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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

Romance Q&A Pt. 2: Cheesiness, Subplots, & Favorite Tropes

DUDE. Y'all gave me some TOUGH questions, lemme tell ya. I had to do a LOT of thinking on these, and I still don't think my answers are good enough. In some cases, I do more rambling and make very little sense (hopefully I'm clear enough); in other cases, I wasn't sure if I even knew the answer (Faith, your questions were LEGIT), so I just did the best I could; and for the rest of them, I feel like my tips/advice are a little outside-the-box, so take what I say as a supplement rather than the full-meal-deal, you know?

Anyway. Enough jibber-jabber! I hope y'all enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed wracking my brain - I MEAN, writing it!


joelle's question

Should I have romance in every story, even if it's just between side characters and not the MC?

Yes and no. Yes, you should always have examples of God-honoring romantic relationships…but, no, those don’t always have to be fleshed-out into full-on love stories.

(I kinda expound upon this in my answer to Faith’s question about minor subplot romances, but I feel like that answer made no sense, so I’ll try and be clearer…and briefer…here.)

For example, your MC may have parents who have a strong and loving marriage, or their best friend may be in a romantic relationship, or the MC may even be married, but their marriage isn’t the main focus of the story. These are examples of romance, but not a full story.

A full-story/full-plot romance isn’t going to fit in every single book, so don’t feel like you have to develop an entire relationship in every story. Just like you don’t summarize how the MC met and became friends with all of his buddies in the book, you don’t have to go through the course of every single romance–even if it does involve the MC.

That said, if it’ll fit in the story, do it! Or include seasons/stages of developing relationships–like a story of three friends, one of whom just got married, one who’s about to be engaged, and another who just met the love of their life–to spotlight certain aspects of romance.

Whatever you feel like the story needs, put in! You can always cut out characters or relationships or such during the next draft or while editing…or you may find that example or full-plot romance is perfect for your story!

faith's questions

How do you write romance without engaging your own heart? How do you write it without dreaming of yourself in that position, obsessing over it, putting yourself in your character's shoes and making it an idol, if that makes sense? Or, in other words, how do you write a love story without fantasizing it as your own?

On one hand…isn’t that the point? Aren’t truly good romances supposed to be a reflection of our own desires for a relationship in our lives, of our relationship with Christ? Aren’t they supposed to be examples of wholesome, beautiful, and honorable relationships? Aren’t you supposed to put a piece of your heart into it and write something you would want?

On the other hand, I do understand your point, Faith, and to be honest? I’m VERY guilty of dreaming about my own future love story (*coughs* I’m working on being less obsessive, more surrendered)...but one thing I never do is put myself directly into my characters’ shoes. Why? Because I put them through a lot of crap, and I personally don’t wanna be a murderer or slave or any of that, even if my heroines do end up with some pretty fabulous guys.

So, (1) surrender yourself. Trust God with your future, with your relationships, with your desire for romance and marriage (which, believe it or not, is a desire He has given you). Delight yourself in Him and His plan for you, and He’ll give you the desires of your heart. (This is still something I’m learning, especially the trust part, so don’t think I’m preaching to ya.) If you can lay that down at His feet and let Him handle it, you’ll be less inclined to obsess over it.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with making up stories or daydreaming about some things, as long as it’s fun and games and it doesn’t affect you, your heart posture, or your actions. Make sense?

(2) Don’t make characters you’d wanna trade places with. I’m only half serious, but if you really struggle with wanting to be your character and have the love story they have, just give them a fatal flaw or traumatic backstory. Or consider the flaws and traumas they already have rather than sugarcoating their story, you know? OR, again, focus on letting God write your love story rather than expecting something you come up with.

On that note, remember: it’s your character’s story. Not yours. You’re not a Regency belle or female pirate or prima ballerina–you’re you, and you will have your own unique, meaningful, and absolutely beautiful love story! (Which could lead me down a rabbit hole of reasons why you might fantasize over romances, but I’ll spare you the psychological evaluation. Unless you’re really interested, of course…)

(3) Put a positive spin on it. Use that as a chance to do some serious self-examination, to strengthen your convictions, to determine your standards for yourself and your potential future spouse. Look at it as an example–would you be dishonest like your hero? Or would you be open and truthful when you’re in a relationship? Would you refuse to communicate like your heroine? Or would you be calm and rational and work through problems together with your partner one day?

