Thursday, May 9, 2013

Writing "Clean" Romance by Karen Rock

In the new millennium, writing a romance without physical intimacy may seem as daunting as sticking to your New Year’s resolution. You know. The one you made about not buying more black heels…. Impossible. Yet love stories that emphasize emotional and intellectual intimacy over sensuality, such as Harlequin’s Heartwarming line, are deeply personal, tender, and moving. Intimacy is developed through experiences that build closeness and trust. Through this journey, a Heartwarming couple overcomes obstacles that previously stopped them from finding love. They become vulnerable to each other in the most beautiful, passionate, and heartfelt way.


Take one of my favorite movies, Sleepless in Seattle. Although Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters, Annie and Sam, fall in love at a physical distance, this touching story, written by Jeff Arch and Nora Ephron, easily convinces us that they are destined for each other. Even Annie senses that she’s found THE ONE, sight unseen, by listening to a radio show in which a widowed, single father, Sam, opens up about the difficulties and loneliness of missing his deceased wife and parenting alone. Annie emotionally connects to Sam’s story and his struggles. Despite her engagement to another man, she sets off on a journey to discover if her instincts are right. Through the intervention of others, they finally meet atop the Empire State Building at the end of the movie. The audience did not feel let down that the two had had no physical connection before this moment. Like everyone else in the theater, I was entranced by their emotional journey to find one another and true love.

Another great example is the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ film (I see a pattern emerging here!) called You’ve Got Mail also written by Nora Ephron as well as Miklos Laszlo. In this movie, although the couple- Joe and Kathleen- have met through their bookstore dominance battle, their emotional connection develops through emails. Kathleen is duped into exchanging messages with an undercover Joe whose purpose grows from corporate espionage to genuine feelings as they open up to one another. They fall in love solely through these intellectual and emotional exchanges as they reveal their true fears, feelings and dreams. Their love story is intimate and deeply romantic, despite the lack of physicality.

So how do Heartwarming authors create unforgettable love stories without physical intimacy beyond hand-holding, kisses, and hugs? As I’m a character-driven story-teller, I begin with relatable characters that have meaningful internal and external conflicts that keep them from finding love. I then imagine experiences that will build the trust they need to resolve those conflicts. Emotionally intimate, soul-revealing scenes are, hands down, my favorite to write. There is nothing more beautiful than being told you are loved after sharing your darkest secrets, thoughts, worries, and flaws. To know that despite this, and even because of this, you are accepted and loved for who you really are brings tears to my eyes.


The phrase, ‘laid bare’ means to reveal something that was previously kept secret. Just as physical intimacy renders a couple vulnerable, emotional and mental intimacy makes the individuals feel bare as well. The reader shares in the fear that perhaps the heroine has risked too much, only to rejoice when she discovers that she was right to follow her heart.

I couldn’t be prouder to write for such an intimate, romantic line as Heartwarming and I know our fans will fall in love with our stories. Please share your favorite romance movie, miniseries, or book that features emotional intimacy with me in the comment section below and be entered to win Lee McKenzie’s beautiful Heartwarming romance MAGGIE’S WAY, an autographed bookmark for my upcoming YA romance CAMP BOYFRIEND, and friendship bracelets, one for you and one to share. The winner will be announced on this blog tomorrow as well as on my author Facebook page www.facebook.com/JKRockwriters. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the topic and for offering suggestions for movies or books :) 

34 comments:

  1. Oh, romance movie? THe Princess Bride. I just love that story. Fairy Tales are my thing! Congrats!

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  2. Oh I looooooooooove that one! It's the ultimate romance :) I especially love that they have so much backstory to build that closeness. Thanks for sharing that, Brooke!

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  3. Mine would probably be The Notebook! It's so sad and romantic and cute all at the same time. Plus Ryan Gosling is in it hahah. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  4. Justine.... you just made me lose my breath... Ryan Gosling!!! Ahhhhh. He's such an amazing romantic male lead and my hands down favorite role he's played is in The Notebook. Awesome pick :) Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing it.

