Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romance Writing Tips From "Bongo"

Happy Valentine's Day!  With hot pink hearts and curly-haired cupids running rampant this time of year, it's only natural that our thoughts turn to love.  Whether its steamy smooching in novels like Twilight or an innocent crush in books like Savvy, romance is a common theme in practically every genre of literature.  But with so many love triangles and starry-eyed infatuations, how can you make the romance in your story unique?


When I was little, one of my favorite Disney cartoons was Bongo about a circus bear who returns (rather unprepared) to the wild.  He doesn't know how to fish; he doesn't know how to climb trees; but somehow he catches the attention of a lovely little lady bear called Lulubelle.  Unfortunately, she is already the object of affection for one brute of a bear called Lumpjaw.  (What great names!)  When Lumpjaw comes to take Lulubelle from Bongo, she squares her shoulders, sticks out her chin, and throws a punch--right at Bongo!  Bongo recoils, Lulubelle glares at Lumpjaw--then whacks Bongo upside the head again!

Poor Bongo...

Understandably, Bongo is shocked by Lulubelle's behavior and slumps away heartbroken.  But in turn, Lulubelle's own heart shatters when he keeps his paws to himself.  So what went wrong here?

A little while later, Bongo comes upon a grove where line-dancing bears are singing this:

When a bird loves a bird he can twitter
When a puppy falls in love he can yap
Every pigeon likes to coo when he says I love you
But a bear likes to say it with a slap!

Love hurts.  (In this case, a lot.)

And then the bears proceed to slap their partners.  (Hmm...looking back, this was a surprisingly violent cartoon...)  After a few more rousing choruses, it finally gets through Bongo's thick skull that Lulubelle wasn't hitting him because she hated him; she was hitting him because she loved him!  (Since, that's what all wild bears do, duh.)  And no wonder she was devastated when he didn't slap her back!  I won't spoil the end of the cartoon for you, but the remainder involves a lot of slapping, singing, and, well, more slapping.

The two bears in this cartoon end up in their romantic predicament because they aren't on the same page AT ALL when it comes to displaying their affections.  Everyone has their own way of showing love as well as their own way of feeling loved.  This is a great thing to think about when creating your own characters and potential romances.  Maybe Trixie McCutie just wants to spend time with Hans Quarterback, but he keeps lavishing her with stuffed gorillas.  Maybe Hans Quarterback would love to receive homemade cookies, but Trixie McCutie keeps planning Laser Tag dates.  After several dozen stuffed gorillas and Laser Tag dates, neither Trixie nor Hans feel satisfactorily loved and you've got an explosive "Bongo" situation on your hands.  (Hopefully sans slapping.)  This idea can be taken to an entirely new level, too, if your characters are from different cultures--whether in the real world, a historical society, or a fantasy setting.  If you really get to know your characters and dig deep down into their cores, you can make romantic tensions, misunderstandings, and ultimate connections much more meaningful for your readers.

What sorts of ways do your characters show their affections and what do they yearn for in order to feel loved?  (Of course, this applies to non-romantic love situations, too, like friendships and family relationships.)

Who doesn't love a serenade on heart-shaped clouds?

On this Valentine's Day, I ask you to reflect upon how your dear ones show that they love you and ponder how you could better make them feel loved.  (Makes ya think, doesn't it?)  And always remember:

When love comes along don't be silly
Never ever waste your time like a sap
Let the others hug and kiss
But the bare facts are this
That a bear likes to say it with a slap!

Um, but please refrain from slapping your loved ones unless you are a bear.

Note: Bongo and "Say It With A Slap" are from Fun and Fancy Free and owned by Disney.  Pics are from Google Images.  

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