One of the assignments in Dean Wesley Smith’s Character Voice and Setting workshop was to write a short story for an imaginary anthology called First Dates. After we’d read each other’s stories, Dean went through his process for determining what to buy for an anthology, which is to create a list something like this:
The ‘identifying notes’ allows him to remember something unique about the story (imagine doing this with a hundred plus submissions…), and the category/genre is similar because it helps him think about how the anthology will look as a whole. For example, suppose he bought fourteen stories that had an element of mystery, and one mystery-less story that was set on a space ship. The reader might be a bit put off by the incongruity.
Dean asked us each to categorize our stories, and when he got to me I said something like “I think it might be romance, but I don’t know what to make of that because I didn’t know I wrote romance.” He laughed and said, “Of course it’s a romance!”
After class that day I talked with several of the other writers about what romance is and isn’t, and I realized that my focus on developing characters and their relationships with each other was bound to result in a romantic story sooner or later. So I decided to embrace the concept (no pun intended) and am wrapping up the third and last short story in a mini-collection of stories with a light romance theme. The story I wrote in Dean’s class is the most traditional, since it’s about a couple on a first date. (I apparently took the homework assignment very literally.) The second story is about a man who gets lost at sea and meets a mermaid, and the third involves a stagecoach robbery in the 1860s. After the historical research I did for the last story, I’m very grateful that I will never have to travel by stagecoach!
I had a lot of fun writing these stories, and it was a great lesson. Every once in a while we all need a little love!