The list goes on…but there are a lot of ways that fictional relationships can have a positive impact on us as writers and readers, and help us prepare for relationships and strengthen our convictions and standards!

On a similar note, what boundaries do you set for yourself/suggest setting for yourself emotionally when you write romance? Are there any good verses or passages you turn to that deal with this?

Hmm. Emotional boundaries. Naturally, what I said above applies–I don’t put myself in my character’s shoes (or create a character who’s basically me…tried that and failed miserably…multiple times) or imagine their love story as mine. But beyond that, I haven’t ever really thought about this. I guess because I get so emotionally attached to every aspect of my stories anyway…

But in the same vein of my previous answer, if you struggle with getting way too attached to your romance, try not to put a great deal of yourself into them. Find a balance between putting in your heart…and putting in your soul. Yes, write a story that means something to you and speaks to you, and pour a little of yourself into every character and every relationship (because that’s gonna happen anyway; welcome to the life of a writer *winks*)...but don’t lose yourself in it. Don’t write it to satisfy you in some way or to take the place of what God has for you.

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Isaiah 55:8-9 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And Proverbs 16:9 says “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

God’s plan for your life, His love story for you, isn’t going to be exactly what you imagine or what you desire. It’s going to be better. It’s going to be God-ordained, God-orchestrated, and blessed by Him–and that’s more amazing and desirable than anything we could ever conjure up!

So, do what David says in Psalm 37:4, and “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Keep your focus on Him in all you do or desire…and dedicate everything you write to Him, because His amazing plan applies to your stories too, and He has a purpose and a destiny for them as well!

Just remember that it’s your character’s story (and God’s story, foremost), not yours. It’s their romance, not yours. And even though it should be structurally like the kind of relationship you want (i.e., loving, respectful, pure, etc.), it shouldn’t be exactly the same. God can and will use what you write to uplift you, strengthen you, and bless you–but He won’t use it to satisfy you or fix you or any of that. Only HE can do those things.

Anyway, I hope that answers your question, Faith! Of course, praying is one, if not THE, most important thing you can do as you write, so always pray for wisdom, guidance, and peace!

How do you write a female MC in a romance where the woman is proactive in the story ('cause a story is kinda boring if the MC reacts the entire time) but the man leads the relationship?

Ooh, this is a tough one. First of all, it all depends on your characters. If you have a heroine who’s quiet, timid, and non-confrontational (or downright fearful or anxious), chances are she’ll never be noticeably proactive in the relationship; but if you have a heroine who’s dominant, stubborn, and strong-willed, she could easily take all of it over. And, of course, do you have dual POVs (hero and heroine), or just one? Who is really the main focus of the story? Is the hero more of a beta or alpha male? Is it a character-driven story or a plot-driven one? Is the romance a subplot or a main plot? If it’s the main, do you have other subplots?

All of this–and much more–contribute to how your heroine is going to act within the relationship and the story as a whole, which means I could be here all day trying to answer this question.

BUT, instead, I’ll just dive straight into how I have written stories like the one you describe–because that’s pretty much all my romances thus far.

(I’m gonna write this next bit like mini case studies/story examinations, so there’ll be a lot of information AND spoilers.)

Rina & Xavier: Rina is naturally a more domineering heroine, while Xavier is an in-the-middle male (neither alpha nor beta, just a mix of both). Rina and her arc are also the main focus of the story, while Xavier–though he does have a POV–is more of a sidekick, so to speak.

However, Xavier falls in love with Rina first, opens her up to the idea of a relationship to begin with, initiates most of the kisses, and leads her in other areas (i.e., spiritually, physically, and emotionally).

Crimson & Elliot: Crimson and Elliot are like twins, personality-wise, and neither are interested in relationships…but Crimson kickstarts theirs after an accidental kiss and continues to open Elliot up to love and forgiveness by worming her way into his life. Both of their arcs and POVs are equal in the story.

That said, Elliot is the one to admit his feelings first and propose. He’s also first to get saved and work through his problems (basically, his arc is completed before Crimson’s), so he acts as a guide for her throughout the rest of the story.

