Romance is big business. Millions of women (and men) devour romance novels every day, which is why publishers such as Mills & Boon have been selling trillions of them since the year dot. The fact is, romance novels are a form of escapism, just like a movie. When our life is falling apart and we can’t find a man, let alone a decent man, it is fun to immerse oneself in the tortured affairs of a windswept heroine and her dashing lover. Your life may suck, but at least you can enjoy the vicarious pleasure of knowing she’s having some action between the sheets/straw bales/animal skins/cryogenic chambers. So how easy is it to write a romance novel and how should you go about putting pen to paper?
Read Lots of Romance Novels
Firstly, the best way to learn more about how romance novels are put together is to read them. Romance novels are largely formulaic. The setting might vary from 12th century Scottish castles to the French Riviera, but the plot is essentially the same.
- Woman meets man
- Woman hates man
- Man seduces woman
- Man betrays woman (or so she thinks)
- True love finally prevails
Basically, as long as you make your heroine a feisty, yet sweet and innocent female and your hero the archetypal red-blooded alpha male, you can’t go too far wrong. Throw in some sex scenes, make sure the characters end up in a relationship by the final page, and you have the plot for every Mills & Boon novel ever written.
Think of a Starting Point for Your Story
Even if the framework for your story needs to be predictable for it to work, you still need to create an interesting story that brings the characters together in a plausible way. You don’t necessarily have to plan out every detail of your proposed plot line, but you do need a good starting point for the story. The first few paragraphs should hook the reader, so make them as exciting as possible. For example, you could have your heroine hurtling across a field on a runaway horse and your hero as the guy who finds her after she falls off into a muddy pond.
Choose Your Characters Wisely
You have to make your characters likeable if you want people to enjoy your story. Nobody wants to read about a narcissistic control freak and her relationship with a wimpy nerd. In general, readers of romance novels expect the woman to be womanly and the man to be manly. Not exactly Barbie and Ken, but try not to stray too far from the cliché.
Hot, Hot and Hotter!
Since Fifty Shades of Grey spawned an erotic novel phenomenon, romance writers have been upping the ante in their sex scenes. It used to be ok to leave your characters at the bedroom door, but modern romance readers demand a certain level of erotic tension in the story. However, don’t include sex scenes for the sake of it—the plot must warrant some gratuitous bedroom action. And don’t forget, the story needs to have a happy ending involving love and some kind of commitment for it to be classed as a “romance”.