Tag Archives: writing romance

True Love Waits

The theme of THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER was inspired by “True Love Waits,” a program that took root in the 1990s to encourage young people to abstain from having sex before marriage.  I am familiar with the program because I participated in teaching abstinence to teens at a Baptist church.  The program culminated in “DC 94,” where youth from all over the country displayed covenant cards (pledging to abstain from sex before marriage) on the Mall in Washington.

The True Love Waits theme is spelled out in the following conversation between “Effie” and “Benjamin Wright,” the youth pastor, in Chapter 22:

“I like being your assistant or whatever you call it,” Effie said between bites of a sandwich.

“Assistant has a nice ring to it,” Benjamin replied with a grin.”

Effie returned his smile, pleased that he treated her like an equal.  They were having lunch at the Black-eyed Pea in Fairfax, and she had chosen a seat by a window with a view of the Moore House, an antebellum home that reminded her of the parsonage.  

She had been helping Benjamin with MYF, so they had been seeing a lot of each other.  She was aware that people at church thought they were dating, but Effie deemed the relationship platonic because Benjamin, who talked mostly about evangelism, had never crossed the line of friendship. 

“How do you like college?”

“The first year was awkward, but now I’m at ease.”

“I knew you’d adapt.  High school is one thing but college is different.  Most people are there because they want to be.  They’re serious about getting an education.  Changing the subject, there’s something I want to talk to you about.  True Love Waits.”

“What?”

“True Love Waits,” he repeated.  “Didn’t you read about it in the paper a few years ago?  It was a church sponsored program that taught abstinence.  Teenagers were encourage to sign covenant cards stating that they would remain celibate until they married.  During the youth rally in Washington, covenant cards with signatures were displayed publicly.  I wanted our church to participate, but Gideon [senior pastor] was opposed to the idea, but maybe he’ll reconsider this time.”

Effie pressed her lips firmly together.  How typical of Gideon to oppose something noble.  

“I want you to help me,” Benjamin added, leaning over the table.

“How?”

“Lead a group at MYF [Methodist Youth Fellowship] on dating and sexuality.”

“Me?”

“Yes.  You take the high school kids.  They’re easier to manage.  I’ll take the ones in junior high.  All you have to do is ask a few questions to get a discussion going, and don’t let them go off on a tangent.”

“What kind of questions?” 

“Should a couple kiss on the first date?  How far is too far?  That sort of thing.”

“But what if they don’t give the right answers?”

“I’m not worried about that.  I just want them to think about abstinence.  The discussion will be held with a Bible study, so the youth can explore what the Bible says about fornication and discuss the role and symbolism of sex in marriage.  When the course is over, we’ll hand out covenant cards.”

“When do we start?”

“As soon as possible, but I have to run this by Gideon first.”

“Oh no,” she blurted.  “Do you have to?”

“Yes, because I want to end the True Love Waits program with a Sunday evening service, and I need Gideon’s approval in advance.  Have you finished eating?”

She nodded.

“Good.  Let’s go by the church and ask him.”

“We?  You mean you want me to go with you?”

“You’re my assistant, aren’t you?  Besides, I think he puts a lot of stock in your opinion.  Maybe with your influence, he’ll agree to True Love Waits.  You know him better than I do.  How do you think he’s going to react?”

Effie shrugged.  “He’s a mystery to me.”

***

“Unrealistic!  You can’t stop teenagers from having sex.  Smarter to give them condoms.  No?  Then go ahead.  Do as you wish but you’re wasting your time.”

Effie looked at Benjamin wondering if he was thinking the same thing she was thinking.  A half-hearted endorsement was better than none.

“A word of advise,” Gideon cautioned.  “You’d be wise to form a committee of parents and teens before you start.  “You’ll need their support as well as their ideas for implementing this . . . what did you call it?  Save It for Marriage?”

“True Love Waits,” Effie cut in.

“Whatever.  And one more thing.  Once this chastity drive of yours getting going, make sure you don’t alienate young people who don’t care to participate.  A vow of celibacy is meaningless if you pressure someone to take it.”

“I wouldn’t dream of pressuring anyone,” replied Benjamin. 

How To Write a Novel: Part II (Characters)

Vintage Romance Novels

Vintage Romance Novels (Photo credit: Stewf)

Maybe I should have titled this post “How to Write a Romance” because I don’t know beans about other genres.  Regardless, every novel must have characters.  If you’re writing a romance, you must have at least two main characters that ignite when they’re together.

1) The fuel that ignites romance is a combination of passion and conflict.  You’ll have more combustion if the characters dislike each other in the beginning.  The romantic tension is even greater when the characters don’t know they’re attracted to one other until that “aha” moment arrives.  If you’re seen the movie EMMA, CLUELESS, or PRIDE AND PREJUDICE,  you know what I’m talking about.

2) No romance is complete without rivals. They stumble upon the stage of your imagination to  provoke your protagonists to jealousy. They must be alluring enough to pose a genuine threat.  He or she must be good-looking, intelligent, talented, well-educated, wealthy, above reproach, or all of the above.  Jealousy is essential to make a man (or woman) aware of the feelings that he (or she) has for the person that the author has chosen for “the prince in the tower” or “the damsel in distress” to fall in love with.

3) One rival per protagonist is not enough.  You need two or three at the most.  Like it or not, romance is a soap opera, and additional rivals thicken the plot.

4) How realistic should your characters be?  Personally, I like characters that are larger than life, and that’s why I read Victorian romances.    Let’s face it.  In real life, would “Mr. Darcy” fall head-over-heels for a woman beneath his station?  Probably not.  Gentry marries gentry.  But in fairy tales,  the handsome prince falls for the dirt-poor, beautiful orphan who resists his advances until the last-minute when she finally reveals her true feelings.  So why does she resist him in the first place?

The prince must have at least one detestable trait.  Perhaps he is rude, has a temper, or is a womanizer.  Such a flaw would cause any woman (at least a fictional one) to have second thoughts.

Nowadays, the damsel must be a scholar and/or have a career (preferably a career in the arts that doesn’t pay much–such as writing).  The prince should have money to burn, but now I’m showing my bias.

Stubbornness is a desirable trait in either protagonist.  It postpones the inevitable happy ending.

5) Minor characters are important.  My favorite characters in “Brideshead Revisited” are the minor ones.  They are funny and colorful.   A minor character can advance the plot by interrupting a tender moment, starting a rumor with no substance, or helping a doubting Thomas renew his faith.  The possibilities are endless.

For more information about my novel THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER click here.