Romance Writing lessons learned from Hello, Dolly.

Hello, Dolly is a musical about a widowed matchmaker, Dolly Levi, who is trying to orchestrate the love lives of her friends while striving to get the man she likes to fall in love with her. This is such a darling musical, I wanted to see what kind of romance writing tips we can learn from it!

1. Flirtatious body language

I love the relationship between Cornelius and Irene. But I feel like there needs to be a lot more flirtatious body language on Cornelius’ part. Nothing too forward or physical, after all they just met… just something more in the way he looks at her, the things he does for her. I think it would have benefited their relationship a lot if we got to see it build, rather than just the knowledg that both of them wished to have an adventure.

You can insert flirtatious body language in the way your character looks at their significant other. Maybe they look at them with such tenderness it could melt a heart of stone. Or maybe they always race to open the door for them, Maybe they smile uncontrollably whenever they’re in the same room together… You get the idea.

2. Not every character needs to fall in love

I love how at the end not everybody is in a relationship. Minnie and Barnaby were both young and had little interest in a relationship. Though they became good friends by the end, they were not in an official relationship.

You need to know what your characters need and fulfill that need by the end of the story. Cornelius was twenty-eight and three-quarters years old and Irene was tired of doing everything she was expected to. They were both looking for some excitement. Something spontaneous. They were ready to start living. Minnie and Barnaby were young and had only just begun their lives. You should be careful to not rush your characters into a relationship before they are personally ready. I see this all the time in romance novels, the character wasn’t personally ready to be in a relationship which caused it to be week and unfulfilling to the reader.

3. Pacing

I talked about pacing in the post I did about storytelling lessons learned from Tron, and I’m afraid we see it again here. It wasn’t that this movie wasn’t long enough (It was two and a half hours!) it was that the time wasn’t used wisly. Like Tron, this mainly affected the characters.

I wish it was slower so that we could see more of the character’s personal growth. Horace Vandergelder especially. It was clear that Horace went through some kind of change in the way he viewed having a wife, but we didn’t really get to see that.

4. Giving characters quirks

There’s a big thing about quirks in characters right now, but they aren’t always good quirks. There are MANY clichés to avoid when it comes to giving characters quirks, and there are some ‘quirks’ that aren’t actually quirks and that readers won’t react well too.

A quirk is a habit or personality aspect that sets your characters apart. Most quirks you don’t want to use too often. In Dolly’s case, it was the way she talked. Dolly talks fast and is very clever with her words. Cornielius’ quirks was also in the way he spoke but mostly in his body language and the way he moved.

Be creative! Think of what traits and quriks may benefit your character and the story. For more on traits go here: What is the most important aspect of a Character?

Thanks a bunch! Leave any thoughts or questions in the comments!

— Nerd

4 thoughts on “Romance Writing lessons learned from Hello, Dolly.

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