I think there is a general misconception that romance stories are just about the romance. People may believe the story is always the same: two people fall in love, they have some obstacles holding them back from the relationship, they resolve the differences, and then they live happily ever after. Although romance and love do play a huge roll in a romance story, we have more to say than just two human beings fell in love. There is something else underlying the romance. There is trouble and somebody better learn and change, or there is no story.
Sometimes the underlying story says something profound, something so meaningful to the writer, they are hell bent to get it out there to the reader. When the reader understands that deeper meaning, they often think about the story long after they’ve finished reading it.
Louisa May Alcott
As a kid, I was a devoted Louisa May Alcott fan. I read everything she wrote—and I do mean everything. Of course, she wrote about young love and how all that worked out, but she wrote a great deal about society and what she thought ought to be changed. She even introduced the reader to other writers to read and think about, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
and Henry David Thoreau.
Henry David Thoreau
Her characters talked about important things like women’s suffrage, matters of health such as getting those corsets off and exercising, and even alcoholism. I remember her character, Charlie, in Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom who was handsome and charming. Oh how I loved him. But Charlie gambled, acted wildly, and drank too much. When he died, I was devastated. I was young when I read it and didn’t see how Charlie was destined for self-destruction. As I read on, I saw the light through the quiet, intelligent Mac. Remember Mr. Baer in Little Women? He, too, was a very intelligent and quiet man. Both these male characters showed me there was more to choosing a mate than looks and fun. I learned something profound from romance stories.
Just recently, I contracted a new novel titled Home for the Heart about a social worker at the Hazard orphanage, a man still entrenched in the pain of betrayal, and a young, half Lakota boy from the orphanage with something good inside that no one saw because he only showed people anger. The heroine gets the hero to partner with her in helping the emotionally and physically impaired children find happiness and strength through the implementation of horse therapy. I wanted to present something with depth. I wanted the love story to really mean something—something I cared deeply about myself.
In the next story for which I’ve just finished the outline, (tentative title: It’s Only Make Believe), I present an alcoholic who is the heroine’s father. Naturally, he does some terrible things but I wanted to show a little of his inner battle with empathy, not hatred.
We all have something meaningful we want to say in our stories. Sometimes it takes courage to write your real truth. Hemingway is quoted as saying, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” He also said, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” I think it takes insight to see that truth, and when you see it, it takes courage to write it.”
What story comes to mind for you that was both a torture and a pleasure to write because it was about your truth?
Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: