Romance novels have been my favorite genre to read since I was a teenager. Naturally, I write romance novels, too! But I went overboard on the advice when I started writing, and my books suffered for it. Here are three "rules" to be cautious about when writing romance.
Have you ever started reading a romance novel and been turned off at the hostility between the hero and heroine? I know. It's confusing. You've bought the book with the hopes of reading a love story only to be flung into a war--one you don't want to continue reading. What's romantic about that?
Romance novels need a compelling romantic conflict--a reason the hero and heroine can't fall in love and live happily-ever-after. The book would be B.O.R.I.N.G without it. But writers can go overboard on the conflict, creating unlikable characters whom the reader can't root for or extreme circumstances no couple can realistically recover from.
If you have a hero and heroine at war with each other, show us the backstory. Let us in on why they are at each other's throats. Don't make them mean just to make a point. And give them downtime where they call a truce and begin to understand each other. Whatever your romantic conflict, make sure neither character is coming across as petty, immature, or spiteful. I can't fall in love with those traits, and most other romance readers can't either.
2. Character Growth
Another rule romance writers can take to the extreme is character growth. Character growth doesn't mean giving characters terrible personality traits to overcome. Readers will toss the book or Kindle across the room rather than continue reading about a spoiled, jerky, or mean main character. Character growth should be about making a character stronger in some way.
Romance is character-based. We want to feel what the heroine is feeling. We need to understand why the hero reacts the way he does. And more than anything, we want to experience the rush of falling in love.
Mainstream fiction rules talk about action, pacing, and dialogue, and they typically say to minimize introspection. Obviously, all writers need to strike a balance. But romance writers shouldn't skimp on introspection or deep point-of-view. Remember, romance readers crave an emotional read. If your characters are running from one crisis to another without any time to reflect, the romance gets lost.
What is your favorite genre to read? Any pet-peeves when reading it?