Last week my father and I were discussing a sermon he was preparing for that coming Sunday. For the past several weeks his preaching had been fiery, hard--like sweat-popping-on-the-top-of-his-head hard. And for the upcoming Sunday, he wanted to teach softer, gentler. He said the mark of a mature preacher isn’t the Southern Baptist “…and God said, hah, when the Word, hah, was made flesh, hah…” It’s the quiet, tender voice of the teacher that declares who he is. It testifies to the years he’s seen. How much he’s studied. How many experiences he’s endured and come through.
Daddy compared it to a ballad. A true and talented musician—whether it’s a saxophone or guitar—is determined by his ballad. With a slow, fluid, soft melody, mistakes can’t be hidden behind volume or drowned out by other instruments. Lack of skill can’t be covered by tricks or fancy runs. The ballad stands on its own merit.
That started me thinking about romance books, and I had an epiphany. A writer’s ballad is the romance. Whether we write paranormal, suspense, historical or science-fiction, the core of the book is the relationship and connection between the two main characters. The world building of a parallel universe can be outstanding. Or the mystery can be absolutely thrilling. But if the romance doesn’t leap off the page, capture our hearts and squeeze, then it’s a fast, upbeat song with riffs, a voice box and driving beat that covers the singer’s adequate voice. The ballad of a romance book is taking that trip with the characters from brokenness to healing. It’s watching two people become one healthy, happy whole. It’s the journey of learning, changing, and loving. It’s why we pick up romance instead of non-fiction. We want to experience breathless, sometimes painful, but always true, love.
That’s so awesome to me. So now when asked about what I want readers to take away from my books, I know my answer. I want them to have heard my ballad.