The Do’s & Don’t’s Of Writing Romance

By on September 21, 2016

If you are writing a romance novel, there are several things you need to do to ensure that your audience stays engaged throughout, as well as caring deeply about whether your characters romance will survive whatever comes their way.

Romance is a tricky genre as trying to come up with a unique premise, an unusual way of looking at love and relationships, and three-dimensional characters who, while still fitting in with the typical romance genre, are intriguing and exciting enough to want to get to know.

So what are the do’s and don’ts of writing romance? Take a look below to find out!

Do work hard on your characters. Most ordinary people experience love and romance at some point in their lives - so make your characters relatable. They should be likeable and ordinary.

However, as the novel unfolds, the challenges they face, and their reactions to these challenges - their bravery, strength, and compassion - this is what will make them extraordinary and therefore exciting enough to capture your reader's imaginations and hearts.

Don’t forget about the action. A romance novel needs to be centred around love and the relationships between your characters. However your can’t focus on this alone. Don’t forget to include just as much action as your would in any other piece of fiction to keep your readers turning those pages.

Do make it emotional, and tough. We want to see a whole range of emotions in the novel, joy, happiness, contentment, anger, passion, loneliness, fear, and pain. Don’t make it easy - readers ultimately want to see the relationships work out against all the odds, but if it happens right away, or there is no fight for it, they’ll quickly lose interest.

Don’t wimp out. If you are writing a love story, make it the greatest darn love story of all time! Don’t be scared. Think big, be courageous and creative. Love is incredibly powerful, and can take us to far away places and force us to make bizarre choices or massive, life-changing decisions. Make sure you treat love with the respect it deserves, and go all out.

Do give your characters flaws. No-one can relate to an impossibly beautiful and perfect woman - both on the inside and out, and no one wants to read about her either. Try to steer clear of stereotypes - the beautiful lonely girl who has always dreamed of falling in love, the dark brooding stranger who falls into her life and needs to be tamed. You know the story. We all do, and we don’t need to read it again.

Don’t be afraid to write an unhappy ending. Just because you are writing a romance novel, you don’t have to give your readers the ending they want. If you have written a successful story your readers will be desperate for the characters to get together in the end, but you don’t have to grant them that wish. Sometimes sad or bittersweet endings can be even more perfect than happy ones.

Do include a villain or two. A real villain creates a striking contrast to your romantic characters and is hugely fun to write as well. Make sure your villain is complex and intriguing too -no one-dimensional pantomime villains, please!

Don’t go over the top with the sex scenes. Unless you are writing the next Fifty Shades of Grey (and trust me, many people have already pipped you to the post), you need to think carefully about how to introduce sex into the novel, as it will have a huge effect on the kind of audience you are targeting. Romance novels have mass appeal, but if you go too graphic or include lots of profanity you are narrowing your audience - so make sure you understand the risks before getting too carried away!

Writing romance can be hugely rewarding and lots of fun. As with any genre, it has its rules and its common pitfalls - so try to remember to follow and avoid these to make sure your romance novel stands the best chance of success!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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