It's spring, and a new month, so perhaps you are thinking it is time you actually started on that romantic novel you always wanted to write. So here are a few thoughts that might help you to plan and plot your book.
For a romance and in fact for most books, characters are important, but you also need a good story to keep the readers turning the pages. There will need to be conflict along the way and the main characters have to go on an emotional journey – they should both have changed by the end of your story, but unless your characters are going to sit in one place for the whole book you will need to put in some action and events to take the story forward.
So remember the golden rule - Thou Shalt not Bore Thy Reader.
There needs to be some risk – ask yourself what is at stake here? Is it the happiness of the main characters, or maybe the well-being of their friends and/or family. Perhaps it's an adventure so there might be physical danger.
The main thing is the reader has to care, to believe that the risks are worth fighting for.
In a romance you have to generate sensual and emotional tension, strong attraction, with good reasons why your characters can't get together. Duty versus desire is a common theme in royal romances and the stakes here might be very high, perhaps even the fate of a country.
So here's a few things to help you plan out your storyline.
What if and Why – ask questions
- "what if my hero admits attraction, what if my heroine walks away, what if he misses the train, what if she decides not to go out?"
- "why won't he say he loves her, why is she walking away," etc
Take your characters out of their comfort zone.
- Make them struggle, readers love to see characters overcoming obstacles, the bigger the better.
- Maybe they are in an unfamiliar/alien setting. Think of a character like Heathcliffe, a wild, untamed spirit who is comfortable on the wild, untamed Yorkshire moors. Imagine how uncomfortable and ill at ease he might be in a "civilized" drawing room.
Spread out the excitement throughout the book.
- Someone once described writing a novel as bit like making a fruitcake. If you just drop the fruit in one place the mixture will be over-rich in one point and the rest will be pretty bland. Mix it up, stir in the fruit (the crises) so that the reader is kept entertained and intrigued to find out what happens next.
Have a tipping point
- Have one major crisis, one point where everything hangs in the balance – will they get together/save the world/save themselves. Build the tension and the story towards this point and then you can race towards the conclusion.
A satisfying resolution
- It doesn't have to be a happy ending, but it must be satisfying for the reader. Tie up loose ends, leave your reader with hope, not dissatisfaction.
These are only a few brief points and any one of them could be the subject for a workshop of a couple of hours or more, but maybe they just might help you to get started on that novel.
Melinda Hammond /Sarah Mallory
Sarah Mallory - Return of the Runaway. pub Apr 2016 by Harlequin