Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Using the 12 Steps of Intimacy for Non-Physical Romances

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I guess this week I'm focusing on romance, though I honestly didn't plan it that way. After writing Monday's Post, 4 Tips for Writing Better Romance, I started looking for pictures to use in the post. My first thought was Pride and Prejudice. Classical romance, right? But then I realized that the post was about the progression of physical intimacy, and because of the writing constraints of her day, Jane Austin really didn't use physical intimacy at all. In fact, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy don't even kiss until their wedding day. So I figured it might not be the best example for that post, despite the fact that it's one of the most well-known, classical romances in literary history. (I used a P&P pic anyway, but only because it showed something else I was talking about. :D)

So then that got me thinking about people who don't write racy scenes. I write romance in, and I'll do a love scene every once in a while, but I keep it at a PG-13 rating. Of course YA is all the craze right now, and as a genre, generally those writers need to keep it at a similar rating. And then of course middle grade on down rarely has overt romance, but could you write, say, a young, puppy-dog type romance, with almost no physicality to it, but still use Linda Howard's 12 step progression?

I think you can. But it's trickier. And requires deeper thought. So lets go through this.

1. Eye to body contact.
2. Eye to eye contact.
3. Voice to voice contact.

Okay, chances are these three things will remain largely the same in any relationship because 1) they don't require actual, physical contact between two people. And 2) because this could be the start of any kind of relationship, not necessarily a romantic one.

4. Hand to hand contact. 

Now this one depends on what you're writing. If you want a physical connection but want to keep it PG-13 or even PG, this one's still okay. But what if you're writing, say, a romance where two people are too shy or in some way unable to have a normal romance. Could you convey step 4, a progression in intimacy, in some way other than have them actually touch or hold hands?

I think you could do this through dialogue or how these characters interact (other than physically). So perhaps they could just talk with one another and reveal something about themselves that most people don't know. This shouldn't be something super-secret or super personal. This is just the hand-holding step after all.

5. Arm to shoulder contact.
6. Arm to waist contact.

Same things apply here as apply to #4. Just come up with more personal things for your characters to reveal to one another that doesn't include physical contact. Of course you can use the plot/world of your story to help with this stuff. Depending on why you're staying away from the physical aspects of the romance and exactly what your characters interactions consist of is what will affect what they reveal and how/why they reveal it.

7. Mouth to mouth contact. 

So the one thing that would be different about this step from the previous three is that the characters must reveal or share with each other something that they not only they haven't shared with others, but something they specifically wouldn't share with anyone other than the other person in the romance. Because let's face it: personal things can be revealed in non-romantic relationships. But you wouldn't romantically kiss someone you have a non-romantic relationship with. So this has to be something that would ONLY be revealed to them.

(I know this is vague, but the details will depend entirely upon your characters, your story, your plot, and your world.)

8. Hand to head contact.

This one, again, must be something that would only be revealed to the specific person in the romance, but it can be deeper, or just a further branch off of #7.

9.-12. These become even trickier when we aren't talking about physical contact. I'm not entirely sure intellectual sex is a thing. But this is a great opportunity to get creative. Is there some way to represent emotional or intellectual consummation of the relationship? Well that depends entirely on you and your story. You may not even need to take it this far. If you're writing YA or middle grade, you may just get to step 7 or 8 in the emotional progression and leave it at that at the end of your story.

So I'm not sure if this makes sense to anyone. My point is that the 12 steps of intimacy can be used in a symbolic way to show the progression of a relationship, even if you're not dealing with the physical side of things.

Just something I was thinking about.

(Creds to Linda Howard for the 12 Steps of Intimacy.)

Has anyone ever used a progression like this for intellectual romance?

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