Daisy & Keaton: Keaton is a serious alpha male with anger issues and problems all around…but Daisy is the experienced and pushy one, who initiates a lot between them and basically shoves Keaton into a relationship he’s not ready for.

But, Keaton is the one who makes the final decisions, and Daisy submits (which, trust me, is a very good thing in their case), and Keaton’s influence in Daisy’s life is what helps her overcome her past.

(Dude, I just summed up a LOT in just a few hundred words. Wow.)

Have you noticed anything in these three examples? Even if my heroines are more proactive in the story than the heroes or go so far as to initiate the relationship and pursue the man…the outcome of the relationship rests on the hero. AND, the main aspect, the hero is the one who serves a purpose in the heroine’s life. Yes, Crimson helps Elliot and Daisy helps Keaton–a great deal, because Lord knows them boys needed it–but, in the end, the girls’ arcs are the last to be resolved, and it’s only with the guys’ guidance and love. (And God’s, of course, but He uses them. *winks*)

Basically, the hero fills a hole. The hero steps up. The hero puts in the effort. The hero is the cause of the most change.

Yes, the story is focused on the heroine, but it’s the hero who’s the focus of the relationship. Make sense?

So, case in point, to make the hero lead the relationship while the heroine leads the story, make sure your focus is placed accordingly. Have the hero’s arc concluded first (or maybe he doesn’t have an arc at all…but I don’t typically recommend this unless the hero is just a love interest and not, well, a hero). Have the hero make the most change in the heroine’s life (in conjunction with God, of course). Have the hero initiate the relationship or at least make the big decisions. Have the hero do the pursuing.

And leave the story–like major plot twists/decisions and deep character development and simply more page time–to the heroine!

Hopefully that makes sense. If you need more details, I recommend reading the romances in question! (Yes, it’s self-plug time!)

Is it possible to make romance a minor subplot and still make it edifying and God-glorifying? Do you have any tips on how to do that?

Oh, absolutely! And I’d venture to say it’s easier than writing a full-plot romance that’s edifying and God-glorifying!

Let me explain. Look back at those examples in my last answer. In just a few words, I summed up my characters and their relationships in a way that was brief, concise, easy to understand, and–most important–drove my point home. However, if you read the entire novels (from 75k to 200k words long, by the way), you probably wouldn’t really get the same point. There would be so many other aspects, so much conflict and emotion and intensity and struggles and trauma and just stuff, that convoluted the story and made the basic thread harder to find. Like a needle in a haystack, y’know?

So, when you’re working with a subplot, think of it like a summary (like the ones above). You get to bypass all the extra stuff, all the back and forth, all the nonsense, and just zero in on the purpose of the relationship. Maybe that’s to be an example to the main characters, or to inspire the heroine, or (if it’s between the MC and their love interest) help them throughout the course of the story. And, in the end, the reader can gain a clearer message from that relationship than they could a messy, 800-page long romance.

How does that make it more edifying/glorifying? Well, same thing: the message is clearer. Even if it’s “subtle” or “short and sweet,” it’s still going to be easier for the reader to find, because they won’t be digging through the haystack for it.

For example (again), in Bound and Determined, Keaton and Daisy put out so many mixed messages for the readers throughout their relationship. One minute, they’re doing things right. The next, they’re making big mistakes. Even though I have solid themes and messages, and the ending will make it clear to the reader how they should have gone about a relationship, this full-plot (well, somewhat full-plot) romance isn’t meant to be an example. It’s simply meant to be a story, and as such, it’s a realistic, dramatic mess.

However, if they were a subplot romance, I could’ve forgone a lot of the bumps in their relationship and created one that was simpler, cleaner, and more poignant.

I digress.

Your subplot romance won’t have the fleshed-out aspects of a full-plot romance; therefore, you’ll be able to focus on the main message/purpose of it, which could be to follow God’s will, obey His commands, wait for marriage, etc. The subplot romance will serve as more of an example, whether that’s directly to the readers or to the main characters. Therefore, as long as you have a message/purpose behind the romance, you’ll be able to glorify the Lord with it!

