansel
- Reader Roundup – Valentine’s Day Reads with Amy Alessio
- Handsome Hansel – A Man’s Eye View of the World of Romance
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for February 13-17, 2012
- Weekly Lecture Schedule: Mon., February 10 – Fri., February 14, 2014