I love to write romance. It’s what I love and I think I’ll write in this genre forever. I think I love it so much because the possibilities for stories are endless. Romance can be told in so many different ways, from so many viewpoints, that it’s almost impossible to run out of ideas. Love is such a complex emotion and can mean so many things to different people. It’s arguably one of life’s great mysteries as it can take such a wide variety of forms.
Why am I going on about this, you ask?
Well today, I reached a very exciting point in The Dream List. I’m currently on the chapter where Evie meets Jack Blue, a mysterious and sexy musician who later becomes her romantic interest. This presents me with yet another huge writing challenge- creating a believable romance that the reader will buy into. I think this element of writing is probably one of the most difficult because romance is the easiest thing to get wrong in a book. While some may view romance as an “easy” genre to write, I couldn’t disagree more. Creating two believable characters that readers will root for and bringing them together in a realistic but endearing way is probably one of the most difficult things a writer can do (apart from writing a crime novel; keeping track of evidence/suspects must be impossible!)
So how do you do it? As with everything in writing, there’s no winning formula. Believe me, if I found one I’d snap it up immediately! You could always fall back on the classic Write What You Know. If you’ve had a Gone With The Wind-esque romance (lucky you if you have!) then you can use that as a jumping-off point for ideas of situations to put your characters in. Don’t necessarily make every situation a carbon copy of your own but it’s undeniably a good place to start.
Another good point to remember is to be true to your characters. If you’ve written a character who doesn’t go in for the typical hearts-and-flowers stuff, then don’t make her swoon when the lead male character sends her 12 dozen roses and 15 teddy bears (this is an extreme example but illustrates my point). The story I was working on before The Dream List was the first book of a trilogy and was littered with inconsistencies. One minute she didn’t want a relationship then she did. First she didn’t fancy the lead male character then she was falling for him! My point is, keep your characters consistent and yes, by all means, have their tastes change as the book progresses but do it in a way that works. You could have your lead female be totally anti-romance at the beginning but a hopeless romantic at the end (within reason!)
When writing a romance, I think the most important part is the first meeting (or meet-cute as the movies say). I’ve got mine all planned and ready to go but knowing me, it’ll change by the time I come to write it. By all means, use movies or your favourite romantic novels for inspiration but I’d say the best ideas will come from your own imagination. They’re your characters after all, no-one knows them better than you. Try to avoid cliches or commonly used situations like girl drops something, guy picks it up then their eyes meet and they fall in love. When the time comes to submit your work to an agency or publisher (or put it out in the marketplace if you’re self-publishing), you want to have something unique about your romance that makes it stand out from all the others in the genre. It’s all very well to use tried-and-tested situations but where’s the fun in that?! Have some fun and think of the most random way for your two characters to meet!
My pet hate in novels or in movies is cheesy chat-up lines. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Unless you want your male character to be a total sleazeball, or if it’s a secondary male character before your female meets the Real Love Interest, keep the dialogue fresh and original. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cringed over God-awful dialogue between two otherwise likeable characters. If you want the reader to believe there’s a spark, make the conversations witty and sparkly but don’t forget to include a flirty undertone. I’m bad for getting so caught up in what I’m writing that I produce some shocking dialogue that gets deleted as quickly as it was written! I wish I’d kept some examples to include in the post but they’ve mysteriously vanished…!
Ultimately, how you write the romance in your story is up to you. It’s your story, you’ll know what works best. Different plots require different approaches to a growing relationship. To make it believable, the characters’ actions have to at least be fairly consistent with how the character is and you have to make the reader buy into it and root for them getting together at the end. No mean feat even for the most talented writer! As I embark on the romantic element in my story, I’ll be making sure that Evie doesn’t undergo a major personality transplant and that the right amount of chemistry is built up between her and Jack. Wish me luck!