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  5. Hi Karen
    I do love books in the Regency era they are so romantic! Let's say, I am new to contemporary and I saw Maggie's way! it seems an interesting read to get me hooked to them. She is a new to me author. thank you for the giveaway!

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    1. Hi Nicole! I'm so glad you stopped in :) I adore Regency romance too and can't read enough or watch enough of it- especially if Collin Firth is in involved!! Maggie's way is such a tender, beautiful romance and a perfect representation of the romantic ideals Heartwarming stands for :)

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  6. My favorite romance book is The Notebook, no question. My favorite romance movie :
    . The Bridges of Madison County(loved the movie too -- never tire of it)
    . Nights in Rodanthe

    Thanks for the great giveaway :)

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    1. Hi Mona! I adore the notebook and loved the book and movie for The Bridges of Madison County. The ending was so tough... Meryl Streeps grip on that truck door knob... YIKES. I wanted to jump out of it with her, but I understood why she couldn't. The nights they shared over dinner were so emotionally intimate, I cried. Thanks for these great picks :)

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  7. On of my favorites is definitely The Last Song. It not only shows the love between the boy and girl (like most romance books and movies). It also shows the love between father and daughter. I preferred the book over the movie, although I love Liam Hemsworth. :)

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    1. I confess, I've only seen the movie, but it is on my 'to read' pile! I loved the duo story line as you said, Brianna. The love a father and daughter is so precious and really is the foundation for the love she'll learn to share with another man. Thanks so much for giving The Last Song a shout out :)

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  8. My favorite movie of all time is 'While You Were Sleeping' with Sandra Bullock. I love the connection between Lucy and Jack.

    Great post Karen! I, too, love writing for this line!

    xo
    Jen

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    1. Sandra Bullock was at her best in this awesome movie, Jennifer! I loved it too and the build up of the connection between Lucy and Jack was perfecto :) I'm so glad you stopped in to share your pick! xo

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  9. Mine is A walk to remember, I cry every time. It tugs at my heart strings and doesn't let go until the bitter end of the credits rolling.

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    1. Oh, Kat! You picked one of my all time favorites! The book was great. For me, the movie took it even further and I felt so strongly for this doomed love that was a tear jerker but also uplifting if that makes any sense. Both characters learn and grow personally and together and it is one of the most beautiful love stories I've read/seen. Thanks so much for sharing it!!!

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  10. LADYHAWK! Fantasy is not my preference, but that is the most wonderful romance! Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer and the worlds most beautiful horses. No intimacy in it, although you know they share a past, but the anguish of love that can't be shared because of the curse that makes her a hawk by day while he's a man, and him a wolf by night while she's a woman is longing in such a heart-rending way. And that moment at dawn where they see each other as man and woman for a fraction of a second is enough to rip your heart out!

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    1. Agreed, Muriel! That romance was powerful and moving. The concept was so original and the actors played their parts so well. It took me on the journey with them. Thanks so much for sharing this dazzling gem of a love story :)

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  11. I'm not a huge movie buff. In fact I never see one in the theater. My kids tell me when there's a "mom appropriate" one to buy. I watch it and send it on to the movie library of whichever daughter recommended it.
    But Muriel--I have to piggy back on your favorite. Lady Hawk has so many poignant parts. Good primary characters and secondary ones too. I liked You've Got Mail better than Sleepless in Seattle, even though I lived in Seattle and have friends who live on an awesome houseboat. The world lost a great emotional screen writer when Nora Ephron died.

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    1. Nora was a great storyteller and romance screenwriter. I've always been in awe of her talent and I agree, Roz, we lost a great talent when she passed. Thanks for stopping by the blog :)

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  12. I actually do a workshop breaking down You've Got Mail and highlighting character growth.

    I love LadyHawk.

