How to write a romance story

By Tom Purcell, Special to the Katy Times
Posted 2/16/23

All my father ever wanted as a young man was to marry my mother and start a family—plans that were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army during the Korean conflict.

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How to write a romance story


All my father ever wanted as a young man was to marry my mother and start a family—plans that were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army during the Korean conflict.

As he served in Texas, Germany and other parts of the world, there was only one affordable way to stay in contact: writing letters.

Every single day, seven days a week, my mother told me, he wrote a letter to her and she wrote one to him.

Some letters ran four pages long. Some days, they wrote two!

They shared their hopes and dreams, and how they missed each other so.

My father joked that they’d have four boys—a football player, a baseball player, a basketball player and a priest.

Their cursive handwriting was as impeccable and as artful as their words. Their letters offer a case study in the art of romance.

Romance, according to, is “to court or woo romantically; treat with ardor or chivalrousness.”

“Ardor” defines my parents’ romance especially well: “great warmth of feeling; fervor; passion; intense devotion, eagerness, or enthusiasm; zeal; burning heat.”

Halfway through my father’s two-year tour, my mother stopped writing to him for three weeks.

He was mortified, thinking she’d found someone else—unaware that she’d become so sick from rheumatic fever that she nearly died.

He was relieved to learn there was a reason her letters had ceased, but now he agonized over her well-being.

Finally, after two long years, he was able to return home to her. Finally, they were able to get on with their lives.

The romance my parents enjoyed is a dying art among younger people.

Romance is about kindness and honesty and graciousness and affection—it’s about patience and sacrificing now to enjoy greater fulfilment later on.

It’s about trust. It is the sense that someone places you above all others and cares more for your needs than his own.

My parents really did believe that when they married they became one under God.

They fully accepted that their commitment to each other was to “have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do them part.”

Some consider these dated concepts in a modern era of instant gratification, cynicism, self-centeredness and hook-up dating, but without the principles on which my parents built their love, romance cannot flourish.

My father told me on many occasions that the first time he set his eyes on my mother he knew he would marry her—and his proudest achievement was that he made it happen.

Well, I am hopeful to learn that younger generations are the biggest believers in love at first sight, according to a 2017 Gallup survey.

They are romantics at heart—as we all are!

We are all authors of our own stories, too, so why not begin writing romance into our lives?

This Valentine’s Day, turn off your computer and smartphone. Gather some stationery and a ballpoint pen and write to someone you love—or someone you know who makes your knees wobble.

Maybe you’ll fail, maybe you’ll succeed, but know this: The act of writing our stories is where true romance begins.

My mother and father wrote a love story for the ages. Young or old, all of us can do likewise.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Purcell, creator of the infotainment site, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at