Monday, May 5, 2008

On Writing Romance--Genre Toolbox

By Julie Wright

On Writing Romance

Genre Toolbox

Ah love, what we do without it? Some people criticise the romance writers of the world, but they are fools to do so. Romance represents fifty percent of the fiction market. All the other genres combined make up the other fifty percent. Here's a few tips to throw in your toolbox and grab your share of the fifty percent.

• Internal Conflict-- A lot of people deeply believe that the, "You say tomayto and I say tomahto" conflict is enough for riveting romantic conflict. I say, "Yawn." There needs to be a lot more than a few little differences in personality to make me believe your characters have real internal conflict with one another. Maybe it is a religious difference, or a political difference of opinion. Maybe the internal conflict comes from knowing they are perfect for each other, but he's her best friend's fiance. Something that cause an internal obstacle to the hero and heroine getting together is absolutely necessary.

• External conflict-- A great romance always incorporates both internal and external conflict. External conflict could consist of people pulling our lovers apart, a nefarious competitor for the main character's affections usually works here. it could be the romeo and Juliet scenario of family pulling them apart. Maybe the hero got drafted to war, Maybe the heroine got an all ride scholarship to the university of her dreams and has to make a choice. Whatever your conflict, you need to make sure it remains continually an obstacle until the end. No one wants to read about a couple who get together in chapter one and have nothing to overcome.

• Sexual tension— No matter what it sounds like here, I am not talking about sex as in a roll in the hay. I'm talking about the sparks that fly from pure chemistry . . . Ever wonder why Twilight is such a hit? It's all about the sexual tension. It's all about the restraint of actual sex. You can have "steamy" without one bedroom scene and it all comes from the way the characters interact together. Don't believe me? Go read Twilight. A finger caressing a jawbone and hot kisses on the back of the neck can go a long long way for a woman reading a romance.

• Masculine but sensitive-- Most romance readers want a man who acts like a man, and I am not talking about the gas-passing sort of man, but the kind who will stand up for their woman and who will stand up TO their woman. They want a man who remembers the little details without having to be asked, the kind of man who knows what her favorite flower is and what color her eyes are after she's had a good cry. They don't want their men to be sissies, but they don't want them to be controlling wife beaters either. It's a tightrope walk to find a male character that will make your reader write to you to ask, "Where can I find a man like that?"

• Overcoming-- In order for the romance to be successful, the hero and heroine have to overcome their obstacles one at a time, bit by bit which draws them closer and closer together. They HAVE to overcome ALL the obstacles (except the tomayto and tomahto concept . . . it's good for people to keep some differences)

• Climax-- This is the moment of truth where they realize they are committed to each other. Commitment is more than gazing into each other's eyes and saying the pretty words, "I love you." There has to be actual commitment to the relationship for the reader to have faith that the relationship will last beyond, "The End."

Don't forget the importance of sub genre. There is romantic fantasy, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, and pretty much romantic anything else you can think of. I am one of those who is naive enough to believe love works, and that is why love sells so well. Everyone wants love. Everyone needs love and everyone wants to have someone to give their own love to. Love rocks.

Meet me back here next week for the young adult toolbox.


Annette Lyon said...

Great summary. I heard the hero/heroine conflict put once as two people who are totally different and could never get together . . . but they get over the huge difference and somehow get together.

Kimberly said...

Brilliant post, Jules. I learned a lot that will come in handy.

Rebecca Talley said...

Maybe I should have you write my LDS romance for me?

Great advice. Thanks :)

Anna Maria Junus said...

I don't know why people look down on romance. Romance is why we exist. It keeps civilization going.

All great stories have romance in them. Even those action adventure movies.

tjhirst said...

Your description of sexual tension is great. That's really how it is, isn't it? (I'm reminded of that goofy sitcom, "Who's the Boss) Writing it the real way is the trick.

Heather B. Moore said...

LIFE is a romance. So if you want to write about life, you've got to have romance too :)

Tamra Norton said...

Your post reminded me of Pride and Prejudice. I recently bought it on DVD--the Colin (Yummy) Firth one--and I think every one of these issues is part of this incredible story.

Crystal Liechty said...

Spot on, Jules! I was thinking of some of my favorite romances as I was reading it and they all did everything you said. I just did a blog on my romantic comedy pet peeves for a look at the other side of the issue.