There are romantic novels and then there are romance novels. And they are different things. Romance novels are focused on love. The plot itself is the romance and anything else that goes on is a bonus. Romance is a genre unto itself. It is the opposite in romantic stories. The romance is the bonus while the main focus of the plot is on something else such as action, mystery, or humor.
Love the Characters First
Whether you have a lot of love or a little, romance is best written through good characters. If the reader doesn’t like, connect to, or understand the protagonist, they won’t care if their love story is successful. When you write in a love interest, you can not simply write them in just as an attractive, mysterious, maybe humorous love interest. People are deep and have goals and interests. Make sure that your characters have a purpose in their lives besides love. You don’t want your characters to read flat.
It can be hard to write characters of the opposite sex when you’ve never experienced life through their eyes. Talking to friends and strangers about how they think is good research. You can also collect all of the stereotypes that are said of genders and start from there if need be. Stereotypes do not describe everyone, but they are stereotypes for a reason. Take those base characteristics and then decide what makes your character unique and different from the norm. How does the setting and character background affect them?
Layer all that together and you get your realistic characters. This is good advice for character writing in any genre. And once your readers fall in love with the characters, their romance stories become so much more important.
While a lot of writing advice is on how to make your writing more believable, romance actually takes a step back. Good love stories are a bit unrealistic. They are about telling the rare and unlikely story of beauty and the beast. They are about giving people hope and wish fulfillment. We want them to win so that we can win as well.
The romance can’t be easy to acquire, however. Typical love stories start with boy meets girl. The middle conflict causes the boy to lose the girl, and the final conclusion is where the boy gets the girl back. This is a bare-bones structure and much can happen in between there.
Difference in opinions, setting or family pulling apart the couple, or difficulty communicating are a few ways to complicate relationships. Perhaps there are multiple love interests which is where the classic love triangle comes in. And the favorite couple does not have to end up happily ever after. But if they don’t get together, the alternative better be even better. For if you lead your readers towards a relationship, they will be extremely disappointed in the breakup.
It also helps to connect the romance to another plot. Give some alternative pressure or relief from love. There should be multiple things going on all at once. Life is complicated and so is love. Make it thus so.
Photo by Abdul Gani M