Many years ago, I prided myself on my disdain for romance writing. I felt it was sensationalist escapism (not recognizing that all genre writing, if not all fiction, is escapism to some degree). Romance was overly emotional, I reasoned, and therefore not good literature. I was above that kind of writing, I told myself. And the worst conclusion I came to? It was very easy to write romance fiction.
THEN I attended a Romance Writers’ Weekend Workshop in Saskatoon sponsored by Harlequin Romance. It was a much respected event, with participants like MaryBalogh (bestselling author and queen of Regency romances). Reading some of the examples that were distributed at the workshop and discovering that there was a real skill in writing love stories, I quickly became disabused of my silly notions about romance writing!
At that workshop, and over the years, I picked up some ideas on what good romance writing requires. Although I don’t write romance fiction, nearly every story and novel I write, excluding most of my flash fiction, contains romance. And these tips have helped me write good romance in my stories.
1. Understand the conflict in romance writing. The key to any piece of good fiction is the conflict, the suspense. In a good portion of fiction, the suspense is linked to the uncertainty of the outcome. However, in romance writing, the outcome is a given. Boy meets girl – yada yada yada– boy gets girl. Romance writing requires that the two lovebirds live happily ever after. So the suspense must come from the conflict between the two. It can come from misunderstanding, wrong thinking, physical impossibilities (they live a zillion miles apart and no money or means to get together; one is royalty and the other is a commoner—they will not be allowed to get together; and so on). Create an interesting but seemingly insurmountable conflict between the two and the suspense will lie in the reader wondering how the two could possibly get together, certain that pigs will fly before such a thing could happen to this couple.
2. When your characters talk, make the dialogue scrupulously gender-specific. While this is important in all fiction writing, it is exceptionally necessary in romance writing. Capture the way a man approaches events and ideas, asks questions. For instance, men favor the direct approach. They broach questions that elicit brief answers, with facts, on a yes-or-no basis. Women, on the other hand, are more detail oriented and often more sympathetic in their questions and responses. They will also give examples from their own lives to try and explain what they are trying to say. For practice, listen in on others’ conversations and take notes on how differently men and women speak.
3. Be aware of the different sub-genres of romance writing and decide, before you start, which type of story you are going to tell. You probably think you don’t know the various kinds of romance stories, but you probably do: Historical, Contemporary, Regency, Category, Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal, Time Travel, Gothic, Romantic Suspense . Once you decide, make sure that you are very knowledgeable about whatever the driving force is behind the story:
Anne M.Marble has a very comprehensive list, describing each of the subgenres at Writing-World.com. I suggest you read this list, get familiar with the subgenres, and then decide which one you want to work with. And one last thing about romance novels…some are with sex and some are without (Regency novels often do not even have a passionate kiss in them). It depends on what type of romance it is and the audience the writer is writing to. But with or without, all romance novels are about love. If you remember that, you will not stray far from the true path of romance writing.
Have a fun time trying out your romance writing skills. Who knows? You might even fall in love with romance!
♥♥♥♥ Oh yeah, and HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! ♥♥♥♥