Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary are two romances set in different time periods with heroines who are polar opposites. But like all romances, they share the same basic components. Author Loucinda McGary discusses the four necessary elements of writing romance. Leave a comment to enter the drawing for one of Loucinda’s ebooks.
Welcome back, Loucinda!
Thanks to Jennifer and everyone here at Romance U for inviting me to blog today. I always love to hang out here and talk about writing.
As the saying goes, “You have to break eggs to make a cake” and the same is true with writing a romance novel. Just like you wouldn’t try to cook a new dish without some kind of recipe, you need a guide when you sit down to write a book.
No matter what sub-genre, the framework for all romances is the same:
- A couple meets—They might meet near the beginning of the book or their meeting could be long before the opening of the book.
- They fall in love—Again, this might happen before the book starts or during the course of the story.
- They encounter and must overcome one or more obstacles—These obstacles can be physical, emotional or a combination of both.
- Once the obstacles are overcome the couple has earned their Happily Ever After (HEA).
Clearly this framework can accommodate an almost infinite number of variations, even in the happy ending. HEA does not always equal marriage. However, there does need to be an indication that the hero and heroine will be together after the story ends (Happily for Now).
So what else besides the HEA do romance novels need? I think there are four other basic ingredients:
- Three dimensional characters with believable goals and motivations — Not everyone has to be beautiful or handsome (in spite of what most covers show). In fact, many romance novels have a less-than-perfect hero or heroine with any number of “undesirable” traits. Those traits can be physical – the hero in my romantic suspense novel Dead Girl In a Green Dress was in a serious car accident that left him with a permanent limp. Or psychological – my heroine in High Seas Deception suffers from PTSD after accidently shooting a bystander when she was a police officer. The most important thing is for the reader to identify with the characters, and feel sympathy and/or empathy for them.
- Conflict – Again it needs to be believable within the context of the story. Conflict can be internal, external or a combination of both. Stakes need to be high and they need to escalate as the story progresses. In His Reluctant Bodyguard, my heroine starts out merely worried about her job, to concern for the hero’s safety, to the realization that both their lives and the lives of all those around them are in danger.
- Accuracy – Obviously characters in historical stories can’t use items that haven’t been invented or speak in modern slang, but accuracy doesn’t just apply to historical romances. In paranormal and fantasy stories, things that happen must make sense within the context of the world created – no bringing in a flying horse to save the hero or heroine if one hasn’t been mentioned earlier. Even in contemporary romance, it is crucial to get facts correct. A few years ago, I was reading a contemporary romance by an author who obviously was not from the west coast. Around the third chapter, the hero jumps on his motorcycle and takes a long ride west of Los Angeles. I hope that bike had water wings, but I don’t know because after that glaring error, I stopped reading.
- Finally, compelling or unique plot or storyline – The simple ‘Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back’ needs an unusual or distinctive twist. In His Reluctant Bodyguard, the heroine is charged with protecting the former NFL player hero. And in my current work-in-progress, The Mozart Murders, my heroine is a police detective and the hero is a classical musician.
So now you have your formula and your basic ingredients. Time to break some eggs and start cooking – I mean writing!
Thank you again for hosting me today! I’d like to give two free electronic copies of one of my romantic suspense novels, High Seas Deception, His Reluctant Bodyguard, or Dead Girl in a Green Dress to randomly chosen commenters.
What other factors are necessary to write an engaging story?
Please join us on Friday, February 21st, when historical fiction author Jennifer Robson talks about how the Internet has transformed her research methods.
Bio: A Golden Heart finalist, Loucinda McGary is the author of three contemporary romantic suspense novels, The Wild Sight, The Treasures of Venice and The Wild Irish Sea. Her later books, The Sidhe Prince, High Seas Deception, His Reluctant Bodyguard, and Dead Girl in a Green Dress are available on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.
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