    And, I love My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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    1. Wow, Pam! I want to go to that workshop!! It sounds perfect. When do you offer it next? And oh my goodness- how did I leave off My Big Fat Greek Wedding?! That is such a great example of the couple overcoming internal and external obstacles to find love- and the secondary characters- the Greek, Windex-spraying father- genius! Thanks so much for sharing this one with me :)

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  13. You've pinpointed two of my favorites, Karen! Sleepless in Seattle & You've Got Mail are great examples of deep feelings & romance with nothing more than hand-holding or a single kiss at the very end. I'd never thought of it that way! It makes me feel more free to write romance the way I think it should be. Great post!

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    1. I'm so glad this post inspired you, Dale! Romances are as varied as the individuals in them. Writers should feel free to tell the love the story that speaks to them because, chances are, it will speak to readers as well.

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  14. You've Got Mail is one of my favourites! Another classic, in the true sense of the word, is Pride and Prejudice.

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    1. Hi Kaley! Pride and Prejudice is the ultimate in deeply romantic, clean romance. I love how Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth start out disliking each other and, through their shared experiences, create the emotional intimacy needed for true love. I especially love when Mr. Darcy sees Elizabeth at her worst, yet instead of rejecting her, helps her with her sister...proving that is love is real. *sigh* Now I'm going to HAVE to watch that movie tonight!! Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your thoughts, Kaley :)

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  15. You've got mail is really good! It's a classic and I can watch it over and over. I just saw The Ghost and Mrs. Muir again-- that's another one I love, old school, and can watch over and over.

    So many good ones I'm probably forgetting! Thanks!

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    1. Oh I am loving today's blog for the wonderful comments you are all sharing!! I forgot about The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and how much I adored it. They had great chemistry and I never felt they lacked intimacy, even though they couldn't be together in a physical way. Great pick, Diamond! Thanks :)

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  16. I'm a sucker for the classics. Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice (Anything by Jane Austen, really)I just love "clean romance." Emotional connections mean so much more.

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  17. I'm such a sucker for the classics too, Keshia! You named all of the books that made me swoon as a teenager and still do!!! It is so meaningful when couples connect on a deep, emotional level. When that happens, I know their love is true. Jane Eyre is such an emotional roller coaster but it is all worth it to see such wounded people complete one another. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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  18. I'm not usually a Romance movie type of person but the Lucky One I can watch over and over and it just warms be. Being married this September for 12 years to US Navy Submariner, I could relate heavily with the main character, a marine, who is struggling to come to terms with his tours overseas and to get the girl. The books is just as phenomenal and pulls at my heart strings just thinking about because my husband has been stationed on the East coast, and my daugther's and me live on the West coast, since Last September and we still have many, many months to go before he moves back to us. So there is my sappy clean romance....the Lucky One!

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  19. Hi Kim! The Lucky One is beautiful and shows such emotional growth and bonding between the characters. They are both dealing with pain and loss and to see how they healed each other brought tears to my eyes! That's a great pick. Thanks so much for stopping by heartwarming :)

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  20. Congratulations, Justine!!! You won my giveaway :) Would you please email your mailing address to karenrock@live.com and I will send it out ASAP. Thanks

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  21. I love both of the movies you mentioned, Karen. And one of my favorite emotionally intimate couples is actually from TV: Jim and Pam on "The Office". They were such good friends before they ever became anything else. The chemistry and the tension between them both was so real that I cried when they finally shared a kiss. Definitely one of my favorite fictional couples.

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    1. Jim and Pam!! I love them as a couple too, Syndi. Their banter is perfect and beneath the slight snark are two romantics who completed each other. Now I want to go back and watch all the old episodes! Thanks for this great pick, Syndi :)

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    2. Jim and Pam!! I love them as a couple too, Syndi. Their banter is perfect and beneath the slight snark are two romantics who completed each other. Now I want to go back and watch all the old episodes! Thanks for this great pick, Syndi :)

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