Everyone has their own style of storytelling, believe me I know! I’m a big rebel when it comes to writing in this genre! I don’t believe in following the crowd, I hate it. I use the present tense and first person often. While a majority of this genre is third person and past tense. That said, I have been pulled to write this short 101 to helpfully help other aspiring romance writers, and anyone for that matter, as this simple advice can be applied across the board in all genres really. Also, I’ve not written a writing 101 for ages!!
I’ve been compelled to write this as, one I read a hella-lot of romance, two I’ve read a hella-lot of romance that’s sadly unrealistic in some ways. This genre has this ‘reputation’ and I feel us romance writers should do what we can, to fight that battle. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert. But I do claim to be a kick-ass romance author that I will blow my own trumpet! And I will admit, that I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea you either feel me, or you don’t as a reader. But I’ll always be feelin’ myself LOLZ. That’s because I have mastered ‘Kim’s style’ like all writers, I’ve got to a place where I feel happy with what my pen does, and at ease if others don’t like it. Not everyone will like what you write, but if you write for yourself first, and use your own style whatever comes after is just a bonus, praise of critique. Because, you write for you first.
I’m now on novel number eleven, so from this experience here’s my simple advice and take from a humble POV, that I’d give to craft engaging and believable romance. So we can fight the whining readers who find it ‘unrealistic’.
As a big reader I love it when characters are so believable, realistic and engaging to read. When they’re not, it can be a turn off. Not everyone is going to like your characters, and so what if they don’t they’re may be the wrong reader. The point is, when it comes to characters who are they? This is my starting point before I think about my plot. This is because, if you’re going to write a realistic romance ( or any genre story), the characters will be what drives the plot. Not and never the other way around. Remember this, think of your characters like this as the plot drivers.
Many may start with the plot and fill out characters, cool okay if that’s what’s best for you. But you may find that you”re so busy spinning your plot, your characters do unrealistic things, and fall flat. I recently read two books one romance and one other, and this was my experience as a reader. If you know your characters well, you can portray them better. They will react, think, move, talk, walk more vividly in your plot if you can focus on them first. This helps massively with character development also.
Ever read a book and the characters are boring, or they are from a certain part of the world yet they speak perfect English in their conversations? Hmmm, chances are the writer has skipped this part. Hence they speak perfect English, or just flat and not real. For example, when they are from the depths of south London for example and may have a different accent.
When I wrote a particular story for The Suspenseful Collection #2- Blurred Lines, I placed myself and Didi in the story lol. So when I portrayed myself in speech, I did not say, ‘oh I’m so sorry about that, here let me help you.’ I said, ‘oh no, I’m sorry, ‘er lemmie help ya’. That’s because I’m from London, and a certain part and I would not in casual speaking speak like the Queen herself! Didi and I also had a Russian female in The Suspenseful Collection Volume #1 and of course she said, ‘ello, yass ‘ow can help you.’ rather than ‘Hello, yes how I can I help you.’ The point is, little things like this matter, as well as who they are as people. You may think, yeah Kim this is basic stuff. Trust, you’d be surprised how many can easily forget, during character development.
This brings me to character development and thinking about it a little deeper, if you start by really thinking about who your characters are, outside of things like age, race etc. But who they are as people, where they have been, how they react to things and most importantly their flaws as people. You will have more rounded, believable and developed characters that drive your plot. Rather than a plot with flat characters, doing very unrealistic things.
Flaws and Growth…
Okay so we all love a romance ( or any genre book really) where the characters are not only real, but we as readers experience and see their growth. Don’t forget this, once you know who your characters are as people, what flaws do they have? And these flaws should help drive the plot and show how they grow from it…. why? As it shows growth of each character, develops story and adds to reality! People have life experiences and we all grow from them, love and romance are no exception to the rule. If anything love and romance really do allow us all to grow in some shape or form. So, give your characters a flaw or two, then make sure in the plot you show somehow that they have overcome it, or made steps to over come it, changed or grown from it. This could be so subtle in your writing, it does not have to be over the top, but if you can show it well it should make good believable reading. It makes the characters real, the situations real, and the best bit allows readers to experience the plot better.
Plot, Story-line and Storytelling…
Okay y’all like I said, I’ve read a hella-lot of books, especially romance and I feel a plot needs to be very realistic in as many books, if not all as possible. End of story, period and full fucking stop!! This genre has such a reputation for delivering ‘unrealistic stories’ and I hate it, and I will defend my genre I love to read and write until the cows come home! But, as a reader, I gotta say… yeah there’s some truth. Don’t get caught up in trying to spin the perfect ‘fairy tale’ that things seem unreal. Ask yourself…
1.Would this really happen?
2.Could this even be possible?
3. And would my CHARACTER react like this, or how would they react and why?? What would my characters do in the situations I have placed them?
Where’s the challenges?…
Now if you, one know your characters, two they have realistic flaws, they should not be doing unrealistic stuff…right? Good glad we agree.