So, in summary (because I just wrote a haystack to get to my needle here):

  • Give your romance a purpose and a message.

  • Think of it as an example rather than the whole story.

  • Focus on the meaningful elements rather than backstory or unnecessary moments.

  • Don’t force too much into it (i.e., conflict, romantic elements, development); just keep it subtle and to-the-point.

Maybe that’ll make sense. Who knows. *shrugs*

lillian's questions

What first inspired you to write in the romance genre? (i.e book, author, etc).

The year was…shoot. I can’t remember the year. But I was about ten or eleven, and it was The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson. My first foray out of middle-grade allegorical fantasy and apocalyptic fiction (yes, I used to read a ton of that, believe it or not) and into YA medieval romance.

After reading The Golden Braid, I devoured the rest of Melanie Dickerson’s books, and began scouring the shelves and Christian Book magazine for similar-looking/sounding titles. I soon found The Baron’s Daughter by Lynn Morris, and from then on, I became an avid reader of Christian romance–specifically historical romance.

It didn’t take long for me to want to create my own stories–and of course, they had to be historical romance! At the time, I was into fashion design, so instead of writing outlines, I would design my heroine and write a few details about her/her story off to the side! For the most part, those early stories stayed entirely in my head, and it wasn’t until several months down the road that I actually began writing them. I just couldn’t wait!

Any favorite romantic tropes? Least favorite?

Favorite trope? Easy. Enemies-to-lovers. I can’t live without it; it’s in almost every book I write (in a subtle way, don’t worry), and all my favorites have at least a touch of it! The conflict, the grittiness, the rawness of it is just so intense and gripping and beautiful and I love it, okay? Make it an enemies-to-lovers marriage of convenience (or arrangement), and you’ll have me hooked on the blurb.

A well-done friends-to-lovers or love triangle is always good too, and honestly I enjoy any trope, as long as it’s authentic and uniquely written. Tropes go downhill fast when writers use them to dictate their characters and plot, rather than the other way around.

But if I had to pick some that I’m typically not a fan of…forbidden love (you rarely see it in clean/Christian fiction, so you never see it in a wholesome light); secret identity/lots-of-lying (*coughs* y’all know my thoughts on this one…usually not the best, although there are one or two that I enjoyed anyway); and second chance (it just bores me, but A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz actually kept my attention).

The thing about tropes, though, is that 100 novels may have the same trope and every single one of them stinks…but then one comes along and blows them all out of the water. Or vice versa. It really all depends on the author and how they handle the trope!

What's the biggest challenge (in your opinion) in writing romance? Easiest thing?

Wow. We’re getting deep into it, aren’t we? *chuckles* To be honest, I overthink everything except my romances, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint exact things like this, even in hindsight.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is less about writing it and more with having written it. I know that makes no sense, so hang on. For the most part, it’s pretty fun and easy for me to write the romance, but putting it out there for others to read once I’ve written it is hard. There are a lot of people out there who just despise romance or simply don’t understand it, so dealing with readers like that is a huge challenge. I totally respect their opinions, but in some cases, it’s kind of like…why did you bother? If romance is your least favorite thing on the planet, why are you reading a romance?

TO THOSE OF Y’ALL WHO DON’T LIKE IT BUT DON’T COMPLAIN (*looks at Kristina*), GOD BLESS YOU. It means the world to me to have readers who enjoy my books regardless of what they don’t like or agree with, who see my stories for what they are and understand my heart behind what I write! Thank y’all for being so lovely and supportive and not complaining about the romance! Hugs all around!

So I guess that’s the biggest challenge: putting up with readers who dis romance and with misconceptions about romance, and just having the courage to put my love stories out there to begin with and to continue writing them! Because I know they honor and glorify the Lord (at least, that’s my intention), and I know that’s what I’ve been called to write, and so I persevere…and I hope y’all will too! *passes out more hugs*

As for the easiest thing…getting excited about it, mainly! It is SO easy (and, again, fun) for me to just be excited and inspired about my romances, to ship my characters and fangirl over my heroes, to bring them together over the course of the story.

