Heidi Catherine’s Top Ten Things Every Romance Novel Must Include
After winning Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Pro award, people started asking me for tips on how to write a good romance novel. So, I’ve come up with a list I’d like to share with you today. Here are my top ten things every romance novel must include…
10. Excellent writing
People often dismiss romance novels as ‘easy reads’. I’m certain they don’t realise how incredibly hard an easy read is to write. I challenge you to string together tens of thousands of words into a novel that flows, makes perfect sense, has a fresh and interesting plot and makes the reader care enough about the characters to read until the end. Achieving all of this takes excellent writing.
9. A gripping opening scene
Your opening scene is your chance to hook your reader. So as tempting as it is to start your story at the beginning – don’t! Start with something that’s going to grab hold of your reader’s attention. If your heroine is destined to be kidnapped by a rich and handsome sheik while on holiday, don’t start with her getting on the plane. Start it when the sheik grabs her by the arm at the busy marketplace and drags her into his sheik mobile. If the getting on the plane bit is important, you can always feed it in later as backstory.
8. A likeable heroine
It’s not always necessary for main characters to be likeable. We didn’t need to like Rachel in The Girl on the Train because we were reading her story, not living it. Romance readers are different. We don’t just read the heroine’s story, we step into her shoes and become her. We fall in love with the hero, swoon whenever he comes near and cry tears of joy when he asks ‘us’ to marry him. We can’t be the heroine if we don’t like her.
7. A hero to fall in love with
Your heroine needs someone to fall in love with. This is tricky, as we all have different tastes. I once heard of someone who created an exceptionally hairy hero as that was the author’s personal taste. I think it’s safe to say that most women prefer their men a little less on the hirsute side, which means if you start talking about hairy backs you’re going to lose a big chunk of your audience. There’s a reason most heroes in romance novels are tall, muscle clad hunks with sparkling eyes and good hygiene – that’s what most women like.
6. Secondary characters
These characters support the story of your hero and heroine and make it more realistic. Unless your hero and heroine are marooned on a deserted island, you’re going to need to think about who else plays a part in their story. The trick is not to let them take over.
5. A romance
Make sure your characters have earth-shattering, knee-quivering, amazing … chemistry. They need to fall in love in a way they never have before or ever will again. The romance will drive your novel forward so make it a good one. As for the heat level, that’s entirely up to you. Some readers like their romance sweet, others spicy. Write whatever you’re comfortable with or your cringing will show in your writing.
4. A conflict
The challenge with romance writing is not so much how to bring your hero and heroine together, it’s how you’re going to keep them apart. Whether it’s a heated conflict, separation by distance or a misunderstanding, you must find a way to create trouble in paradise. This is what will make your story interesting and drive your reader crazy in all the best ways as they long for a resolution.
3. A resolution
As fun as it is to mess with your characters by putting obstacles in their path, at some point you need to clear the way for happiness. Resolving your conflict and bringing your hero and heroine back together will be the high point of your novel.
2. Keeping it real
It’s so important to have real characters in situations that feel real, no matter how outlandish they are. In the first romance novel I ever wrote, my hero would storm out of the room every time things didn’t go his way. This was an excellent way of keeping him apart from my heroine, but it became annoying, making it hard for the reader to fall in love with him and wasn’t at all realistic. Not surprisingly this manuscript is still sitting in a dark place on my computer waiting for me to re-write it with a far less stroppy hero who has a more realistic (although less convenient) way of delaying his happily ever after with my long-suffering heroine.
1. Happily ever after
Sigh! This is the reader’s payoff for sticking with you through all those pages. You’ve gripped them with your story from the first scene, put them in the shoes of the heroine, given them a hero they’ve fallen madly in love with, teased them with hurdles to be leapt and finally cleared the path for a happily ever after, never to have stretch marks, grey hair, wrinkles, hairy backs or god forbid a break up. Your excellent writing has allowed your reader to escape into a perfect little world. Don’t finish your story too quickly. Let your reader wallow in the bliss a little before you finish.
Heidi Catherine can be found on Facebook, Twitter or on her website. Her debut novel, The Soulweaver, is available for order now. She also has a free prequel novelette called The Moonchild, which introduces you to two of the main characters from The Soulweaver in the lifetime they lived before the book takes place.
Publication date: January 19th 2018
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance
She’s loved and lost him a hundred times across a thousand years. She can’t bear to lose him again.
Lin’s dreams are haunted by faces of people she’s never met. Unable to shake the feeling she’s lived before, she’s drawn to Reinier—a stranger whose soul is heartbreakingly familiar from a time gone by.
Reinier helps Lin unravel the mystery of her past life as Hannah, a girl who sacrificed herself for her true love, Matthew. As Lin falls hopelessly in love with Reinier, her memories of her life as Hannah sharpen and she finds herself unable to let go of Matthew.
With her heart torn in two, Lin must decide whether she should stand by Reinier’s side or track down Matthew and fight for his love. What she doesn’t know is that her decision will ripple across our troubled planet, affecting far more lives than just her own.
Winner of Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Pro award, The Soulweaver is a story that will change the way you see the world.
Heidi’s debut novel, The Soulweaver, won Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Pro award and will be released by Crooked Cat Books on 19 Jan 2018.
Not being able to decide if she prefers living in Melbourne or the Mornington Peninsula, Heidi shares her time between both places. She is similarly pulled in opposing directions by her two sons and two dogs, remaining thankful she only has one husband.
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