Since my theme this year is “The Journey of Book”, we will be making stops throughout the year to study different genres. You can’t write for a genre without understanding its elements and reader’s expectations for it. So I am reposting Penny Zeller’s guest blog about the 7 key elements of romance novels. It’s a great post to get you familiar with the tropes of this genre.
While romance is one of the most popular genres, it’s not necessarily the easiest to write. Given this genre’s complexity, how can we, as authors, be sure our romance novels keep our readers turning the pages? Here are seven must-haves for romance novels.
Good character description
As a visual person, it helps tremendously for me to have pictures of my main characters on hand before I begin writing a book. One of the best ways to do this is Pinterest boards. Create one for character inspiration you can refer back to for any book, as well as a dedicated individual board for each book you are writing.
When I was writing my first novel, I cut out the photo of my main male character and taped him to the edge of my computer monitor. When my husband, Lon, saw the picture that evening, our conversation went something like this:
Lon: “Who is that guy?”
Me: “Oh, that’s just Zach.”
Lon: “Zach? Do we know him?”
Me: “Well, you may not, but I do. He’s the main character in my book. A figment of my imagination.”
I still do this, although now my family is accustomed to seeing strange people taped all over my workspace. It helps to have your characters in front of you, whether taped to your monitor or a physical character board, or on a Pinterest board.
Great tip, Penny! Most of the time, I can’t write a character unless I can see them crystal clear in my imagination.
Attraction between characters
While it may be a while before they like each other, there does have to be a level of attraction. Make sure that attraction covers more than just appearance.
Make sure you have conflict in your romance novel. Keep the reader guessing and hoping the two main characters will someday have their happily ever after.
In my novel, Love in Disguise, Emilie and Thad form a relationship over regularly having lunch together. They find they have common interests, likes, and dislikes. Give your characters ways to build and form their relationship through spending time together. Give them commonalities and some areas of agreement that brought them together.
Strengths and weaknesses
One of the easiest ways I have found to give characters strengths and weaknesses is to interview them. Ask “What words would your closest friends use to describe you?” Chances are, your main characters will come up with mostly strengths, but a few weaknesses too. Are they determined? Creative? Organized? Flexible? Spontaneous? Energetic? Athletic? Nerdy? Flighty? A grudge holder? Easily bored? Risk-taker? Planner? Extroverted? Introverted?
Check to see what type of Myers Briggs personality your characters have and research that personality type. This helps develop their strengths and weaknesses even further.
Disclaimer here: I love watching clean romantic comedies and chick-flicks. As such, I do realize the main characters have to fall in love quickly to fit the hour-and-a-half movie allotment. However, in our novels, we need to be sure we are pacing the romance well. Give your characters time before they fall head-over-heels in love. Let them discover why they’re falling in love. While attraction (see above) is important at first, it’s not what remains important. Allow your characters to fall in love with someone’s personality–their dedication to the Lord, their integrity, kindness, witty sense of humor, and generosity.
Or alternatively in the area of pacing, don’t have them dislike each other from page one to page 301 of a 302-page book, suddenly, falling in love on that second-to-the-last page.
I think pacing is the hardest technique for a writer to learn. Great tip for keeping the romance real!
As authors, let’s give our readers a couple to root for by creating strong and relatable characters!
A lot of your tips will work for any genre, not just romance. Thank you, Penny!
For another perspective on the basic elements of writing a romance novel, click here.
For romance writing prompts, click here.
Penny Zeller is known for her heartfelt stories of faith and her passion to impact lives for Christ through fiction. While she has had a love for writing since childhood, she began her adult writing career penning articles for national and regional publications on a wide variety of topics. Today Penny is a multi-published author of several inspirational books. She is also a homeschool mom and a fitness instructor.
When Penny is not dreaming up new characters, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, camping, hiking, canoeing, reading, running, cycling, gardening, and playing volleyball.She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency and loves to hear from her readers at her website www.pennyzeller.com and her blog, random thoughts from a day in the life of a wife, mom, and author, at www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon Author Central, and MeWe.
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog!
You’re welcome! And thank you for inspiration! Your comment on creating qualities that attract the couple to each other has given me and idea for a blog post on that subject.
Good points. Although I don’t write the genre and rarely read it, I simply replaced romance with friendship (the BFF kind) and found I do most of the advice with my characters. But maybe it’s time to add some romance to some of those relationships 🤔. Food for thought. Thanks for another great article/post.