Posted On October 20, 2014 by Print This Post

Careers in Romance Novels and How They Affect Characterization with Summerita Rhayne

Welcome Summerita Rhayne to Romance University! Today Summerita tells us how your characters career should fit their personality!

AAR BOOK cover final 1-1Character building is tough to nail in fiction but especially hard in romantic fiction where you need to focus mainly on one aspect of relationship between the characters. If plot is king in fiction then characters are the whole kingdom. Without the kingdom there is no ruler. In Romancelandia, more emphasis is on character interaction than plot so we can say characters are quite the be all and end all of a romance novel.

Charting out a character is almost as difficult as writing someone’s biography because you need to know quite a lot about your character. It is especially tricky to decide what career we should assign a particular character. As a reader I often find the more convincing a character’s daily life and job routine, the more sucked in I am into the story. Have you felt like that?

The jobs we do are tailored to our particular capabilities and our personalities. Or they should be!

As a writer, I’m often scatterbrained, forgetful, getting lost in the worlds I’m plotting and forgetting what needs to be done right then. Cue overcooked meals and running late to job!

As a teacher, I have to be thorough in preparing my lectures and making sure I have the complete grasp of what subject I need to convey to my students.

So when we build a character in fiction, how much thought should we put into which career we enroll them in?

I don’t know about you, but lately in the romance books I’ve been reading I have come across a wide and very interesting variety of careers. I’ve read about cupcake business partners, chocolatiers (what a yum job, I couldn’t possibly make profits out of that!), party and wedding planners…the list is long. The doctors and nurses have been replaced by surgeon to surgeon interactions. Increasingly we are seeing women bosses, women owning their own businesses, even rolling up their sleeves and digging after archeological discoveries.

I read a lot of Harlequin; it’s still my go-to for a romance fix though I read other publishers too. What I’ve observed over time in romances is the change in the temperament of the female characters. The quiet, suffering heroine is no longer so quiet and is being railroaded less and less into what she doesn’t want to be doing. While the heroes still tend to be wealthy and Alpha, the heroines are doing much better on the financial front. I don’t think I have read a waif heroine in the last few years. Have you? It’s obviously a reflection of changing roles of women as a whole. They’re no longer content to be passive participants, even when relating to a character in a story.

So, as a writer and a reader, how much importance do you place on career while evaluating a character?

Take the Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern heroes as a case in point. Most of them are hard bitten, dealt poorly by life and nursing a hidden hurt that makes them unable to love. Being driven to succeed, they usually end up owning billionaire businesses. It works because it’s ingrained in the character (though the young age at which they manage to accumulate wealth might be a bit indigestible). No doubt prodigies are there but instead of making it sound like the norm, I think a writer should probably put in a logical background and explanation for that. Take Tahir, the hero in my book Against All Rules for instance. He leaves his father’s flourishing business and strikes out on his own. But I had to put in an explanation of where the minimal investment came from. Without some sort of support you can’t just start up. And if he made it from scratch then too a portrayal of those circumstances has to be there to convince any reader with intelligence.

Coming back to varying careers for women, if you want your heroine to be independent, it’s a good choice to make her a small business owner. Though you might have difficulty explaining how she can manage the time off if she goes off with the hero on some idyllic romancing! If you want her to be dedicated, she can be a nurse, if she has to have a soft spot, she could be managing a women’s shelter. So it helps if you ingrain career with the character. If your heroine is a princess, which many of them are in Presents/Modern line these days…not that I mind…but at least she should behave like one. If traits like generosity, imperiousness, a bit of naivety about how the other people live aren’t coming across, she won’t sound convincing to the reader.

Similarly, if you have a career woman used to dealing with all sorts of crises which surely would arise in handling her job, why not put that into her background? Has she been in a situation where she had to depend on only herself and no one else? You can put a unique twist in a situation and relate that to her character as well. Not only that, show it in how she talks, handles the situation etc. Just telling the reader she’s gutsy won’t work, not if she’s dissolving into puddles of tears at the smallest mishap.

In Against All Rules the heroine is a PA, who’s used to being efficient and working long hours. While I was charting out her character and writing it, I felt that she’d be one who puts work first, hides her feelings and wouldn’t easily let go of her job. All these traits did come through as the story progressed. Have I been able to portray them with conviction? I would love to hear what you think. =)


Join us on Wednesday for author’s assistant Mel Jolly



‘That wasn’t meant as a suggestion.’

But it might have been…

Why was he looking at her with that speculative light in his eyes?

‘Do you think I took it as one?’ she demanded. Brave words.

‘Then we are good.’ His gaze fell on her…he was looking at her. Checking her out? She wasn’t sure because Tahir didn’t do it. He was so strictly professional that she usually had trouble keeping up. She’d felt guilty often when her attention changed from a PA to that of a woman. Which was why she had gone the other extreme…tried to conceal every wish to look more feminine…more enticing to him. Pride had made her wrap those wishes, the feminine wiles and impulses and put them away. She had tried to be every bit computer efficient to his work driven attitude.