But, how do we keep it realistic, in my personal and humble opinion as a romance author, it’s down to the challenges we give them. By this I mean, if there’s no challenge and everything just fits into place we all know love and life does not roll like that! So it can come across as unrealistic, there needs to be some kind of ‘challenge’ and I use the word loosely to mean some kinda ‘debate’, ‘back and forth’ ‘questions’ or even just a good ‘ol dose of drama to keep the plot realistic. Don’t go too mad ( unless it’s like romantic suspense), but for good, clean, sweet romance a little challenge or dilemma where a decision or choices need to be made are key. And for romantic suspense, ha! Well, bring the heat with challenges!! 🙂 But keep them realistic to the characters, their environment and where they are at in life no matter what kind of romance you’re writing.
My best advice is, place your plot outline in the real world, in the time frame your story is set. So if it’s the present day would what you’ve outlined…
1. Have a chance of happening? Is this a realistic challenge to the character, time-frame and who they are?
3. Could it be believable? What is a realistic challenge for this couple to either be together, come together, or hold them back for some reason. Where is the push and pull before they can be happy?
4. Does it go inline with the challenges, flaws, and issues you’ve given the characters and the overall plot? Does it work?
5. Is there an actual challenge here worth telling? Is there more than sex in your plot? Does it develop into an actual story involving the characters?
All right y’all now, I believe when or if there’s an issue with pace, it might be because of one of two things.
- There’s no fucking story at all to tell or is being told! And really pages are just being filled with words- the story does not move!
- The story does not have ‘peaks’ to keep the reader engaged. So, the pace seems like this ———————————————- all on one level and not really moving.
If you’ve really looked at your story line, plot or the outline whatever you call it, you should be able to see if there is a story really, and eliminate point one. If so, now where are the areas of ‘peak’ ‘heat’ tension’ whatever you want to call it. Make them clear, for you and the reader. Then decide how you will build up to these peaks. By this I mean what’s your approach to bringing the readers to these peaks, is it a sub-plot, surprise, mystery, a twist, or are you just ensuring that the story is told at a good pace and not dragged out.
You don’t have to spin mystery, surprise, or suspense into a romance, it could just be a nice sweet story ( something I’m not great at writing lol), or a contemporary romance. The point is, as you write your actual story keep up that damn pace! End as many chapters as you can with something interesting for the reader, and for the love of God keep moving! Without skimming or rushing, just make sure your pace is even.
- Middle/climax etc.
- level off/ OMG what will they do??/tension.
This is the most simple way I can put it with pace. I would avoid leaving all the juicy stuff until the later part of your story, readers may fall off, lose interest or just feel that ‘the pace is slow’. Keep them interested. As a side note, I mentioned reality as a big thing. So if you leave all the juicy stuff to the end, is this realistic to how life would go, in the situations you’ve placed your characters?
Think about it. Do life and love just fit into place? Nope, think not. Especially if you have a plot with some drama, if your characters just roll with it is that really believable??? Adjust reaction if you can to fit the pace.
Ya know lots of readers may dislike this, I kinda do as a reader as long as it’s believable. That’s the deal breaker. If you like to write insta-romance- do your thang! I like to read it and have written it where characters connect fast. Remember what I said about pace…. That said, if you serve up some insta-love have you shown a reason ‘why they can’t get enough of each other?’ Give them some kind of connection. There is no use allowing your characters to say, ‘I love you’ ( a lot), when you can’t even see why they would love each other. It sucks, it’s unrealistic and well, where’s the connection more to the point? How or why have they fallen for each other, even if it was pretty soon.
Now connection could be simple things, common interests, both want the same things in life, at the same point in life, etc. People connect when there is a connection no matter how small, we all know and have experienced this. Establish the connection….and keep it real! Show the reader why there is a believable chance these people would fall in love, even if it’s soon.
I read a book recently and I could not see why the author’s characters had a connection, and that placed doubt in my mind about the story, reality, and why these two people were in love. But they said ‘ I love you’ a hella-lot though *rolls eyes*.
In my humble view again, if they fall fast or not, show them falling, show the change of heart! Don’t forget this, don’t write a car crash of love and not show the change of heart, or the development of feelings in your story. Even in a very subtle way as word count can be limited at times. If you do show this, It will…help it to seem realistic! That’s the name of the game.
How Much Sex, is Too Much Sex?…
Well, this is a hard balance to strike, but in my honest view as a reader yes, there is such thing as too much sex WHEN and only WHEN the rest of the plot is not developed enough. Simple.
You decide on how much or little sex you want, it’s not for anyone to say…but just remember this can not be the be all, and end all of how you bring your story alive. Consider carefully where you place it, why and what it adds to your overall development of the actual story. Don’t just scatter it around to fill pages, and hope that a steamy story will hold your reader, it won’t and probably can’t when there is nothing else going on. *Shrugs shoulders* I’m just being honest as a reader, and that’s my view as a writer too.
So off the top of my head these are a few tips! I will come back and keep adding to this post, if and when I feel the need. I wish every romance writer the best of luck! Let’s fight that damn reputation we have for the genre, and pen some page-turning and realistic stories! *High five*