Romantic Fiction: What Makes It So Hard?

I was reading Roulette by Megan Mulry this morning, remaining within the safety of my bed and shielded from the arctic temperatures of downstairs in my parents’ house in Spain and this thought crossed my mind. Okay, maybe it is not quite arctic temperatures, but it’s pretty damn cold down here considering that this is Spain, but that does not change my thoughts that I had as I was reading. Now, I am not advocating this book as the be-all-and-end-all of romantic fiction as there is plenty that I haven’t read, but I have enjoyed what I have read so far. Why? Because it all seems so natural. Firstly, the book is written from a first person perspective of Miki Durand, which I think really helps the reader to get into the mind of the protagonist and exactly what she’s feeling, but the protagonist’s thoughts come across as very normal; it’s very easy to identify with Miki as she comes across as a very believable, very real woman. Secondly, every exchange between Miki and Jérôme Michel de Villiers works well and, again, comes across as believable and real, from their deliciously awkward verbal exchanges all the way to their more passionate and intimate encounters.

So why the post, title laden with innuendo? Well, it was precisely what I was thinking as I was reading the book. I’ve tried my hand at writing romantic relationships in fiction and have even tried to write sexual encounters in the past, but every time it just feels clunky and awkward. Every time I write something like this I end up scrapping the work as it just irritates me how bad it reads. It took half a tub of ice cream, self-pity and a fairly large quantity of amaretto for me to work up the courage to post something lewd (and very NSFW. You have been warned) up and, whilst I got some positive feedback from one of my reliable proof readers, it certainly had room for improvement. Whilst all I posted up was a quick scene of flirting followed by a sexual encounter in a cyberpunk setting, finishing on a rich person’s security chasing the would be murderer out of the building (through an unconventional exit) I am currently writing a novel where romance between two characters plays a very significant part and, considering this may be the first novel that I try and get published properly, I want it to come across naturally and not in an awkward or clunky way. The relationship is so central to the plot that, whilst it isn’t primarily romance in its genre, I feel that a clunky relationship would detract from the narrative as the relationship is awkward, but not in that way. Equally, a 50 Shades of Grey style “romance” is most undesirable as well. That just isn’t how love works, at least not in my insular, sheltered mind!

So why is it so difficult? What raises this rather sizable obstacle? I believe it comes down to two things. Firstly, practice. I have been writing mystery, action and conspiracy based fiction for a long time. Romantic fiction? I’ve only been writing bits and pieces for about a year and a bit now, but that’s nowhere near enough for me to feel comfortable with the standard of work that I come up with. Secondly, I believe it comes down to personal experience, at least a little bit. I am a train wreck when it comes to romance as a person; I’ve had… I think five people through my life (four throughout my teenage years and one later on) who have expressed an interest and three of them I actually reciprocated the feelings towards, however whenever I felt like the dreaded romance train was approaching, I would derail it and run away as fast as I could from the train wreck that ensued, hiding in my safety cave until everything was cleaned up again. Thankfully, I only truly regretted two of them, but enough about the burning pile of mess that is my romantic history and back onto my point. I believe that to write romantic fiction well, one at least needs to have experienced it themselves; one needs to have experienced the flirting, dating, cheeky banter and all the feelings that burn ever so brightly during a relationship to write one into fiction accurately and to give one’s narrative a fluid and real feel. It is a deeply emotional experience that cannot be researched and quantified like other things. Everyone reacts to romance differently, so I believe that one needs to at least have personal experience to draw inspiration from should they wish to write romantic fiction (without difficulties of unnatural relationships and dialogue, unless one is a natural romantic!).

I’m sure that some people take to it naturally, but for me at least I find it an incredibly tall obstacle to overcome, more than most other writing related barriers. It’s a problem because romance is a large part of life for us emotional human beings. A protagonist will likely have feelings for someone at some point in their life much like a normal person will, unless they’re a robot or strange, emotionless alien race, and so if writing anything to do with this part of life comes across poorly it will reflect on the rest of the written prose. The weakest link in the chain.