Now his gaze ran down her legs and dropped to her feet, stretched out in front of her. She resisted the urge to curl her toes. Could feet blush? Hers would in a second!

‘You have very trim ankles,’ he said. Enclosed in black straps circling them, they lay crossed and now tense and vulnerably exposed to his lingering gaze. ‘So slender and delicate.’ He added.

Was he finding her ankles sexy? After hoping for his attention – starving for it – she didn’t know if she should be pleased or annoyed that he was fixating on her ankles!

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Summerita Rhayne loves to write sensual and emotional romance. There’s no knowing when some quirky – or sometimes even not so quirky – happening in daily life might trigger her right brain and then she’s off craving a new story. She loves writing characters who learn and grow and find their way out of their troubles and emotional hang-ups. Hot, sensual heroes and sassy but sweet heroines mostly fit the bill in her stories. She also believes that a touch of humor never goes amiss in a book.
She divides her time between family, job and writing – and loves winding down with music, movies and social media!

Email her at

Catch up with news of her books at:

Or follow via Twitter @SummeritaRhayne

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17 Responses to “Careers in Romance Novels and How They Affect Characterization with Summerita Rhayne”

  1. Thanks for having me on your blog, RU team 🙂

    Posted by Summerita | October 20, 2014, 12:19 pm
  2. Thank you for this post. I do agree that careers are a good opportunity to use characterization.

    Posted by Maria Michaels | October 20, 2014, 12:26 pm
  3. It’s a fascinating subject, thank you for drawing attention to it. I think so many heroes and heroines have jobs where they can ‘freelance’ because it makes it much more convenient for them to take extended periods away from the office. I often wonder about the Billionaire Hero who can leave his company to its own devices for days at a time!

    Posted by Jane Lovering | October 20, 2014, 1:11 pm
    • Yes, Jane, money making seems to be pretty indolent for the Alpha heroes! Granted they are successful but it’s never inconvenient for them to take off while the romance demands. It’s hard to compare that up with real life when job demands just can’t be shoved off ;)Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Posted by Summerita | October 22, 2014, 4:27 am
  4. One of the first things I ask myself when I create a character (if it’s not already intrinsic to the story) is “what does this character do to make money?” Although it would be easier, we can’t write every character as a trust fund baby!

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Posted by Megan Morgan | October 20, 2014, 6:50 pm
  5. Evening Summerita!

    I am a huge fan of historicals, and eventually was won over to contemporary romance by Nora, Janet Evanovich, etc. But when I first started reading, in the 1970’s, all the heroines were princesses or governesses. The contemporaries held more variety with secretaries or librarians etc. Then zoom! suddenly heroines are ANYTHING….run construction companies, private detectives, computer hackers. It’s amazing to me. =)

    Finding just the right career for your character, meshing it in with their traits and allowing free time for romance can sometimes be tricky!

    Thanks for a great post – much appreciated!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 20, 2014, 7:07 pm
    • I know what you mean, Carrie. I find it really intriguing to read about diverse career choices in romances nowadays. It adds fun to the story and also gives a new shade to the character if we share her fear and struggle of managing her fledgling business or juggling job with a baby!
      It’s lovely being hosted by you, Carrie. Thank you 🙂

      Posted by Summerita | October 22, 2014, 4:47 am
  6. Thanks for a great post!

    The careers of my characters are often a stumbling block. I feel as if I need to know their jobs inside out, something that isn’t feasible unless I worked at a similar job OR unless I have a reliable source of information. A couple stories have skidded to a stop because I didn’t have enough information to accurately portray the hero and his place of work. There’s only so much research I can do online. I need to meet some FBI agents, big city police officers, etc.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 20, 2014, 9:32 pm
    • Hi Becke, that sounds like a tall order. I too am driven to write characters who have different professions from mine. have you tried searching in forums? Sometimes the discussions lead to revelation of interesting facts which really add to the story. For instance I wanted to know how someone reading in Italian would sound to a non Italian person and looked up in a discussion of people learning Italian which led to some nice points about how consonants are doubled and Rs are rolled in their pronunciation. That made my lines sound more convincing.
      Hope it helps! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

      Posted by Summerita | October 22, 2014, 4:58 am
  7. Great post, Summerita!

    A character’s occupation is one of those things I obsess about, but I’ve found that a job can, as you stated, help develop the character and also do double duty in creating obstacles or goals.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 21, 2014, 1:10 am
  8. This is a great post Summerita, bang on target with repsect to current times. The career one chooses for the protagonists lends plethora of colours to characterization and plot, making the stories a fantastic read these days. And it makes the settings interesting as well.

    Posted by Ruchi Singh | October 24, 2014, 12:09 pm
    • Very true, Ruchi. You’ve reminded me, in my currently released book, the office setting was a crucial backdrop, one I couldn’t compromise on and it formed a source of conflict in the story too.
      Thanks for sharing your views 🙂

      Posted by Summerita | October 24, 2014, 12:54 pm


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