If you could break down writing romance into specific steps, I could probably give you a better answer, but there you have it. Romance is written differently from author to author, story to story, and there’s really no way to boil it down to an easy thing and a hard thing. For example, it was insanely easy to write the character interactions between Keaton and Daisy…but not Rina and Xavier (obviously, since I cringe reading them). But, the more romance you read, the easier it gets all around to create shippable couples, write character interactions, be realistic and yet creative, and put your stories out there for others to read, despite what they may think about them!

blakeney's questions

How do you write a romance without being cheesy?

I LOVE this question! It’s actually what prompted my post about romance being a relationship and not a genre (y’all can read that HERE), and one of my main points is repetitiveness. What makes most romance books/movies feel cheesy, cliche, and stilted or unrealistic is simply repeating certain elements, tropes, etc., over and over again.

I ranted in my last Q&A post about Hallmark movies and character dynamics, so I won’t repeat that *winks*, but Hallmark is a great example of how repetition fails. Repeating tropes, settings, character archetypes, and more throughout your romance stories makes each one fall flat, because you’ve already done something similar.

That’s a basic concept (even though Hallmark doesn’t understand it)...but on a deeper level, this applies to an individual novel. Repeating scenes, actions, and conversations in any kind of book will quickly make it seem boring, lifeless, and cheesy. Like a bad sitcom that constantly reuses the same dumb joke.

So, instead of having five scenes of the characters eating breakfast or three side characters that die…or, in the case of a romance, three scenes of your hero and heroine dancing, five arguments about the same issue, six kiss scenes, and twelve “I love yous,” limit it to one or two really meaningful scenes. Have one tear-jerking declaration of love, three kisses that each serve their own purpose, and one beautiful date night or dance or moonlit stroll scene. And rather than five separate arguments, lengthen one fight and make it last a couple chapters–the more realistic conflict and drama, the better, am I right?

And, of course, the no-duh answer…be realistic! Don’t rely on Hallmark to teach you about romance. Read classics, talk to people you know in relationships, observe those in your life, and learn from trustworthy sources. Naturally, your romance shouldn’t mirror anyone else’s (even someone in real life), because your characters are totally unique…but using reality as a reference will always enhance the authenticity of your romance!

For example, if you’re writing a contemporary romance, don’t resort to love poems, flowery speeches, and grand romantic gestures. Most people these days would choose a box of chocolates over mushy poetry to show their love (note: most…this is entirely dependent on your characters, of course). If you’re writing a historical romance, don’t include a bunch of kiss scenes and flirting; go with the poetry and speeches and long walks and witty repartee. And if you’re going with a subplot or weaving a romance into a mystery/suspense, don’t force romance where it shouldn’t go–like a kiss or “I love you” after someone dies–and instead focus on bringing the characters together through their experiences and struggles.

I could go on, because there are many reasons why a romance may seem cheesy (especially if you’re the one writing it; sometimes we writers doubt how good our work really is!), but this should be enough to keep you from falling for any of the classic blunders. *winks* (If you caught that reference, please lemme know!)

How do you make it flow well?

This is honestly a hard question for me to answer, probably because the last thing I think about while writing is flow/pacing (except for the first few chapters). Not in a negative way, just that I get swept away in the story and don’t really pause to think about that until I’m finished. Plus, I overwrite, so it’s no big deal if I have to cut or trim a scene or two to make the story flow smoother.

So lemme boil it down to two points…

Number 1: be intentional. Even though I probably do write too much and my books may be too long (Bound and Determined is over 200k words, after all), I could walk you through (almost) every individual scene. I could give you the order of them, what occurs in them, and why they matter to the story. Not because I have a strict outline that tells me all that from the get-go, but because I’m intentional. I have a lot of “fluff” scenes, yes, but they all serve a purpose in characterization, drawing out suspense, reinforcing my themes, or explaining certain things–I never just write a scene for the heck of it. There’s always a purpose.

When you can be intentional about what you include in your story and how you write it, giving each scene a purpose, you can eliminate that cheesy repetitiveness we talked about and have a romance that flows naturally and smoothly. Now, this can happen in the plotting/outlining stage, the first draft, or when you edit–whatever works best for you, as long as you’re focused on making sure each scene/chapter contributes something to the story.

And guess what…not every contribution has to be geared to the romance, which brings me to my second point.

