From Fairytales to Fiction
I was around the tender age of 15 when I started reading romance novels. My mother would read a book and if she liked it, she’d then give it to me. I’d always enjoyed reading but was outgrowing the middle grade books and the YA genre wasn’t big back then, at least I’d never heard of it. Not having much money, books weren’t a cost my mother would spend money on anyway, and she never had any time to take me to the library. So I read her cast a ways. Thus was my introduction into the wonderful world of romance.
Besides being the only books laying around to read, I quickly fell in love with the genre. Romance novels seem to get a bad rap more than likely because of the sex scenes. I’m sure the covers don’t help elevate the genre either. I mean who can take a book seriously when the covers depict handsome, muscular guys with no shirts on, ripping the dress off of a beautiful ladies? Because of the covers the genre actually is nicknamed bodice rippers. Yet these stories were magical in my teenage eyes.
As a child I always loved the fairytales and dreamed of finding my prince charming, or a knight on a white horse. I wanted to be the princess or even Rapunzel trapped in the tower, waiting for her hero to rescue her. I know, I know, that isn’t politically correct and it’s not a feminist view. Women today want to be strong and save themselves, not wait for man to rescue them, but I was only 15!! As a teenager reading romance novels transferred my childhood fantasies into adult ones. I was now reading about real women finding their true loves, not just princesses finding their princes. It gave me hope that someday even I could find a handsome man to marry and we’d live happily ever after.
Okay, I am a hopeless romantic and these novels feed that love, but there really is more to this genre. Fast forward thirty years, I’ve found my guy, albeit not a prince. 😉 I had my beautiful wedding, and we just celebrated our silver anniversary. Our two kids are now adults. I’ve lived my fairytale. And now I not only read romance novels but I write them. Why? Because I still love reading about two people falling in love and overcoming all obstacles to be together. The problems that face the hero & heroine is what draws me to a story. If books had plots like boy meets girl they fall love, get engaged, then get married, I’d stop reading. Yes, I know that is usually how it happens in real life but that is plain boring in a novel. Your characters have to have chaos to make it interesting. Parents pulling them apart, old flames coming back into their lives, conniving friends, dead spouses coming back to life. Sound too fantastical? Yeah, tyouhat is the point. It’s fiction, the more trouble you make your characters face the more rewarding it is in the end when they finally get to be together.
Character development is important in every genre but it is especially vital in romance novels. Romances unfold at a slower pace, allowing a lot of room to develop the characters. When making up your characters try to give them a few flaws, if they are too perfect the readers won’t buy it. Give them genuine emotions so the readers can feel and understand why the hero/heroine are doing something. Has the hero done something that the heroine needs to forgive? Make sure you don’t just have her forgive him right away. Draw it out. Make her emotions go back and forth between forgiving and being angry. If you want the reader to believe that she is willing to forgive a lie, betrayal or infidelity, making her actions & emotions realistic help the reader identify. In real life no one says okay I forgive you and that’s it. The road to forgiveness is long and hard.
The more emotional content you add the more invested the reader will be. Feelings fluctuate in real life but they need to be exaggerated in books and movies. A hero/heroine can’t just love. They need to love with their whole heart, their entire being and to the depths of their soul. Simply not liking the main character isn’t enough for the villain. They must hate that person so deeply that anger oozes out of every pore. The circumstances can be real or imagined but the feeling need to be genuine. If you can make the reader understand why the villain hates that person or why the hero/heroine love each other then you will keep the reader’s attention.
Creating Obstacles to Overcome
You also need to create several different obstacles to overcome. One of the worst things I’ve noticed is when a writer tries to use one obstacle to sustain a full length novel. The plot feels too drawn out and the obstacle starts to wane half way through the book. If something else doesn’t happen the reader will lose interest. Obstacles can also add twists to your story. I know that mysteries are known for plot twists but romance novels can be enhanced by good twists as well. The storylines I remember most are the ones where something happened that I didn’t expect for example, in Teresa Medeiors’s Until Dawn. You are half way through the novel when you find out that the heroine is the hero’s ex-girlfriend. While the hero was blind he had no idea that the girl taking care of him now, is the same girl who left him after the accident that blinded him. Once he regained his eyesight they had a lot of issues to work through. I still remember this plot twist years later. It was something different and very unexpected.
The more hot water your characters face the more interesting the novel will be. So what will your characters face today?