First of all, are there really rules of romance?
Let me tell you that from personal experience writing it for the last few years, hell to the yes. And I learned the hard way when I didn’t bring my characters together at the end because well, apparently I’m a dark kinda girl who likes throwing my heroine into chaos and leaving her guy heart broken. Oops.
So, yeah, even if you absolutely despise plotting and prefer to fly by the seat of your pants, you’ll still want to understand the foundation of a romance story so that you can build the framework and hit all of the important elements that readers expect.
(And avoid pissing people off like I did.)
Readers are savvy when it comes to their favourite genre, so if you’re going to write for them, you better be too.
So, what do romance readers want from us?
A romance novel should include four crucial points:
1: A hero and heroine meet and fall in love. (obv.)
2: Conflict arises that threatens to tear them apart.
3: Their love continues to grow, despite the chaos. Their love is special, unique, one of a kind. In paranormal romance, they’re usually “fated mates”.
4: They reach a resolution in which the problem is eliminated and they are able to be together.
This is a real basic outline of a romance story. What the conflict is, how it’s resolvedm and how their past hardships may influence those actions is what makes your story different from others, but a romance story is fundamentally the same: boy meets girl, they run into trouble, they solve that problem, they come together.
If you fail to bring your couple together by the end of your story, you’ll lose readers. Romance readers want either a happy ever after, or a happy for now.
Happily Ever After (HEA) versus Happy For Now (HFN)
Your readers want to close your book with love and hope resonating in their hearts. They want to feel good about the story and root for your hero and heroine’s happy future.
Therefore every romance story should end with a happy ever after unless you’re writing a romance series. In that case, you could end the first book in the series with a happy for now and complete their journey towards total unity in the final book.
Feeding Emotion Into your Story
There’s more to a great romance story than the happily-ever-after. You want to take your readers on an emotionally charged journey. You want to write heroes and heroines that we can all relate to, root for, and wish we knew in person.
Don’t be afraid to write about broken heroes with a dark past. The bad boy romance craze exists for a reason. Romance readers often love connecting with a hero that isn’t perfect.
We’ve all been through stuff in life, right? So, make your hero and heroine relatable. They’ve struggled, they’ve had their share of up’s and down’s, and suffered through some darker days. They’ve second guessed themselves, they don’t always feel good enough and they make mistakes.
And by the end of your story they’ve grown from it, healed emotionally and are ready to share that love with one another, even it doesn’t come easy.
Kinda like real love, ya know?
When writing your hero, don’t worry about hitting every sexy element imaginable either. Tropes like billionaires, MC romance and total alpha male heroes are way overdone. Instead, write the guy you’d love to meet (or perhaps the one you have).
Whatever you daydream and fantasize about is likely shared with many of your romance readers. And even if he’s a total badass he needs to have a heart and be vulnerable at times.
And don’t leave your heroine out because you’ve fallen in love with your hero and she’s kinda the side-kick. Your readers should fall in love with both your hero and heroine.
Write strong heroines that you’d love to call friends in your life. Perhaps she’ll share a quiet inner-strength, or she’ll be a total firecracker who is strong-willed and stubborn with matters of the heart. And then give her a hero worthy of her love.
Classifying Your Story
When romance is not the focus of the story but rather a plot device, it’s not technically a romance. A lesson I also learned in 2011 when my first romance bombed because I misclassified it (it was actually a mystery with a bit of slow burn).
In romance, readers always want a happy ending. It can either be a happily ever after (HEA) or a happy for now (HFN), but it must leave readers feeling inspired and hopeful.
In the end, romance is all about heart and soul. It’s that flutter in your belly when you envision your beloved hero and heroine coming together and working towards a brighter future.
Now, go write that sexy story and then send me a link so I can buy your book. 😉