We all want to be the next famous author of a romance novel, much like Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, Chetan Bhagat, Durojoy Dutta, Nikita Singh. We would like to have our books flying off the bookshelves, bask in an ever-increasing bank balance and experience growing popularity as an author. Well, the good news is that it’s possible to fulfil this dream if you invest time in developing writing skills and planning your novel.
In this article, we will learn how to churn out a romance novel that engages your readers.
Choose a sub-genre for your romance novel:
While ‘romance’ can be your primary genre, there are many sub-genres. The first step is to decide on the sub-genre of your story. There are endless storylines available for you to choose from. Some of them are:
- Historical Romance: A story set in a historical period, approximately before the 1950s will come under historical romance. Create dialogues and settings as per the norms during the era you have chosen. For example, in the year 1950, one would not expect televisions or laptops or mobile phones. Therefore everything, the background, the characters, their dress and speech should be set accordingly.
A popular historical romance novel is Pride and Prejudice, featuring the opinionated Elizabeth, one of five Bennet sisters, who clashes with the proud and aristocratic Mr Darcy.
- Contemporary Romance: Contemporary romances exhibit current fashions, giving your story a more modern approach. Some contemporary romance topics include love in college/universities, at the workplace, at a hospital or at a startup company, LGBTQ stories, etc.
Nikita Singh, a writer in the romance genre, wrote ‘Every Time it rains’ set in modern times. The protagonist Laila runs a bakery and meets a man with whom she falls hopelessly in love.
- Paranormal Romance: As per the Goodreads definition, Paranormal romance focuses on romance and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending themes from the genres of urban fantasy, traditional fantasy, science fiction, or horror.
A well-known paranormal romance novel is Twilight. It is a vampire based romance novel where Isabella is endangered after falling in love with Edward Cullen, a 103-year-old vampire frozen in his 17-year-old body.
Create a Setting for your romance book:
Once you have your basics of writing a book mapped out, it is time to consider the right setting.
Along with dynamic characters, the story needs to have a proper setting. The reason is that the way your character acts will also depend on your setting.
- Your characters will continually interact with the environment.
In the novel, ‘The Love Detective’, the author Alexandra Potter uses the Taj Mahal as the location. What could be a more romantic setting than the Taj Mahal? The protagonist in her book is swept into a magical mystery tour, in search of love.
In “ How to fall in love” by Cecelia Ahern, Christine talks Adam out of jumping off the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin. She has two weeks to make him fall in love with his own life. Dublin has a special kind of romantic magic in its air and Cecelia brings that out beautifully.
2. World building should be done throughout the novel and not only in one place.
For example, David Mitchell’s protagonist Eiji Miyake, in his novel Number 9 dream, comes to Tokyo to search for his father. Here, he describes the view from a local cafe and the broader Tokyo cityscape:
‘Tokyo is so up close you cannot always see it. No distances. Everything is over your head – dentists, kindergartens, dance studios. Even the roads and walkways are up on murky stilts. Venice, with the water, drained away.’
Later on, we see him stumble across different levels, from the ‘above ground’ world of love interests and missing fathers to the dangerous underworld of Tokyo where he is eventually lured into his quest.
Much later, Mitchell uses other senses – sound, smell – to strengthen his world.
3. To write a romance novel you need to commence with the larger picture and then gradually delve into more nuanced details of the set. Think about the things that your characters will observe.
Also, ask yourself what kind of setting will influence the behaviour of the character.
In The Kite Runner, the obstacles that Baba faces in the new world makes him humble. Baba was used to being on the top in Afghanistan, but as an immigrant, he is the lowest in a heap. This causes him to change in myriad ways and to work harder.
While writing college romance, you can create a classroom full of people as a setting. A professor is teaching while your main characters are sitting on the same bench, next to each other. This kind of setting will influence their intimacy because of close placements, the environment etc.
Help your readers visualise the setting. Give details such as an address, location, weather, time of the day etc.
Give your romantic manuscript strong main characters:
While learning how to write a romantic novel, you need to keep in mind who are the main characters of a typical romance novel? The Hero and the Heroine. Here are a few tips about how you go about building each of these characters.
- Hero: It is the biggest misconception that building the protagonist in your novel only involves a muscular young man with chiselled good looks. Since romance gives rise to powerful emotions, the Hero should have emotional availability too. i.e. he should also be vulnerable.
For example, your Hero could have had a rough past, such as a disturbed childhood, or an unsuccessful love life, which makes him quite insecure. Gradually, this insecurity will unfold and lessen with the entry of the ‘Heroine’ in the story.
- Heroine: The Heroine is an equally strong character. She should be faced with some difficulty or an obstacle in the story, e.g. the Hero can come and rescue her out of a situation, or he could motivate her to fight her problems. There are a million ways in which a heroine interacts with her Hero and eventually ends up falling in love.
In present times the Heroine is portrayed as a strong-headed, independent woman with a mind of her own. So, try and build a character that matches the modern view.
Add to the romantic story tried and tested ingredients:
What could be the perfect recipe for penning a romance novel? Well, it is difficult to say what could be ‘perfect’, but there are some plots that work every time. These are the tried and tested story structures that readers enjoy and never get bored reading. We share some of them with you:
- Friends to Lovers: This is a popular recipe for a romance novel. Two people who start as best friends or even close friends will eventually come closer to each other and fall in love.
For example, in the novel ‘The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, childhood friends reconnect and fall in love.
2. Enemies to Lovers: In this plot, two people could clash with each other on a subject and start to hate each other initially. However, as the story progresses, they fall for each other.
For example, in the book, ‘The Hating Game’ by Sally Thorne, Lucy Hutton, who has always been confident that a nice girl can get the corner office meets coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual initially. But they end up falling in love.
- The Roadside Romeo/ The playboy: A womaniser, or a roadside romeo who usually flirts with every girl he sees and breaks hearts, could fall for one special girl he randomly meets.
- Girl in Distress: We have seen movies and read books where the damsel in distress is rescued by the Hero and eventually both end up falling in love. This is a tried and tested story plot you could use in your novel.
For example, in the book ‘ Damsel in Distress’, George is surprised when a girl jumps into the cab and asks George to hide her. George wastes no time helping her hide from a stout, disagreeable, well-dressed young man. He saves her from distress, and this is how they fell in love.
And, there are many more recipes like these…
Be careful while writing the intimate scenes:
Modern romance novels are incomplete without intimate scenes or physical closeness. No one would want to read bland romance. Therefore, it is crucial to construct such scenes too.
However, be careful. Gradually build up intimacy and let your readers anticipate the upcoming act. Create passionate scenes but do not go overboard. Also, do not shy away from writing such scenes. Express it in the best way you can.
One of the best ways to help you build an intimate scene is to read the best-written ones. Novels by Nicholas Sparks, Chetan Bhagat, Durojoy Datta etc. are perfect reads if you want to take assistance.
Give your romance novel a happy ending:
People who are reading your romantic novel are also reading it because they want to experience the powerful feelings that come with romance. Many readers are also searching for answers to questions in their own love life. If the reader can relate to the love story in your book, they will expect a happy ending because they also want to do so in their own lives. Therefore, give a perfect finish where the boy and the girl end up together. Nobody likes to read a lousy ending to a love story. Tie up each loose end and then close the book in a hopeful, positive tone.
Read the interview of a best-selling author of romance books.
And finally – do not contemplate for long. Just make it happen! Your readers will love it.