The War for Amarah Prime – 1500pts Craftworld Ithyl-Loc Strikeforce

So, I’ve decided to write a load of fiction and narrative for a 40k campaign that I am currently taking part in. I will be providing battle reports with a heavy narrative focus in the near future, as well as my army list at each bracket we play. At the time of writing this post I am undefeated at 6 – 0 wins to losses, thus the Eldar are in very good shape to win the campaign at the moment. With some new additions, I have been paired with the Imperial Guard player, an absolutely wonderful synergy of armies coming out. The way I write army lists is I write the list, but I write the background fluff beforehand. This one is a bit longer, due to the fact that I have been lax and have not written anything up for the 600, 800, 1000 and 1200 point bracket games. Also, note that I am inexperienced when it comes to writing 40k fluff, even less so when it comes to Eldar, a very hard race to really get into the mindset of. I find the Imperial Guard and Inquisition far easier to write for 🙂

Without further delay, here is my 1500pts Eldar list, complete with the narrative.

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Rain. Poor weather conditions had set in over the north western territories of the planet Amarah Prime and the skies were dark with clouds, Tyranid spore clusters and great naval fleets doing battle in orbit. The cloaked Eldar fleet continued to covertly supply the warhost with weapons and supplies, slipping between enemy positions like an invisible river. Their campaign on the planet’s surface was going well, far better than Autarch Thalinia had expected. Autarch Thalinia was a lithe individual, her form surrounded by the bulky warp jump generator typically used by the warriors of the Warp Spider aspect shrine. The rain ran down her striking features as she stared into the distance.

Her gaze shifted to the foliage to her left, the plant-life relatively thick in the unmolested Eldar territories in the north-west. She placed a hand on her sleek power sword, her gaze narrowing at the source of the disturbance, ready to kick her warp jump generator into life to ambush any potential attacker. It was mostly inconceivable that anything could get into the Eldar territory without being detected by one of the many shrouded outposts that they had set up across their territory and borders; however, complacency was not in the Autarch’s nature. A split second later, an Eldar ranger emerged from the undergrowth, his long rifle in his hands, cameleoline cloak trailing slightly behind him.

“Autarch, we have completed our sweep of the area. We can arrive at the Capital in a few days, though the Tyranid horde encroaches,” he reported to the Autarch.

“Excellent,” Thalinia started, though her gaze shifted to the distance again, “how does the Seer Council’s search for the beacon progress?” she asked after a brief moment of silence.

“They have yet to find it.”

“I see.”

“Farseer Lireia has also requested an audience with you.”

Thalinia went silent for a moment once more, still staring into the distance. “Would you like me to deliver a message?” the ranger asked, though Thalinia held her hand up and shook her head.

“No. I shall speak with her. If we are to start a push into areas infested with Tyranid spores, I want us to have a firm plan of attack,” she replied, nodding to the ranger, “return to your duties, Ranger. I shall discuss our next course of action with the Seer Council.”

With that, she turned at made her way back through the forest. She had set up a war camp nearby, her forces completing their retrieval of the soul stones from those lost in the previous engagement with the loyalist Space Marines. When she arrived, she took inventory of all the soul stones before ordering her forces into their Wave Serpent and Falcon transports.

“Where are we needed, Autarch?” the driver asked as she clambered into the back of the Falcon, her bulky warp jump generator taking up almost double the space that she normally would.

“Take me to Farseer Lireia’s position,” she responded assertively, cradling her Reaper launcher across her lap. She did not like taking up so much space within the confines of a Falcon grav-tank, though she was alone this time.

“We will be there swiftly,” the Falcon’s pilot responded, relaying the orders to the rest of the warhost before gunning the anti-grav generators into life, skimming over the planet’s surface towards the Seer Council’s current position deep in their territory.

The Falcon came to a stop near to a group of Warlocks who were scouring the area, eliminating wayward Tyranid spores and trying to track down the psychic emanations that were drawing the Tyranids to the planet. Thalinia departed her position in the Falcon, making her way over to Farseer Lireia, recognising her with ease through the Warlocks and Guardians who were defending them. Thalinia found her in the middle, floating a few feet above the ground, runes dancing about her with a blue glow. She slung her Reaper launcher to behind her warp jump generator, folding her arms patiently.

After a short time, Lireia floated gently to the ground, collecting the runes from the air before turning around to face the Autarch. She reached out with her mind, calling her singing spear to her hand through keen telekinetics.

“Sister,” Lireia beamed, making her way swiftly towards Thalinia, though a stern look from her older sibling caused her to stop in her tracks.

“Lireia, you wanted to talk about our next move on the planet,” Thalinia replied, her arms still folded with a stern expression on her face. She was a little sour that the Craftworld’s senior Seer Council had assigned her, an Autarch with a score of military conquests to her name, as a subordinate to an inexperienced Farseer. It was doubly testing of her patience that the inexperienced Farseer was her younger sibling.

