Last week I mentioned the many published romance authors who provide inspiration for my own creations.
This week, I have to share the incredible film I used to understand the characters in my last novel, "Secret Harbor." Sometimes a film inspires a long spin-off of character interactions. The plot is secondary. I could blather on, but here is the trailer from "Le Hussard sur le Toit." ("The Horseman on the Roof") Rent it on a cold Friday night and bring on the hot buttered popcorn. Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez.
Here's some more I watch again and again:
"Romancing the Stone" - Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner - a romance writer uses all the crackpot ideas she's written over the years to help find a fabulous jewel, and save her sister, all the while being exasperated with an adventurer with commitment phobia
"American Dreamer" - JoBeth Williams & Tom Conti - a repressed American romance writer gets klonked on the head while in Paris to accept a writing award and turns into her favorite character
"Proof of Life" - Russell Crowe & Meg Ryan - unrequited love in the context of a soldier of fortune trying to rescue a woman's kidnapped hubby in South America
"Charade" - Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn - say no more - international thievery, and the best night scene on a Paris floating restaurant
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" - George Peppard & Audrey Hepburn - love conquers all - with 60s era NYC irresistible
"To Catch a Thief" - Cary Grant & Grace Kelly - French Rivieria, crackerjack Alfred Hitchcock mystery - need I say more?
"Bull Durham" - Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon - steamy, hot love (literally) and baseball. What more could you ask? Also the beginning of one of the most famous younger man (Tim Robbins), older woman (Sarandon) duos in Hollywood.
"Dirty Dancing" - Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze - YA (Young Adult) at its best, before we knew it was YA (or "New Adult" as it's called now) Girl takes on the world, and her daddy, all in defense of one of the hottest dance partners on the planet.
Fascinating portrait of devotion and commitment between two men - "Master & Commander" - Russell Crowe & Paul Bettany - darned good swashing and buckling detail on the high seas as well. Based on Patrick O'Brian's all-time bestsellers about Napoleonic Wars adventure in the British Navy. Over the course of many boat deliveries in the Caribbean, I read the entire series, finding all of them on trade shelves at island bars.
If your characters have a hard time committing, and you're a sucker for happy endings - anything with Tom Hanks and/or Meg Ryan
If you're writing a romance dominated by cowboys and the strong women who eventually hog-tie them, spend an afternoon with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
Again - don't focus on the storyline - it's really secondary - trust me. How does the hero get the heroine to trust him? How the heroine get him to go along with her harebrained schemes? And here is one of my all-time favorite trade secrets - when is the moment the heroine falls in love with the hero (clue: it's the same moment we fall in love with him)?
I just finished a great Victorian Steampunk romance ("A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis") by Jillian Stone where the heroine overhears the hero explaining to his small son just how they will conquer the monster the boy is convinced has invaded his room. She's only recently learned he has a son, the reason he broke off their engagement years earlier. She's really honked off at him, but she can't resist him after this scene, and neither can we.
How do you write love scenes? A lot of fellow writers ask this question, followed, or sometimes, preceded, by "Ickk." For the romance reader, clinical detail may not be necessary to draw her in. But the simple scene above did it for me, and, I suspect, did it as well for many other readers.