Although a lot of people who view the genre from the outside think “romances are all the same,” we know better. There are many different sub-genres, each with a devoted following. The one you choose to write in should reflect your own reading tastes.
Do you gravitate toward short contemporary romances, where the man-woman story is central? Do you like longer reads with a lot of subplots and secondary characters woven into the hero and heroine’s story?
Do you want a sexy romance? A frankly erotic romance? Or a sweet romance with only a kiss at the end of the book? There are books for every taste.
Writing a romance is usually a balance of following your heart and figuring out how your novel will fit into the market. In today’s publishing world, there’s also the option of writing to please yourself and going indie.
But there’s one unbreakable rule. In a romance, whatever other elements are included, the relationship is always the main focus of the story and is integrated into the incidents of the plot. Suppose the story starts with an emotionally devastated heroine who finds she’s pregnant by her boyfriend who was recently killed in Afghanistan? She may have financial problems. She may be at odds with her parents or her boss, but the plot must quickly introduce a new man into her life or focus on a man she already knows in a non-romantic context. They are drawn to each other, but it must seem impossible for them to work out their relationship; and the internal conflicts between them will be the focus of the story.
Whatever your target, read tons of books in the subgenre you like best. If you want to write for Harlequin Desire, READ scores of them, and think about what makes them work. What kinds of heroes are featured in Desires? What kinds of heroines? What are typical plots? Typical conflicts? Analyze the books, then come up with your unique take on the line.
To illustrate that romances are not “all the same,” here’s a very detailed analysis of how straight romance and romantic suspense differ.
The plot focuses on two people meeting, falling in love, working out their internal and external conflicts, and making a commitment to each other by the end of the book.
The plot focuses on two people meeting, falling in love, and working out their conflicts against a backdrop of danger and suspense. External forces threaten to destroy these people; but by the end of the book, they triumph over the danger and make a commitment to each other.
THE TENSION OF THE STORY:
Sexual tension and internal conflicts drive the romance. These two people are falling in love and desperate to explore the physical aspects of their relationship, yet fundamental differences keep them from making a commitment to each other. Even after they finally make love, the conflicts between them must keep their future together in doubt until the end of the story.
In addition to the sexual tension and internal conflicts, “danger tension” drives the story. These people are pursued relentlessly by sinister forces determined to destroy them. The tension of fighting to stay alive increases the level of their sexual awareness.
THE EMOTIONS OF THE STORY:
The writer must make the reader feel the emotions of the h/h as they fall in love by using her skill at evocative language and describing the physical manifestations of love and sexual desire. (His touch set her on fire. Joy awakened inside her like a flower bud unfurling.)
The writer must make the reader feel the fear and terror of the h/h with evocative language and description that shows us their physical reactions to fear and danger. (In the darkness, she felt as if a thousand insect feet were crawling over her. Icy terror gripped her.)
The writer must bring the conflict between the h/h to a warm and satisfying resolution so that the reader knows these two people will walk off happily into the sunset together.
Before the h/h can walk off into the sunset, they must confront and defeat the malevolent forces bent on wiping them from the face of the earth. Clearly, romances are not “all the same.” More on the subtle and not so subtle differences next time.
What kind of romance do you like best and what do you write? One commenter will receive an autographed copy of GUARDING GRACE. But please, if you want to be eligible for a book, include an e-mail address or your Twitter handle so I can contact you easily. If you’d prefer not to make your e-mail address public, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with Subject: “It’s Not Shake and Bake” Blog.
Copyright © 2012 Ruth Glick