Lireia stopped in her tracks, nodding and adopting a similarly serious expression. “It is simple, Sister. We do not have the numbers for this campaign,” she uttered, ushering Thalinia to follow her. The two figures walked to the side of another Falcon grav-tank before Lireia continued speaking, “we do, however, have an alternative.”

“And that is?”

“I have extended an offer to a local regiment of Mon-keigh. They would provide ample bodies-”

“We do not need the Mon-keigh,” Thalinia interjected, a frown across her face, “you wouldn’t notice from your position behind the battle lines, but we have been doing perfectly fine without the aid of others.”

“Sister,” Lireia started, though she went quiet for a moment. “If that is the case, then I shall take to the battlefield and direct the warhost from the front. What would you advise?”

“We have our position here, though we should use our speed to lock down more area of the planet,” Thalinia started, though she sighed, “if we are to work with the Mon-keigh, then we may afford to spread our influence further. We will let our enemies bleed over the Capital and strike once their forces are weary from the fight.”

“Trust in my vision, Sister,” Lireia cut in, sensing Thalinia’s doubt in the partnership between the humans and their forces. “They will not strike against us. Your work directing our Craftworld’s warhost has garnered us a reputation. We have defeated the Great Enemy. We have defeated the ravenous Tyranid horde. We have bested the naïve Tau aggression. We have even triumphed over these Mon-keigh’s warrior idols, the Space Marines. They will not strike against us, and we will not strike against them.” Lireia paused for a moment. “It is pointless to clash with the massed forces of the Mon-keigh. The other factions vying for the planet are making allegiences and we cannot stand alone amongst them. We have a job to do, and very few warriors with which to do it, so avoiding a pointless bloodbath is in our best interest and-”

Lireia paused, glancing to the side monetarily.

“And?” Thalinia inquired in the pause.

“This planet has earned the Mon-keigh Inquisition’s attention.”

“Do you think that they will burn the planet?”

“I am not sure. The presence of so many Tyranid organisms clouds my vision, though I feel a sense of familiarity of with our impending company,” Lireia hesitantly answered, “though I shall try to make contact once we have established who this agent of the Inquisition is. We need to discern whether they are here to destroy the entire planet, in which case we will be forced to withdraw from the planet’s surface.”

Thalinia nodded, glancing back over to her Falcon transport.

“I trust in your vision, Sister,” she responded, “we shall make contact with the Mon-keigh and attempt to establish a more secure hold over our territories. I shall see you on the battlefield.”

“May Khaine guide our blades,” Lireia concluded, returning to her Warlocks as Thalinia departed to rally the Aspect Warriors and prepare the warhost for battle. Their enemies would not wait, so the Craftworld would bring them the death that they sought.

1500pts Ithyl-Loc Strikeforce

HQ

Farseer Lireia – 105pts

Farseer – 100pts

Singing spear – 5pts

Autarch Thalinia – 125pts

Autarch – 70pts

Warp jump generator – 15pts

Power weapon – 15pts

Reaper launcher with starswarm missiles – 25pts

Elites

Troops

Asurmen’s Wrath – 249pts

8 Dire Avengers – 104pts

Wave Serpent – 115pts

Twin-linked scatter lasers – 5pts

Shuriken cannon – 10pts

Holo-fields – 15pts

A Thousand Blades – 249pts

8 Dire Avengers – 104pts

Wave Serpent – 115pts

Twin-linked scatter lasers – 5pts

Shuriken cannon – 10pts

Holo-fields – 15pts

Storm of Blades – 239pts

8 Dire Avengers – 104pts

Wave Serpent – 115pts

Twin-linked bright lances – 5pts

Holo-fields – 15pts

Fast Attack

Sentinels of the Infinity Matrix – 152pts

8 Warp Spiders – 152pts

The Skylance – 160pts

10 Swooping Hawks – 160pts

Heavy Support

Murehketh Bein Hekhita – 70pts

War Walker – 60pts

Scatter laser – 5pts

Scatter laser – 5pts

Murehketh Bein Hekhita – 70pts

War Walker – 60pts

Scatter laser – 5pts

Scatter laser – 5pts

Murehketh Bein Hekhita – 70pts

War Walker – 60pts

Scatter laser – 5pts

Scatter laser – 5pts

Total – 1489pts

Inquisitorial Liaison

Total – 0pts

Fortifications

Total – 0pts

Grand Total – 1489pts