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.
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?
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...
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.
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!
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.
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!!! :-)
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 makes the perfect proposal plan?