Number 2: be flexible. Have a scene where the hero bonds with the heroine’s younger brother or the heroine has a talk with her mom. Have a chapter that focuses on the plan to storm the castle or escape the evil prince. Take a break from the romance to focus on the storyline/plot or on character development–because, in the end, you’ll end up making the romance even stronger!

For example, I have about 128 scenes (rough estimate here, folks) in Bound and Determined. And literally only 10 of those are moments where the hero and heroine are alone together (in an appropriate way, that is). The rest of the time, they’re interacting in a casual way around other people, or they’re alone with their thoughts, or the scene is in another character’s POV, or they’re simply focused on *coughs* breaking certain people out of jail *coughs*. And I have read countless romances where the hero and heroine don’t really interact heavily with each other very often (Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, anyone?)...yet the romance is so smooth and lovely and realistic.

As crazy as it it, cutting back on the moments between the hero and heroine (goodbye, repetition) and allowing them to develop relationships with other characters, explore their own character, and become a part of the overarching plot makes them and their relationship stronger and more realistic–plus, it’ll keep the romance from moving too fast!

And being intentional and making each moment count keeps it from seeming stilted even when you shift your focus!

Maybe that made sense…I may have to muster up some recommendations that fit these points!

And, as always, it never fails to (1) not overthink it, (2) use reality as a reference, and (3) let your characters lead the way! *winks*

How do you mix the romance aspects with other parts of the story?

I feel like I just answered this in the question above…being, yes, being intentional about your scenes and being flexible in what you include is KEY to seamlessly combining romance and other plot lines. But, again, to pull from Bound and Determined, it helps SO MUCH to simply make the romance part of those “other parts.”

For example (sorry about all the examples; it’s just so much easier for me to explain things this way), in BAD, Keaton and Daisy would never even meet each other (*coughs* again) if it weren’t for the main plot point: Daisy going in search of her younger sister. Keaton and Daisy wouldn’t interact with each other if it weren’t for their shared childhood, and Rina wouldn’t help Daisy if it weren’t for her connection to Keaton, and Rina wouldn’t end up in trouble if she’d never tried to find Daisy’s sister.

Make sense? (Probably not, but just roll with it.) Already, the entire plot of the book is dependent upon the romance, and vice versa. They’re not one and the same, because the plot isn’t the romance, but they are completely intertwined.

So start there. Think about who your characters are, how they know each other, and why they’re together, and base your plot on that. Or base your characters on the plot–either one. That just depends on if you’re a character-driven writer (like me) or a plot-driven writer!

As you continue writing and journey into the middle of your story, keep weaving each side of the story (the romance side and the non-romance side(s)) together. Maybe half of the characters’ bonding takes place while they’re training to fight the enemy. Or the turning point in their relationship is when one of them switches sides. Or they truly begin to fall for each other because of how they treat others, interact with certain characters, or react to specific situations.

And this applies to the thematic aspects or character arcs in your story. Themes of forgiveness can be tied to issues in their relationship; the gamophobic hero learns to trust and commit because of the heroine; or the heroine learns to let others in when she allows the hero to help her. The list goes on.

Establishing these sorts of connections is a very important part of the outlining/plotting and drafting stages of writing, so make sure you get an early start on this, and you’ll find all the pieces of your story falling into place!

m.c. kennedy's questions

What are your favorite/least favorite romance tropes and why?

(This is the same answer to Lillian’s question…)

Favorite trope? Easy. Enemies-to-lovers. I can’t live without it; it’s in almost every book I write (in a subtle way, don’t worry), and all my favorites have at least a touch of it! The conflict, the grittiness, the rawness of it is just so intense and gripping and beautiful and I love it, okay? Make it an enemies-to-lovers marriage of convenience (or arrangement), and you’ll have me hooked on the blurb.

A well-done friends-to-lovers or love triangle are always good too, and honestly I enjoy any trope, as long as it’s authentic and uniquely written. Tropes go downhill fast when writers use them to dictate their characters and plot, rather than the other way around.

But if I had to pick some that I’m typically not a fan of…forbidden love (you rarely see it in clean/Christian fiction, so you never see it in a wholesome light); secret identity/lots-of-lying (*coughs* y’all know my thoughts on this one…usually not the best, although there are one or two that I enjoyed anyway); and second chance (it just bores me, but A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz actually kept my attention).

