Romance writers frequently tell me the law doesn’t apply to their stories. Yet the law is everywhere in romance. If you start thinking about the law when you write, it can be used to enhance your story, flesh out your characters, get you unstuck, or even inspire you.
Let’s talk about some ways the law might impact your romance novel.
Background/characterization: Your characters come from a background that affects the way they view romantic relationships. If the characters’ parents are divorced, the nature of the divorce could color their view of romance. Was the divorce contested or amicable? Traditional or collaborative? Juno is the first time I’ve ever seen collaborative law used in a story, and it was used correctly. Collaborative law is the hottest trend in family law, so it might apply to your romance story.
Current lifestyle: If your characters are divorced, do they have custody or visitation? Is it still in court? The terms of divorce determine how much money they have to live on, when they have the kids, what property they own. It’s important to think about how the terms of divorce affect your characters’ daily lives. If it’s still in court, do they have to miss work to testify? Does their lawyer tell them not to date until it’s over? Do they feel pressured about the divorce proceedings?
Death and accidents: If they’re single due to a death, or if someone in the family has had an accident, then the law will certainly apply. Did they inherit or is the will contested? Did the decedent have insurance? Is there a lawsuit pending over the injury or wrongful death? Did they win a lawsuit over the death of their loved one or lose it? They could either be very well off or destitute as a result of a death or injury of a family member.
Stalking: Dating can turn to stalking, and stalking can turn into an injunction hearing. Maybe that’s where she meets Mr. Right. Or maybe your character is falsely accused of stalking because she pursued the wrong Mr. Right a little too aggressively.
Dating at work: Is your character dating someone from work? He’ll encounter sexual harassment laws or anti-nepotism policies. The company likely has policies in place that define what sexual harassment is. It may have policies prohibiting employees from dating each other, or prohibiting supervisors from dating subordinates. In The Mentalist, the boss made two characters choose between transferring away from each other or breaking up. In Dexter, two characters pretended to break up yet stayed together, violating their employer’s policy. (They are now married and inexplicably working together with one as the boss, which is no way going to be allowed at that particular employer, so it bugs the heck out of me.)
See? I told you the law applied to your romance novel. If you do write about the law, do some research to make sure you’re getting it right so the 1.1 million lawyers who are also readers won’t throw your book across the room.