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I've been trying to write a good romance but it's falling a little flat. I think it might be because I've never been in love before. My favorite genre is romance (for reading and writing), but I'm kind of bad at writing it. I think it might be because I don't know how to write entertaining banter or deep conversation. Is this an unfixable problem? Should I just write another genre?

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    I'm quite sure George Lucas never held a lightsaber before, nor did he travel faster than light, yet Star Wars was successful. Fiction is more about making a connection with the reader than about being right - and when it comes to love, right and wrong are too abstract to make a judgement about what is right/good and what is wrong/bad (within the limits of common sense).
    – Geeky Guy
    Dec 23 '19 at 19:59
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    Tom Clancy never captained a submarine or was a bookish CIA analyst-hero, either, but successfully wrote a lot of technothrillers.
    – RonJohn
    Dec 24 '19 at 5:31
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    Fantasy authors of necessity have to write about things they don't know. Dec 24 '19 at 16:45
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    @TimothyAWiseman : yet they have to do a lot of research to write something believable. And in case of historical fiction they have to know the time period they are writing about at least somewhat better than the average reader.
    – vsz
    Dec 24 '19 at 19:57
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    @vsz I respectfully disagree with fantasy. If they want to achieve real verisimilitude, they need to do a lot of research, but many successful fantasy writers don't even try for accuracy and still create good stories. It is so common that really doing your homework can make things seem less realistic because most people are far more used to fiction than reality. As just one example, back sheathes are all over in fiction, but they were uncommon in real life and it was...very awkward to draw any weapon longer than your arm from a back sheathe. Dec 24 '19 at 20:44
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While it's certainly easier to write about things you've had personal experience of ("write what you know" and all that) it's certainly not impossible so I wouldn't call this an unfixable problem, rather it's a difficult one.

You mention that romance is your favorite genre to read - so you've probably got a decent amount of experience as to what works in a romance story even if you don't realise it.

My advice would be to build on that strength and work on using it to improve your own writing, read as much romance as you can both good examples of the genre but just as cruicially bad examples. Use the contrast to illustrate what works, what doesn't and why.

Take pivotal scenes of the sort you're looking to work on in a good example and break them down, take notes about what the author is doing to provoke emotional responses in the reader and then do the same analysis on a "bad" example, you should start to be able to see what's missing.

I'm not going to sugar coat it - this isn't a particularly enjoyable process, and worse it can end up ruining your ability to enjoy consuming a genre. Like when you understand how a magic trick is done it loses it's ability to impress you. But put the work in and you will get better at it.

Another key thing is that if you don't have them already you need some reliable beta readers - find some folks you trust to give you honest feedback and appreciate the genre and have them read your stuff. You're never going to have the same emotional responses to something as the author as a reader will as you know the work too well to be properly swept along in it.

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    It's also worth noting that the romance genre in particular is not necessarily popular because of its realism - arguably, some/much of the appeal is the lack of realism involved. So having been in love yourself won't necessarily give you many insights into what romance readers like.
    – V2Blast
    Dec 24 '19 at 4:49
  • @V2Blast true, but IME some of the worst writing I have ever seen is bad romance. Arthur C. Clarke was usually a very good writer, but his love scenes were worse than the Star Wars prequels. Dec 26 '19 at 15:35
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    @ColumbiasaysReinstateMonica: That may be, but is it because Arthur C. Clarke was never in love? Or just because he's bad at writing romance scenes? I'm not saying romance writing is easy, just that it's not necessarily based on portraying things realistically.
    – V2Blast
    Dec 26 '19 at 18:31
  • "Write what you know" is often miscontextualized. It does not just talk about personal experience; rather than to do your damn research.
    – Weckar E.
    Dec 28 '19 at 10:20
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You ask an interesting question. However, you should consider the validity of the premise. Apply the same logic to other scenarios.

  • How can I write a fight scene if I've never had a fight?
  • How can a write a male character's POV if I've never been a man?
  • How can a write a space opera if I've never been up in space?

If we get into the mechanics and technical aspects of story-telling, your lack of confidence means you cannot write romance from a first-person POV. Third-person shouldn't be a problem because I'm sure you have observed people in love. In accordance with mantra 'show don't tell' all you are required to do is show the actions of people who you believe are in love. Not describing their feelings will probably make for a better piece of writing.

The truth is 'love' is not a 'standard' feeling. It is personal to the individual. You can't get the behaviour wrong. On the one hand you can go with Shakespeare's well used trope. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

You should also consider that the answers aren't necessarily in a book or real life. Millions have committed their feeling to song. Joe: "I'm in love. Round and round I go, out of control - I'm in love."

Betty Hutton and Bjork couldn't control themselves. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=horRWtbAJoI

Whitney Houston got all desperate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxYw0XPEoKE

Meatloaf had his say: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X_ViIPA-Gc

The Proclaimers went big: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbNlMtqrYS0

Over the centuries so many artists have written about their particular version of love - you don't actually need to redefine it.

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"Don't write about something you don't know about" is common advice.

The examples mentioned above are not very useful. It's true that George Lukas never held a lightsaber, and that Tom Clancy never captained a submarine. However, their works are not about that. These are just elements in a bigger plot, comprises of adventures, epic battle, intrigue, and so on. A successful writer will definitively know something about the psychological aspects of these to impregnate them into words.

What about writing a romantic novel about someone who has never been in love?

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    An important omission in those comments you refer to about lightsabers and submarines are that almost no one else has experience with those things either. Writing about something that 90% of the population has experience with is quite a different thing.
    – pipe
    Dec 24 '19 at 13:42
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Don't discount your life experiences just because you don't think that they fit into the realm that is most widely agreed-upon. Just because you haven't fallen in love yet doesn't mean that you haven't experienced love.

I would like to see more diversity in how people experience and perceive the world. So that includes your love for things that you have done or experiences that you have loved. Think about those things that get you excited and make you smile even when you are not experiencing them. Then try to draw a parallel in your mind to the interaction you are trying to write.

If the interaction makes you smile there's a good chance that it will make the reader Smile as well.

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Honestly, if you are writing a story, it can be anything. If you want you can refer to other romances whether it be a book or movie-- however, you could also just make it yours. Romance comes in hundreds of forms so there's really no rights or wrongs. I hope this helps.

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