I’m about to say something which might have my Romance Writers Card revoked…
I was never a big fan of the grand gesture.
I know, I know. It’s the moment that’s supposed to make you all gooey inside. It’s the moment that gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling of satisfaction. When done well, it’s the scene readers will remember long after they finish a book.
But it took me a long time to embrace this part of writing romance.
You’ll read plenty of novels where the hero gives a public speech to declare his love for the heroine, sometimes it occurs during another character’s wedding or at another important event. Or maybe the heroine stands up for the hero in public. And then there’s the classic running towards the airport gate/taxi/train etc.
I think the part of the grand gesture that I struggled to connect with was the “grand” aspect. I’m all about a sweet gesture, or a thoughtful gesture. But grand? It’s not really me. However, the gesture doesn’t necessarily need to be grand or extravagant, if that’s not your style.
What it should do is bring the reader full circle.
Here are a few ways that you can give extra oomph to your grand gesture:
Completing the arc
A grand gesture is a great way to show how much a character has developed. It should involve something they would never have done at the beginning of the story.
For example, in Betting the Bad Boy the hero grew up in the foster system and was moved frequently from one home to the next. So, when he finally got out of the system, it was important for him to live alone because then nobody would ever be able to kick him out. He wouldn’t even bring his date back to his house because it was his ‘safe space.’ Therefore, his grand gesture involves giving a key to the heroine and asking her to live with him.
Making a sacrifice
Grand gestures are especially impactful when one character gives up something to be with the other character. For this to work, the sacrifice needs to be something of high value. This also works especially well when the heroes and/or heroines have strongly opposed goals.
The sacrifice also needs to come about because they’ve changed as characters. So, it’s not about a woman giving up a job she really wants simply to be with the hero. It’s about a character giving up a cause they were chasing because their relationship has fundamentally changed the character.
For example, in Bad Bachelor Reed is determined to bring down the person who created the Bad Bachelor app. But at the end of the book, he realises that doing so will irreparably hurt his relationship with Darcy. So he has to sacrifice his need for retribution in order to find his HEA with Darcy. He can only make this sacrifice because he’s changed as a character over the course of the book.
Grand gestures that mirror an event from earlier in the story gives a sense of closure and familiarity to the reader. As humans, we always seek out patterns and repetition, so this is a very effective technique. You may also hear this referred to as ‘bookending.’ The trick is to mirror an important moment for the characters, rather than just putting them in the same location at beginning and end.
For example, from Mr. Dangerously Sexy the heroine, Addison, comes to learn that the hero secretly organized a wreath of yellow roses for her father’s funeral, because her father had always used the roses to apologise after an argument. It showed he knew what was important to her, and that even though he was the kind of person who would never say it aloud, he cared about her very much. The grand gesture for that story involves a room full of yellow roses. By itself that gesture would be sweet and romantic, but having it tied to an earlier event gives the gesture a deeper importance and meaning.
You can absolutely mix and match these grand gesture types as they’re not mutually exclusive. Put a sacrifice with a bookend, or complete an arc while the character gives up something important. If you’re stuck, try writing a grand gesture that fits each one of these types and see what works best.