I’ve hesitated to do a post about writing romances since not everyone who visits my blog reads or writes within the romance genre. What’s more, even romance writers have a wide variety of preferences and expectations.
But . . . since today is my twentieth wedding anniversary to my wonderful husband, I figured you wouldn’t mind if I got a little mushy and sentimental!
Besides, in a recent Skype interview with Joanna Penn of TheCreativePenn.com, I discussed my thoughts on writing romances. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the elements that are necessary in creating a captivating romance are transferable to relationship development in any genre. After all, nowadays most stories have a romance thread whether they’re thrillers, mysteries, paranormal, or whatever.
So, what are the elements critical to developing a satisfying romance?
Of course, there will always be romances that break the rules. But here are two romance elements I mentioned in my interview with Joanna along with a couple more I’ve added.
1. Create a hero & heroine that readers can fall in love with.
By the end of the story, readers want to ooh and ahh over our larger-than-life heroes and heroines. That doesn’t mean they need to be perfect. But in the process of making our characters fall in love with each other, we want our readers to fall in love with them too.
Think about the heroes that you like the most. They’re usually the ones who have more than just good looks. They DO noble, kind, or otherwise praiseworthy things that make us secretly swoon. Those are the kinds of unforgettable characters that we should strive to have, so that our readers secretly swoon too.
2. Give the relationship a happily-ever-after (HEA).
At the end of the first draft of The Preacher’s Bride, I had my hero stuck in a dark, dank prison away from his beloved. Not a happy ending. My publisher asked me if I’d be willing to change it so that my hero gets out of prison and is reunited with his wife. In hindsight, I’m so glad agreed. I frequently get comments from readers telling me how much they liked my ending. I cringe to think of their response if I’d left my hero in prison as I’d originally planned!
Readers want to walk away from the book with a contented sigh. They’ll do that much more readily if we have an ending that leaves them at an emotional-high—with a deep satisfaction that true love might not be easy but is possible in the face of difficulties.
3. Prolong the HEA until as late in the story as possible.
We need to have realistic and believable reasons to keep our hero and heroine from getting together. And if they proclaim their love for each other early in the book, then we need drive a wedge between them and break them apart until the end.
If we have them living happily-ever-after too soon in our story, we release plot tension. Instead, we want to keep readers turning the pages to find out how the two are going to beat incredible odds to finally get together.
4. Develop the attraction but heap up problems at the same time.
We should strive to gradually build up an emotional awareness of our characters to each other. We want to have them notice each other and find specific traits appealing. But at the same time we need to continually place obstacles and tension between them, so that they’re unable to act on their growing feelings for each other.
Preferably, we’ll engage in a constant push-and-pull where we push our characters together and things seem like they’re going to work out, but then at the last second we pull them apart. The problems that come between them are best when they’re inherent to the external and internal plot developments.
There you have it. That’s my short list of what helps to deepen the impact of a romance within any story.
What are your imperatives for a romance? What kinds of things do you think are necessary to make a romance relationship fulfilling?