The thing about tropes, though, is that 100 novels may have the same trope and every single one of them stinks…but then one comes along and blows them all out of the water. Or vice versa. It really all depends on the author and how they handle the trope!

Do you prefer romances that span multiple books or condensed into a single novel?

Ah, that depends. If you have enough character development/arc and plot to keep the story going, then YES! I LOVE long, slow-burn, continuous romances! But some stories are simply better as a single novel, in which case I’m satisfied with that! I really don’t have a preference, I suppose.

Who’s your favorite fictional couple? (Top 3 is acceptable. ;-))

(Going with book couples here, because movies/TV shows are a whole other story…) Probably Charity and Mitch from A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman…El and Ky from Unblemished by Sara Ella…and Ella and Jack from A Midnight Dance by Joanna Davidson Politano… And maybe Scarlett and Rhett from Gone with the Wind, for good measure. To be honest, I usually play favorites with the hero and heroine, and I rarely ever like the heroines, so finding a couple I really, truly love (and not just a hero I adore) is pretty rare.

Have you ever read a story in which the love interests decided to permanently part ways at the end?

Only one…*sniffs* Gone with the Wind. *sobs* Perhaps their parting was not permanent, but it certainly felt that way. *continues sobbing*

Otherwise, I don’t think so. I love happily-ever-afters too much to willingly read something so tragic. *sniffles*


Maybe that all made sense and was helpful...lemme know what y'all thought in the comments! And if you have anymore questions, feel free to drop 'em below OR submit them to the Q&A form HERE!

Missed my last post? No problem! Here she is!

What about you? Who's your favorite fictional couple? Have you ever read a book with a not-so-happy ending?

yours in spirit and script,


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corrie s.p.
Aug 27, 2022

In response to your end questions:

I am not sure if I have a fave fictional couple.

I have read books with not so happy endings, in a way I like those a lot since in the real world nothing turns out perfect every time.

In Gone With The Wind I did not feel that they both decided to part, it was more of he got fed up with her and decided to end it with her. By the time she realized she loved him it was too late. That is a good book, it was really interesting to read about a protagonist that was not really good. Something much different than usual.

Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson
Aug 28, 2022
Replying to



corrie s.p.
Aug 27, 2022

I have a question, Have you read The Hunger Games?

How do you feel about the romance in those books? Was it handled well? You say your favorite tropes are Enemies to Lovers, friends-to-lovers, love triangles, and marriage of convenience (or arrangement). Those books incorporate all of those aspects.

Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson
Aug 28, 2022
Replying to

I'll definitely check them out! I've heard a ton about them!


Lily Keith
Aug 14, 2022

Thanks so much for answering our questions, Grace! This was a lot of fun!

Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson
Aug 15, 2022
Replying to

My pleasure! Thank you! :D


Faith Quelle
Aug 03, 2022

Sorry, life is really busy and I don't have time to write a bigger comment... but this was just. So. AMAZING!!!!! Thank you so, so, SOOOOOO much for taking that time to answer my questions; I feel like I have a way better feel for romance now, and I can't wait to start on my (super super fun) upcoming ideas!!! Thank you again!

(And girl, sheesh. This was really, really solid advice! I can see why romance is your thing XD.)

Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson
Aug 03, 2022
Replying to

Oh, don't worry, I feel ya! AHHH! Thank YOU!! You are SO welcome, and I am SO glad this helps!!! Best of luck, girl! I know you'll do fabulously!

(Awww, thank you so much!!)


Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
Aug 02, 2022

Wow! That was so much awesome brain may, this is just what I needed because I am literally afraid of the subplot romance I'm working so afraid I'm gonna ruin the whole thing, so all these tips were super helpful and I can't wait to try them out! With last week and this week I am ready to dive into writing tomorrow night! Look out Daniel and Ava Mae... Awesome post, Gracie! Thanks so much for sharing!

Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson
Aug 03, 2022
Replying to

Haha, try writing it all! XD But thank you!!! GIRL!! Don't be scared!! I hope this'll help ya! :D WAHOO!!! Thanks so much, girl! My pleasure! <33


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