Sunday, June 19, 2005

Hotspot #10: Ping's Theory on How To Write a Romance Story

I think I can almost safely say in my whole life, I have read a staggering total of 3 romance novels. As you can tell, I'm not exactly a big fan of them. Out of those three, I paid zero money for them. Two of them were books left by a previous tenant in a flat I rented, and one was one I borrowed from someone because I had nothing else to read.

On thing I couldn't help noticing was all three of the said books followed almost the exact same formula and plot. Maybe it was a just a fluke that all three novels I read happened to be so similar, but from them I came up with a formula for writing your atypical romance story :

Ping's Recipe for Common Romance Story

Chapter 1:
1. Introduce the characters when they were kids, around 10 or so is the ideal age.
2. Have them know each other through a third party, usually their parents (who most probably had affairs with each other).
3. Being childhood acquaintances also helps.
4. Even an the tender age of innocence, one of the kids will have some daft encounter like "seeing" or "peeking" and the other half of the future romance couple and "feeling there's something special" about them. Sometimes one of them has a crush on the other practically since forever but the other one never notices them.
5. Often, the two kids are from wildly differing social classes. One is rich kid, the other (usually the girl) is from a broken home. A perpetually drunk and abusive parent (especially father) is particularly common.

Chapter 2:
1. Insert tragedy. It usually involves the mysterious disappearance/murder of one of the parents, or a friend/sibling of one of the kids (usually the rich one).
2. The mystery never gets solved, but the blame usually gets put on one of the protagonists' shoulders, or that of her family/parent, thereby staining the protagonists' name too. This often happens to the girl, for some reason.
3. Anyway, regardless of the truth, the whole town ostracizes the protagonist as a result.
4. Protagonist leaves/gets driven out of town.

Chapter 3:
1. Fast forward 10 years or so. Protagonist grows up strong. Often it's the girl who struggles against the odds to make something of herself in some other town and succeeds at a modest level.
2. Sometimes she gets married, but inevitably the relationship will end tragically (divorced or widowed) and she never really loved him that much anyway.
3. One of the protagonists, for some reason, will find a daft reason to seek out the other half without intending it to be a romantic reason. More often it's the girl who for some obscure reason, decides to got back to the hometown to open a business/figure out the truth to the mystery/ face her ghosts/ clear her name so she can be accepted.
4. Protagonist doesn't get a warm reception, and by coincidence runs into the other half of the couple. Of course the other half will have photo-realistic memory of the first half and the childhood memories and will be astonished how attractive the first half has become in the last X number of years.
5. Usually a conflict ensues, where girl and guy get into argument but are attracted to each other anyway although they'd rather die than admit it.

Chapter 4-Nth:
1. Fast forward an indeterminate amount of time which can vary from a month to a few more years. Protagonist recovers from conflict and sets about trying to solve the old ancient mystery with renewed determination, much to the chagrin of the evil people who have things to hide.
2. There will always be several stereotypical characters to watch out for:
a) The sardonic, prejudiced parent. (Usually the aging mother bitter at the loss of her child/partner and blames the protagonist for it)
b) The irresponsible sibling. (Often it's a sister of the guy, who hates the heroine for absolutely fabricated reasons.)
c) The kind pleasant family friend. It's usually an uncle or childhood friend of the other protagonist.
3. Hero and heroine are attracted to each other, but the near-sex/kiss scene is usually interrupted. If they do get it one, one of them usually regrets it afterwards and ceases to talk to the other for a bit.
4. Protagonist uncovers lots of little mysteries. Most of them will be seemingly pointless love triangles. Here is an example:

hero's sibling = > family friend => protagonist's parent => dead partner => family friend's secretary => hero => heroine

5. Danger threatens one of the protagonists (death threats, dead cats and break-ins very common) and for some reason, instead of turning to the protagonist's backup network, the protagonist turns to love interest for help even though L.I. may be almost a complete stranger that heroine "for some mysterious reason instinctively trusts".
6. Hero gets all protective over heroine and usually stays with her to 'protect her'.
7. Luuuurve city. Couple finally give in to their desires and page after page after page of their painful and explicit details of lovemaking ensure. Often with descriptions of how perfect the heroine's breasts are, how tender the heroine's skin is, how much body hair hero has and how abnormally big the hero's shaft is.
8. They spend the whole hour/day/week making luurrrrvve. Remember to comment how great it makes both of them feel. Often there will be confessions and plot details coming out in afterplay.
9. In the meantime, we also learn more mind-boggling relationship info from the point of view of one of the other characters, more often than not that belonging to the sibling.
10. Evil bad guy tries to murder heroine, usually going after her after luring hero away with some devious plot as she is about to uncover the secret of the mystery.

N+1th Chapter:
1. Evil bad guy turns out to be... *gasps* unsuspected trusted family friend, who monologues about all the reasons why protagonist's sibling/parent was murdered and how evil bad guy got away with it. Basically he explains everything and fills in anything gaping plot-holes.
2. Hero arrives in time to rescue heroine after she does a valiant struggle.
3. Hero's sibling shows up, intending to interfere but ends up finding out evil bad guy betrayed them and usually sibling, hero or heroine ends up shooting/killing-by-accident the evil bad guy.
4. Hero decides to marry heroine. All problems turn into mist in the sun and they all live happily ever after. THE END.

And that's Ping's rough formula on how to write a romance story. I have no idea how accurate it is for larger sample sets, but I reckon it will have some application in comics as well.

I'm having a bit of an upheaval in my life right (moving, planning etc) now, so updates will be a bit irregular. I still have a half-finished review sitting somewhere.

The other thing is that I'm still more in the mood to draw comics than write, and it's summer so I'm drawn irresistibly outside. While it's easy to draw when you're sitting under a tree in the park, it's not as easy to do that with a laptop without asking to be mugged.

Anyways, will update when I can. Wish me luck!


  1. Omfg... Ping, this is hysterical, and follows almost exactly the plot of the one romance novel I've actually read. XD By the way, don't get freaked out by an "anonymous" poster I'm a huge fan of yours, both here and otherwise, who's too lazy to get a blogger.
    -Cassandra Miles

  2. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I've read several hundred romance novels, and only encountered that plot about 10 times.

  3. Cassandra: Glad you liked it! Honestly I don't read much romance novels, but it was rather odd how all three I read seemed to follow the same plot formula.

    Peter: No worries about bubble bursting. I did say that it might have been a fluke and it probably wouldn't hold true for larger sample sets.

  4. This is indeed a veritable love metaplot. In fact, it does, with a slight variation of order, appear to be a blow by blow description of the Lion King. Well, except for the pages and pages of hot hot sex descriptions, unless they're in the director's cut.

  5. I think most romance plots can be boiled down to "two characters who seem antagonistic are gonna make wild monkey sex before all this is over because the antagonism is simply a facade for repressed sexual frustration."

  6. Sigh, I'm doing it all wrong.