cj Sez: The following format for a romance novel is a composite of information I’ve gleaned from various sources over the years.
A likable heroine
This character can’t be weak or dumb and must be actively involved in the plot. There will, and should, be some moments of angst in the story, but they should be fleeting. You want your reader to root for the lady rather than think she deserves what she gets because she’s too dumb to win.
A likable hero
This guy should be strong (even if only emotionally), irresistible, smart, and actively involved. He does not have to be stereotypically handsome to be appealing. A well-developed personality can carry him into your readers’ hearts.
What’s keeping your heroine/hero apart? What threatens her/him? Making these decisions early on helps keep the plot on track.
A believable plot
A twist on an oldie will work. According to some studies, there are only six (or maybe eight) possible plots in all of literature. Ergo every “new” story might today be called a trope. Example: Cinderella can be construed as a variation of the Biblical story of Esther, who was an orphan being raised by her uncle and who so charmed a king that he crowned her his queen. Julie Roberts was Cinderella in “Pretty Woman” as was Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl.” Star-crossed lovers, ala Romeo and Juliet, abound.
It’s your unique “voice” that’s important in relating your take (spin, twist) on the familiar story.
A Happily Ever After ending
A HEA is an absolute necessity for a romance novel. Love stories do not have to end happily, but romance stories, in all its subgenres, must have a happily ever after or at least the promise of one.
Three of those points are romance-writing specific, but it’s my belief that at least two of them—emotional tension and believable plot—can be broadly applied to all genres. Even a memoir needs a bit of tension and a plot to make it an appealing read. But you can help me out here. As a reader and a writer, can you think of a genre that wouldn’t use those two points.
By the way, there is no “magic formula” for writing a novel in any genre, but with a lot of reading, analysis, and/or luck you might find a format to follow, kind of like Anne Lamott’s ABCDE formula for short stories (Action, Background, Conflict, Development, and Ending).
“The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.” —E. L. Doctorow
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That’s it for today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Stay safe, hear?
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