Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Perfect Proposal Plan

Maybe I'm just a sucker for a sweet commercial (and no I'm not being paid to put this on our blog), but this proposal scene Kay Jewelers has been airing lately always makes me sigh. You don't have to understand the language of the couple to see the love and the perfect proposal moment.

Which I thought was only fitting to talk about, since Valentines Day was just a few days ago...and the fact that my Daddy proposed to my Mama on Valentine's day, 27 years ago. (though his was decidedly not as romantic as the ones featured above, stick around and I might tell you. :-)

What makes a great proposal?

I have helpful tips from some of our favorite romance authors, who will be sharing in just a moment with expert advice.

First, make it memorable

~A truly great written proposal takes more than just a carriage and a fantastic view over a Paris vineyard (although there is nothing wrong with that for sure), it takes a build up of sexual tension through the novel until the only thing that reader wants to see him just pop the question!

Second, make it big, make it small, make it fit the story

~Your proposal has to fit into the context of the story. If your hero is soft spoken, most likely he isn't going to invite the entire town to see. But if that has been a struggle for him, then for sure include it. It makes a great climatic moment. More than just a simple proposal.

Third, don't go for the cheese

~Cliche is never good and that can surely be said for a proposal scene. Make it unique. Instead of asking her to marry him in restaurant over candle light (been done a thousand times) how about in a dungeon cave as they are running from bad guys (depending on your genre of course). What if, instead of the "perfect" moment, you made a very imperfect moment?

Forgive me, I'm going to borrow from one of my favorite TV shows. How many of you have seen CHUCK? None of you?? Come on now. You guys are have got to get a life.

Chuck is a superspy in love with his superspy partner, Sarah and after years of being together he is finally ready to pop the question. He finds the perfect spot and prepares to ask. Time and time again something happens to stop him (they are, after all, on missions). Then in a last ditch attempt, before Sarah goes undercover, Chuck is talking to his other team partner, Casey (see why I love this show?? :-). Casey tells him about a proposal he gave once- in a bus station. How he would always have that moment, that look on her face.  Then he goes to say... "the truth is there is no perfect moment, or perfect spot. Forget about the balcony, Bartoscki, you just need the girl."


Okay, moving on, Chuck later proposes to Sarah *SPOILER* in the hospital lobby during the birth of Chuck's niece. He didn't need a fancy moment, he just needed the girl and that's all your story needs. Twist it around. Make the moment in the seemingly most imperfect place that fits for your story and it will be memorable.

See what our favorite authors have to say too...

Janet Dean

For me the perfect proposal brings the book full circle. By that I mean an element in the proposal echoes the first meeting of the hero and heroine in the opening of the book.

Of course I want a proposal that's believable. So I must make sure all the conflicts between the hero and heroine are resolved in a way that feels right to the reader.

If it fits the story, I like proposal scenes to be bigger than life. For example, having the hero propose in front of the entire town. Or those closest to them who've been part of their struggles.

Then comes the fun part. When the hero tells the heroine he loves her and she him, I like to use strong emotion or even playful banter. Then comes a toe-curling kiss. I like the proposal to end with a sense that the hero and heroine's love is God ordained and they will indeed live happily ever after.

Hmmm, always go for that toe curling kiss!

Karen Witemeyer

Maybe it's because I'm female, and I always wondered what thoughts went through my husband's mind when he proposed, but I love having these scenes in the hero's POV. Whether or not his words are romantic, as an author, I can expose his inner emotions in his thoughts, showing the reader how true his feelings are and how much hinges on the heroine's positive response.

It's almost always a must (except perhaps in marriage of convenience stories) to have a declaration of love from both characters. Sometimes a simple "I love you" says everything exquisitely. Sometimes it adds depth to have the characters reveal what they treasure about the other person or respect in them. The main thing to me is that this not be about how beautiful the heroine is or how strong the hero is. These love words need to go beyond surface attraction to the heart of the relationship, to show the reader that this is a love that will endure the test of time.

And of course, there needs to be a kiss--a soul-stirring, heart-melting kiss that makes the reader sigh. I'm sighing now just imagining all the wonderful possibilities.

Oh me too, Karen.

Denise Hunter

Those last moments of a story are so important. One of the most important things is not to rush it! The reader's been waiting for hours to reach this point so draw it out, linger in the scene.

As for the proposal itself, I like to avoid any kind of expressions that a cliche'. Have the hero speak from his heart, but make the words unique to those characters and their journey.

Place can be important too. Is there some place that has been special to the couple? It might be someplace where no other man would propose . . . again, make it unique to their journey. In "Driftwood Lane" my hero proposed in a courtroom. Any place can be romantic if handled carefully.

Oh my yes, just like Chuck in the hospital. (watch the clip if you haven't already!!! :-)

Lorna Seilstad

When the proposal is well-written, the whole book leaves you feeling thrilled. If it's not, then the reader feels such an enormous down.

I think the proposal is only as good as the build up to it. By that point, the reader has to be so invested in this couple that they can't wait for the answer. However, they also still need believe there is a chance he or she might say no.

I like my proposals to be memorable with something tied to the characters and the world I've created for them. Their words much be sincere and definitely sound like "them." Of course, a toe-curling kiss to seal the deal is a must.

