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Writing Romance As A Wallflower | Birthday Q&A 2023

As of this past Thursday, I'm 27.

You know what that means!

I'm twenty-seven years old, I've no money and no prospects. I'm already a burden to my parents and I'm frightened.

Charlotte Lucas memes aside, I'm excited to see what this next year of existence has in store for me.

And as in years past, we're celebrating the occasion on the blog with a Q&A.

For Q&As, I usually pull topics from comments on my social media posts. This time marks an exception, as it is inspired by a question I was asked IRL.

Among the more common questions you may ask a new acquaintance is, "So what do you do for fun?" Settling into my new day job, I was met with this on a few occasions (especially since coworkers can typically bypass the old "what do you do for work?" icebreaker). My responses involved my love for video games, baking, and makeup and, of course, writing, which in turn inspired additional curiosity.

What do you write?

Is any of it published?

Is it based on experience or...?

That last one is the inspiration for this particular Q&A. I have a feeling this is going to be more of a rambling-train-of-thought entry that lacks any real structure, so grab yourself a cup of tea or cocoa and get cozy because today, we're exploring how much experience you need to write.

For the most part, I make things up as I go, often deviating from my sparse-at-best outlines in favor of shiny new concepts that I stumble upon. The life of a Plantser, I guess.

That's not to say I don't draw inspiration from experience. My characters are not carbon copies of anyone I know, but may sometimes borrow bits and pieces from real-life individuals, woven into a new soul that takes on a life of its own. The things that happen are sometimes influenced by things that have happened to me, the would'ves and could'ves and wish-I'ds—albeit loosely—but that's pretty much it as far as facts in my fiction are concerned.

Everything beyond that is invented—including the romance.

I've never been in a romantic relationship.

There have been a handful of what one could call "passing ships" and near misses, almosts that went south of nowhere because things just didn't take off, sparks that went unnoticed for too long. Nothing that would be considered a serious relationship.

Okay, okay. Maybe that Charlotte Lucas joke at the top of this post actually is relevant...

Honestly speaking, though, being single isn't that big of a deal to me.

But it might sound a little peculiar coming from someone who writes romance. You know, stories about characters falling in love and finding their happily ever after that sees them in a committed relationship?

A writer of this genre might be expected to bring a level of experience to their desk, whether that means scorning past love affairs, reinventing or repairing failed relationships they wish worked out, or retelling the story of how they met their partner. After all, one of the romance writer panels I've attended had the featured authors answering questions about their first kiss, the worst way they were broken up with, how they met their now-spouses, and describing more steamy experiences in five words or less.

As much as I look forward to and dream of the day I publish my fiction, I dread having to answer these questions because, at least at this point in my life, I don't have any spicy or juicy secrets to divulge. There's nothing behind the scenes that I can pull the curtain back on.

As with virtually all of my characters, my leading love interests and their stories are purely fiction. Daydreams turned into words on a page. Inklings.

This doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't write romance. At least, in my mind, anyway.

It does pose some challenges for me since I can't necessarily draw on real life as other romance writers may be able to, but there's a lot that can be solved and fleshed out by Google searches and absorbing other media. Just as you can research any other topic, you can research how to write romance that feels real even if you yourself haven't traversed that threshold just yet.

We are told so often to write what we know. However, we may also end up writing things we don't know. That's why doing the research and connecting with critique partners and beta readers is so vital for any writer's process, no matter the genre or the matters they cover in their stories. Having those outside influences can ground the work in a way that makes it more believable for readers.

On the whole, the way I tend to look at my particular scenario is this: I don't need to have fallen in love or had my heart broken to write about it. There might be a little more work involved for me, but that's okay. It doesn't disqualify me as a romance writer (even though it can certainly feel that way at times).

Because how many fantasy writers have actually gone on epic quests to slay dragons? How many sci-fi writers have had extraterrestrial encounters or have piloted spacecraft?

We often write not what we know, but what we love. The things were are interested in and passionate about. A lack of experience shouldn't preclude anyone from telling a story.

Including a romance writer who is more of a wallflower when it comes to romances in real life.



Mar 05, 2023

Happy birthday! I hope the year ahead brings you everything you're hoping for. And there's nothing wrong with having a limited set of romantic experience as a romance writer — after all, we write about things *in romance* that don't match our experience all the time (not all writers who dip into BDSM practice it, "why choose" writers don't all live that lifestyle, romantic suspense writers don't all know what it's like to fall in love while facing existential threats, etc.).

Mar 06, 2023
Replying to

You make so many great points, Kella! Thanks for reading.

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