While attending the James River Writer’s Conference back in October, I listened in on a panel called A Fine Romance. I mostly chose this panel because I enjoy a juicy subplot, and I’m always hoping to discover a new Mr. Darcy. I never considered myself as a romance writer, because I picture those to be the books you see in the grocery store. The paperback ones with various versions of Fabio on the cover.
However, there is one thing I learned that leads me to believe that I could be a romance writer at heart.
The women on the panel let us in on the biggest secret to writing romance:
- The main point of the story is to get the couple together.
- The book’s finale focuses on this point. The last chapter wraps everything into a pretty bow: Boy gets girl–or vice-versa. They walk off together into whatever happiness the future holds in store.
This was a real ah-ha moment for me because I thought there was more to romance than that, but it’s a very simple qualifier, and I find that my WIPs generally follow this rule.
Like all forms of writing, there is a formula to the romantic novel. It goes somewhat as follows:
- Have initial meet-up between love interests be awkward. Really dive into first impressions and explore the feelings these people initially have towards one another.
- Create romantic tension on the very first page.
- Make your story unique by giving the love interests different wants and needs. Make love unwanted, or unexpected.
- Create romantic tension on every page.
- Character development should happen along with plot development. No info dumps.
- Don’t tie up subplots at the very end. That’s the place for getting the couple together. Subplots should be fulfilled over the course of the last few chapters.
- There should be an equal balance between internal and external conflict.
- Readers of romantic stories appreciate optimistic endings. End on hope.
There are also different levels of romance. The style you choose controls the level of sexual description your readers expect. For example, people reading Erotica expect explicit details as to sexual encounters. They want to be sweating right along with the characters. But, if you’re writing Inspirational or Sweet romance, your can hint at sex. Keep it “behind closed doors” as a panelist said.
The panelists laid out the differences between romance and women’s lit. As I said before, the point of a romantic story is to get two love-birds together. If something is women’s lit, it will generally focus on other aspects of the female life. There can still be romance, but that’ll be one of the those subplots you wrap up prior to the culmination of your story-line.
On a final note, the panelists were very truthful about their writing experience in the field of romance. They said to be realistic with yourself and your audience. Don’t try to make your romance into something it’s not–as in, don’t try to beef up the plot with ridiculous scenarios, or overly complicated plots. Accept your audience.
The panelists said that if you stay true to your romantic style, while you may not receive much literary acclaim, you will gain readers–which is really the whole point. Right?
So, does this post ring true with your experiences with writing romance? How has your romantic writing fared in the market? And what would you add to this post?