Whether you are a bibliophile or not, you must have read a romantic novel at least once and dreamt of having a similar love story, and don’t tell me that you have never developed a crush on a fictional character. Romance novels have that power. They contain drama, intimacy and love which seems so much less complicated on the pages than in real life. However, reading a great romance novel and writing one is different, but not difficult. Here are a few tips which you can use and make your readers fall for your story.
Find a Sub-genre
The very first thing you might want to do is choosing a sub-genre, that is whether you want to base your novel on contemporary times or make it historical fiction. If you are inclined towards contemporary times then you can base your story accordingly, but if you love a certain era or period then you might want to choose historical fiction. Then again, if you want to mix reality and supernatural then pick paranormal romance. Here are a few sub-genres:
Contemporary - Based on the time a story is written.
Historical: Based in a particular period, say the 18th century.
Paranormal: Supernatural elements are thrown into the mix.
Religious: As the genre states, it has a religious theme.
Erotica: More on the steamier side.
Do your Research
Once you have chosen your niche, do your research. Read some books on the sub-genre that you have chosen to write. This will give you an idea as to how you should proceed. You can read articles too. But remember, the creation is yours, so don’t be too influenced by them. Not only that, research on the setting because it will also play an important role as mentioned below.
Set the Stage
The setting needs to be immersive. When you have chosen your sub-genre, you might want to be specific with the place where you will set your story. Specificity allows the readers to have visual images in their minds. Usually, popular settings are small towns, bustling cities, offices and college campuses. Make your characters’ lives revolve around the places so that you can make their paths cross several times.
If you are setting in a different time period then you need to make sure everything else is in sync, like their attires, way of speaking and behaving. Name the towns and villages appropriately if you are making them up.
Nevertheless, if you want to go offbeat, then who is stopping you? The world of imagination is wide and beautiful. The only thing that you have to make sure of is to be as descriptive as possible, as in you need to paint a picture of the place through your words.
Create Compelling Protagonists
In order for your readers to be drawn to the story, you need to create compelling protagonists. Readers love characters with troubled pasts or painful backstories. In other words, make them flawed. When creating their characters, don’t always be careful about looks, but also be mindful of how they behave according to their age.
While looks are important, their attitude is too. For instance, male leads (applicable for MxM as well) can be a person who has had it rough in his life, might be arrogant due to this and also vulnerable, but in front of his lover. He can also be someone as good-natured as Raymond from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Or they can be a person who doesn’t have a rough family atmosphere but can be going through their own troubles and discovering themselves as the story progresses like Aristotle from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
If you are making an FxF novel then you can also make one of them like this— arrogant, or a tough nut to crack.
The other main character (male or female) can be written as a person with a dark past or a troubled life, but they can be portrayed as someone with the opposite attitude towards life, like they can be brave and courageous, happy with what they have, friendly and easygoing even though they have a lot on their plates. You can also make them mild-mannered or someone who is meek and is easily scared. These are just some examples, you are free to create your own mix.
Chemistry (not the subject)
Now one of the main ingredients in a romance novel is the chemistry between the protagonists. It can be sizzling or a slow burn. You need to make the readers root for them, grinning at the way they speak to each other, or curse any of the two for being an oblivious idiot, or shake their heads when they see one character indirectly hurting the other.
The dynamic matters. Keep in mind the way they behave as well, as in, a couple from historical fiction will behave differently from a couple from contemporary times. Similarly, a teenage love story will showcase a different form of the dynamic between the couple while a love story between a couple in their 40s will have a different approach.
This has a different fanbase. You will often find second leads in a romance novel. They can either be harbouring unrequited feelings for one of the protagonists and end up with another, or they can be one of the protagonist’s best friend, or sister or brother.
Most often, readers sympathise with them or sometimes they can’t tolerate the character. But having a secondary couple in the novel not only adds a spicy sub-plot but also paves the way for a sequel.
Tried and Tested Tropes
Don’t be scared to turn to the tried and tested tropes such as enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, strangers to lovers, contract marriage, jock and nobody, second chances amongst others. If you have read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, then you will see the trope of rags to riches in there. The Crazy Rich Asians has a similar trope too.
All these tropes can be used and you can always add your own uniqueness to it. You are welcome to divert from these tropes and create a different one that might intrigue the readers nonetheless.
You can write R-rated intimate scenes or use the technique of “fading out” the scene just when things get steamier or just imply if you want to keep it PG-13. However, try not to make it cringy. If you are not comfortable writing such scenes then you can use that ‘fading out’ technique. If you are okay with it then craft the scene well. Keep it real but beautiful at the same time.
Happily Ever After
Let’s face it, reading is a form of escape. Therefore, readers would love to see their favourite couples getting their happy endings. Yes, there are beautiful tragic romance novels like A Walk to Remember and The Fault in Our Stars, but most people like the trope ‘angst with happy ending’.
And that’s the end of the lesson in writing romance 101 dear readers/writers. Hope you create a beautiful romantic tale and wow your readers.
For tips on writing horror, click here!
If imaginary worlds and quests are more your speed, click here!