So I have a confession to make. Last night, still groggy from jet lag created by my arduous journey back from Indonesia (can’t sleep on planes/watched SIX movies,) I needed to view something mindless.
Cue THE FLIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a Lifetime Holiday movie about an obnoxious hard charging marketing exec (Mayim Bialik,) just dumped by her boyfriend, who gets “stuck” sharing a hotel room with a hunk (Ryan McPartlin) when her flight is grounded by a storm on Christmas Eve.
Just so you know, these dumb TV Christmas movies are my secret weakness. Despite the cliches and clunky dialogue, the “magical” character who always appears, and the fact that the whole thing usually just builds to a chaste kiss, I can’t resist. This one was particularly bad as Bialik’s character was super obnoxious, and you kind of didn’t want them to get together.
Still, my husband walked into the living room and said, “Why do you have a huge smile on your face?”
My response was simply to point at the screen, grinning, as if “duh!”
As he walked into the kitchen, I started thinking about why these movies are so satisfying, despite their low budgets and hackneyed improbable plots.
Even if you’re writing an action packed thriller about drones and double agents, with huge fight sequences and exploding cars, you need to know where the heart of your story is.
Here’s why you should consider adding romance to your book or film.
Most great stories are about human connection. What better way to create connection between your characters than by having a couple of them fall in love?
Automatic Stakes. Will they be together or will they be torn asunder? Or will the loved one be threatened by death? The loss of connection and love can create huge stakes for you.
Romance can support your theme. If you are writing a strong genre story (horror, thriller, action, sci fi, etc) a love story thread can carry your theme. Is the message of your book or film about self determination? This can be revealed in the romance story line. Does your theme touch on being “authentic?” Reveal this in the romantic scenes.
A romance story thread can reveal your protagonist’s transformation. Does your hero or heroine go from withholding to vulnerable? From uncommitted to committed? Can this emotional transformation then allow him or her to solve the problem in your “A” story line?
Romance scenes can provide relief from intense action sequences and allow the characters to breathe.
Oxytocin! Dopamine! Adding romance to your narrative will flood your reader or viewer’s brain with these “feel good” hormones. They will love you AND your story. This experience of “feeling high” may also contribute to their having lowered storytelling standards.
Romance helps you reveal backstory. When characters are falling for each other, they tend to reveal themselves. And this can help you deliver exposition in a way that feels grounded, real and moves the story forward.
It’s the most popular genre for a reason. Lots of readers and viewers out there want love in their lives. You can provide it.
Romance can create energy balance in your narrative. This is especially true if you are writing a hard core masculine story or in a genre that brings lots of terror and fear. Romance brings female energy to the plot, and can generate equilibrium.
Romance doesn’t ask you to think. It asks you to feel. Using this element in your story will help create an emotional experience for the reader/viewer.
I know these Lifetime Holiday movies are an extreme example, but my dopamine must really spike, because I will sit in front them like a zombie for hours. I don’t care if it’s improbable. I don’t care if it’s stupid. I love it. Because it reminds me how great connection feels.
Take Action! Could you include a romance story line in your book or screenplay? Could you use it to create connection and stakes? Could it support your theme or your protagonist’s transformation? Is there a way to use a romance thread to provide the reader with relief from long action sequences or complicated dark plots? Could it be employed to help you deliver backstory?
Romance grounds your story in one of the basic human needs. Love.
Give it a try!
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