According to you what are the dos and don’ts of writing a romance novel that every aspiring author should stick to.
Hi Nikita. Thank you for having me on your blog and giving me the opportunity to share my views here.
The absolute dos that a romance novel needs are these:
• Two main characters. My books are M/F romances so they involve a male and female but that is up to the author.
• A happy ever after. That is a must. In all romances, things must be resolved and the couple must confess their love and the desire to be with each other forever. Nowadays, a happy-for-now is replacing the HEA in some lines but speaking of personal preference, I go for the mushy endings, both in reading and writing romances. The happy-for-now mostly works if the story is in series form.
• Emphasis on emotional conflict. Romance novels are character driven and not plot driven. There’s nothing more off-putting in a romance than characters jumping from one event to another without rhyme and reason. What I find gripping in a romance is the emotional ups and downs. The core question in any fiction is how a character chooses a particular path instead of another when the personal stakes are high but it’s asked most eloquently in romances.
The don’ts are all relative in my point of view. You need them according to the publisher you are working on. Some publishers require Alpha males who are filthy rich so that the fantasy element is fulfilled. Some will require you make the heroine beautiful so the attraction-at-first-sight trope is fulfilled. The list is endless.
Here are the don’t s which I follow:
• Use secondary characters sparingly. In romance novels, secondary characters are distracting. Especially if you’re writing a novella upto say 50k words, you just don’t have space to do justice to your main characters let alone complicating it with others. However, secondary characters add fun to the story and provide support to your main cast. So be judicious in their use. If you get over-involved you lose sight of your story goal that is to provide a convincing resolution for your protagonists. Secondary characters are also tempting because they provide inspiration to the author to pen their individual stories. In that case be careful you don’t spend too much time in introducing them in the current book. You might lose reader interest as they are not so familiar with the characters who are occupying a large apart your headspace.
Another heads up: don’t name every person who is present in your story. It’s easy to confuse the reader especially in the beginning. Just stick to naming a few secondary characters who are appearing quite a few times in your story.
• Don’t depend on external factors to work out the trouble of their characters. Make the hero or heroine the ‘hero’ of your story. They have to work on their problems. Let them sweat it out, let them lose, then have them win through their own efforts. For instance, if the hero’s recalcitrant mother agrees not to trouble her future daughter-in-law, what’s the hero done here that’s worth achieving? Let it be seen that the protagonists takes the courage in both hands and take risks to get success. Hero is someone who beats the odds to come out winning. At the last moment don’t make somebody else the hero of your story. To be extra emphatic, don’t turn your characters into puppets. Keep them in charge.
There are a lot of other factors which make a story work but they are beyond the scope of one post. I’m myself discovering many of them. Follow me at http://www.summeritarhayne.com where I share what I’m learning during my writing journey.
Romance lovers, writers and readers, what are your dos and don’ts for romance fiction? Do share, I would love to hear your point of view.
If you love romance, do check out Against All Rules.
Thanks again, Nikita. I enjoyed being on your blog.