Say no?? Who would say no to a perfect proposal? (okay, maybe if it wasn't perfect...)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So there you have it. Make it original, make it big, make it perfect for your story and...a good idea to make the hero and heroine good for each other too. :-)

Oh, but you want more you say? Something about my family's proposal story??

27 years ago my parents were sitting over sushi (please don't hold this against them) and my dad turns to my mom and says, "You don't have to eat your sushi if you marry me."

What do you THINK she said? The woman is smart, so of course she said yes. And here is the photo of them when they married just five months later. They are going on 27 years, so I guess the not eating the sushi thing worked. :-)

What do YOU think makes the perfect proposal plan?


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I think every proposal is the perfect proposal plan. Mine took me to the beach in Galveston. We sat on a concrete block, with our feet in the water, and he whispered into my ear, "Will you marry me?" Sigh...I thought it was perfect.

Angie Dicken said...

My husband proposed to me on a gondola in Venice, Italy...does it get more cliche than that!?? :) It was perfect though, except I was complaining about the noisy grand canal and not noticing him down on one knee!!

Saumya said...

Aww so cute!! I totally agree with it being specific and relevant to the characters (and people, in real life situations). My friend just received the ultimate cliche proposal, however, and was floored. Haha, so to each her own?

Casey said...

SHERRINDA, how sweet is that?? That would make a GREAT proposal scene. And what if the heroine had fallen the possiblities!

ANGIE, how lovely. It might be cliche in fiction, but I think in real life it's pretty neat. And the fact that you were complaining spins it in a whole new direction. LOL!

SAUMYA, yes to each her own and congrats to your friend!!

Thanks for visiting the post today. :)

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Casey said...

Thank I.B.G for visiting today! I hope what you find here on the Alley is helpful to you. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

I hate Sushi, LOL! I loved that scene from Chuck though.

I agree that the tension of having it possible that the character will say no makes it great.

Keli Gwyn said...

I wrote a proposal scene that warms my heart just thinking about it. The location and dialogue were perfect for that couple. And, yes, it included that three-word cliché. I'll never tire of hearing my heroes and heroines say "I love you" to each other for the first time. Sigh.

Casey said...

JULIA, I don't know what EVER possessed them to go out there to eat. Bleck. ;) I KNOW isn't that scene, just sweet?? Makes me giggle and grin every time. :D

KELI, I don't think ever saying "I love you" can be cliched. I think about all the times I wait for it in books or moments in movies when the hero thinks he's SHOWING when maybe he should be TELLING in this case. And does this proposal scene pop up in your coming book, hmm??? :)

Amber Holcomb said...

Fun post, Casey! The funny thing is...a couple of days ago I wrote a proposal scene for my WIP! I don't really want to give anything away, but it's not the "end of the book" sort of proposal scene, if that makes sense. I split it up between the man's POV and the woman's. :)

Anyway, fun stuff to think about! ;)


Sue said...

Hey, what can I say, I've never been one for raw fish, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. And if that means going to a Japanese restaurant for a proposal, then so be it. I'd say the last 27 years have been worth it :) Thanks Casey for the walk down memory lane. I love you. Mama

Casey said...

AMBER, isn't that timely. :) I love a good proposal moment, fun to dream about, right?? :) Glad you liked the post and got the sec to stop by!

MAMA, so glad you refused that sushi. I love you too.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I especially appreciate the quote you used from Karen. I like writing from in the first person. It sure would be fun to write from the one who's proposing point of view..bumbling, fumbling. So easy for many to identify with.

My boyfriend was serving overseas. He told me he planned to re up. I didn't know what he meant, regarding our relationship and if he chose to re-up, maybe we should break up. He spent boo-coo bucks to hurry home... pounded on my front door...then shouted, "Are you going to marry me or what?"
Well, that wasn't gushy romantic, but I saw his hurt, and...well, seeing what he really wanted to say...we got married. :)

Casey said...

Awe, Mary that is so perfect! I love that. :) I absolutely love how everyone's story is unique. I would say it was the perfect proposal for you both. :) That would really make a perfect moment for a story someday. ;)

Pepper said...

so sorry I missed this yesterday. Thursdays are my 12 hour day so I'm slow to commenting on those days.
GREAT post!
And Mary - I love your story.
Mine isn't all gushy either. My hubby took me to the restaurant where we had our first date (on my birthday) and proposed.
Cool thing - he knew I loved antiques, so he had his mother's heirloom engagement ring resized for me.
It's simple, but precious because it carries so many memories on it.

I LOVE to write proposal scenes - or declaration of love scenes. DEFINITELY.
In my historical, the proposal scene happens right outside a cemetery. It may not sound romantic, but...whew...I LOVE that scene.

Jordan said...

I'm a new follower.

GREAT post! I loved everything about it...especially Chuck!! Oh my goodness, that was long time coming and sooo sweet! :)

I love all the stories from the authors - awesome! I haven't read any of their books except Driftwood Lane, but that courtroom proposal was fabulous!

Mary, I absolutely LOVE your proposal story and I definitely agree that it would be perfect in a book. :)

Casey said...

PEPPER, no worries. I know you're busy. :) Sounds like a definite good proposal in your story! I love old cemetaries. Weird, I know... :)

JORDAN, I KNOW it was, wasn't?? I just about melted myself when he proposed. Sigh. Sweet! I can't wait to read Driftwood Lane, it's on my TBR stack.

Thanks for following and stopping by! Hope you are entertained and encouraged when you visit. :)