By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
I'm a historical romance writer of both teen and adult books. In fact, even my upcoming historicals (which are not categorized as romances) are based on the love stories of important historical figures. For example my historical, Luther & Katharina, which releases in October is centered on Martin Luther (the founder of the Lutheran church) who was a monk but ended up marrying a runaway nun, Katharina von Bora.
I was utterly fascinated by their love story and decided it needed to be retold to our modern generation. So one of the reasons I write romances is because I love bringing to life real love stories of the past.
Another reason I write romances is that I want to be able to present healthy models of love, chivalry, and passion to a hurting and broken culture. No, my characters aren't perfect and they have real problems. But all of us can benefit from watching imperfect couples work through issues and come out on the other side stronger as a result. Such models give us a picture of what hopeful and healthy relationships look like, the kinds of relationships that we can aspire to.
This past week I asked my readers over on Facebook to share why they read romances.
I categorized their answers into three main categories:
1. To escape from reality:
"Everyday life is serious business. TV is getting hard to watch. It's enjoyable to read a good romance story which takes you away from all of this."
"Pure escapism. Everybody's beautiful and you know it will work out perfectly."
"Love stories and those happily-ever-afters trigger my endorphins or something...Romance novels are my Prozac."
"To escape and get lost in a good sweet heart stopping story between two great characters who get their happily-ever-after."
2. To glean inspiration for everyday life:
"The challenges the couple has and the steadfastness of their faith in God and in each other is what draws me to the story in the first place. No one is without some challenge in their life so it is always encouraging to find couples who work through and persevere."
"I love that most romance is about two people who come together even with seemingly insurmountable odds against them. Gives hope."
"Hope. Overcoming obstacles, lives changing... it's hope in action
"Christian romance is helpful to your everyday life."
3. To live vicariously through the characters:
"I enjoy romances because I can live vicariously through the characters and have what I don't have right now!"
"Because my love life is dead/non-existent."
"It's what I want in life. A man who loves the Lord and loves me!"
I appreciated all of the feedback. It reminded me that as a romance writer I need to keep these three points in mind as I'm crafting my stories:
1. Readers want stories that transcend reality. They want heroes and heroines that rise above normalcy, who overcome problems, and who find victory (or are at least on their way to finding it). Readers face failure too often in real life that they read to find hope that perhaps they too can overcome and find victory. So romance writers must give readers the fairy-tale with the happily-ever-after.
2. Readers want stories that inspire them. As I mentioned, one of the main reasons I write romances is so that my characters can model healthy relationship skills, sacrificial love, and how to overcome obstacles without giving up hope. While I never "preach" at my readers, I do weave in themes and nuggets of wisdom that readers can take away when they close the book.
3. Readers want characters that are alive. Part of the key in bringing characters to life is to have them act out their hurts and problems. Have them grapple with real struggles that readers can relate to. But we can't only show them acting, but we have to show them feeling that frustration, pain, and anger. Then in the end, we have to help them reach a point where they've grown, where they're in a better place emotionally than when the story started.
My Summary: Clearly readers want to be entertained when they read (much the same way movie-goers want to be entertained). But readers (particularly romance readers) have other expectations too. To engage and please our readers to the fullest, we'd do best to pay attention to what they want!
So what about YOU? Why do you read (or write) love stories?