There's no better way to learn the craft of writing than by reading good books. Through reading, I've had some of the best writers in the world of romance teach me how to put a story together, and each of my favorites taught me how to add the elements that make it stand out.
So here's my syllabus for a course in romance writing, covering a comprehensive assortment of skills through writers with special strengths.
- Voice: Janet Evanovich. There's a reason why the Stephanie Plum series became a bestseller. The screwball New Jersey bounty hunter is a fantastic character, but what really makes the novels work is the way Evanovich lets Stephanie's unique personality shine through her first-person storytelling. The books are funny and fast-moving, and show how a unique voice can captivate a reader. Start with One for the Money and read them all!
- Flawed but lovable characters: Kristan Higgins. Kristan's latest release, All I Ever Wanted, is one of my favorite romance novels ever. For one thing, the heroine's issues at the beginning of the book echo my own, and I identified so strongly with people-pleasing Callie that I read the story to find out what would happen to me. I also loved the way the author showed Callie's growth through her relationship with -- a rocking chair. That's right -- it's not always about a man!
- Emotional depth laced with humor: Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It's not easy to make love, trust, family secrets and heartbreak amusing, but SEP manages to perform the feat over and over. Her characters are unique and lovable, her dialogue sparkles, and her pacing makes her books impossible to put down. Natural Born Charmer is a near-perfect example of what a romance novel should be.
- Characters that change and grow: Terri Garey. When I first started writing, my heroines started out witty and spunky and fun, and ended up -- witty and spunky and fun. Garey's inimitable Goth girl heroine, Nicki Styx, taught me how to make a character grow in a meaningful way while still holding onto her unique personality traits. Dead Girls Are Easy is one of my favorite paranormals.
- Compelling secondary characters: Jodi Thomas. In the first volume of her small-town contemporary series, Welcome to Harmony, Jodi Thomas introduces a large cast of characters and proceeds to make each one a unique individual so real they stay with you long after the book is over. She even managed to make me fall in love with a middle-aged, slightly overweight funeral director!
That's just the start of my own personal School of Romance. I had so many other teachers it would be impossible to list them all, but these five helped lay a foundation for my ow writing and showed me what you can do with a cast of characters, an imagined world, and a love story.
Who are your favorite romance writers, and what have they taught you?