My local branch of the California Writers' Club (an organization founded in 1909 by Jack London) has asked me to speak at their February meeting. My topic? Why, writing a romance novel, of course!
So as I was working on my presentation, I knew I'd need to distill a lot of information into a short timeframe for this group who write non-fiction and fiction in all lengths and genres. They want me to give them guidelines or a recipe for what to include in a romance novel. So here is my list of ingredients, things a romance novel needs:
- Three dimensional characters with believable goals and motivations. Not everyone has to be beautiful/handsome (in spite of what most covers show). Many romance novels have a less-than-perfect hero or heroine with any number of “undesirable” traits, and this can actually be a good thing. The reader needs to identify with the characters, feel sympathy/empathy for them, which might not be so easy for someone who appears perfect.
- Conflict, again believable within the context of the story. Conflict can be internal, external or a combination of both. But the stakes need to be high and they need to escalate as the story progresses.
- Accuracy. This doesn’t just apply to historical romances. It is crucial to get facts correct. For example, my heroine in The Wild Sight doesn’t need to worry about running into a snake in the fens because there are no snakes in
, or alligators, or wolves. Even in a fantasy setting, things that happen must make sense within the context of the world created. So if there’s been no previous mention of flying horses, one better not swoop in and save our hero and heroine during the black moment! Ireland
- Compelling or unique plot or storyline. ‘Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back’ is not going to cut it. This is where our editor's favorite subject, "the hook" comes into play. If the boy or girl is a shape-shifter, a psychic, or an alien, lots of unique storylines present themselves. Just about anything goes in current romance novels, so don't suppress your imagination!
- Love, hope, and the promise of happiness. Don’t we all need and want those?
Do you have any 'needs' to add to my list? What are some of your favorite ingredients in romance novels? And don't forget to check back here on Saturday when we announce the WINNERS of our pitch contest!
EXCITING P.S. I just found out that my debut The Wild Sight is the 3rd place winner in the Houston RWA "Judge A Book By Its Cover" contest! THANK YOU, Sourcebooks Art Department for creating my beautiful cover!