As you know I am always on the look out for guest bloggers, so I was thrilled when author Gem Stone agreed to write me a post.
I met Gem on her blog after reading some of her witty posts. Whilst chuckling to myself and hammering on the ‘blog follow’ button, I knew she had to appear on BlondeWriteMore.
It was then I noticed she writes romantic comedy. Cue my excited shriek…(standard response when I meet a writer from my genre), which woke all of my house up, as it was late at night. I then started to explain to my sleep starved loved one about the powerful emotions I experience when in the virtual presence of other romantic comedy writers, but sadly he was only interested in sleeping.
Anyway I managed to persuade Gem to feature on BlondeWriteMore and whip me up a guest post (I don’t ask for much – sigh!).
So please welcome author, blogger and avid reader Gem Stone:
Romance is one of the most popular genres around so it stands to reason that there are a lot of romance authors out there. While I only joined their ranks recently, I have been reading romance since my teenage years. (No, I won’t disclose how long ago that was..)
During that time, I’ve noticed that some authors fail miserably at writing believable romance.
With that in mind, I have put together a list of things to do when writing your story that will make it more realistic. Though I’m no expert, these tips are things I’ve discovered on my journey to Storyville that give believability to your characters.
We will jump right in with…
Number 1: Set The scene.
This is something that many authors either forget to do all together or totally over do. Okay, we all want to know what the place is like. We want to know if they are in a busy shopping centre or a secluded cottage but we are reading romance. For romance readers the main point is the hero and heroine and their lives.
Yes, tell us where they are and what they are doing but a full page on how the sunlight glistens off the lake in the secluded glen, while doves glide across the sky in perfect symphony to the crickets chirping in the grass, is just not needed. Though I do rather like the scene I just made up, and might have to use in in future, I can guarantee it will not be a full page worth.
All too often you will find fiction authors waste pages upon pages of description and, seriously, we all know they just like the sound of their own voice. Keep it simple, give a basic outline and let the readers imagination do the rest but always remember, while it wants to be simple it also needs some detail to make it real. Be sure to add sounds and smells to help draw the reader in.
Number 2: Make sure your characters think.
I’ve read plenty of books where the hero and heroine go through the motions and don’t let us know what they are thinking. It’s all very well and good to describe how things feel but we need insight into this.
For example, When you had your first kiss, I’m sure it was amazing. The earth moved and stars were glistening… no, wait, that was just me because I was on a train and banged my head… Anyway, your heart beat fast, your hands where clammy ect. That’s great, but what was your brain doing? Were you panicking about where to place those clammy hands? Was he/she hugging you? Were you wondering why they weren’t hugging you? These little things make the characters more believable.
It’s okay for time to stand still as you melt in their arms but when was the last time that happened in real life? Lets be honest, it didn’t.
Its more a case of, clinging onto the first thing you can grab as you stand in fear, praying your lips aren’t too wet, and trying to decide whether you should open your mouth or keep it closed.
So, let us know what your characters are thinking.
Number 3: Remember everyone has flaws.
While your hero caters to every whim of your heroine, earning her trust and patiently waiting until she is ready to be with him, please remember that no one is perfect. We are human, we all make mistakes, and your main characters, like every person on the planet, will mess up. How badly they mess up is, of course, in your hands. I personally like to make them do something monumentally stupid, after all those stupid moments are what we learn from, They make or break a relationship. In real life they most often do the latter but in Romance books they provide a brilliant opportunity for you, the author, to give us deep insight into your characters.
So, I say, let them mess up. Let them make mistakes and argue. As they slam doors and storm out of rooms they are growing into believable people who you readers will become invested in.
Number 4: Outside Factors
Always keep in mind that humans, by nature, can not resist stating their opinions. Granted some of us are worse than others (or is that just me?) but everyone likes to make sure their opinion is known. So, when your main characters are merrily making their way through their day be sure to include the secondary characters opinions and don’t forget that no two people think alike.
We all have that one friend who has to put their two pence worth in and disrupt your day. You know the one I mean. They always know best.
This friend, with the rumour they heard about your hero, is just the kind of thing that puts seeds of doubt in your heroine’s mind and keeps the story moving forward.
No matter who we are, we are always influenced, to a degree, by what others say. Don’t forget that when writing.
Number 5: The Conflict
No romance is complete without some conflict. I’ve read my fair share of books about the middle aged woman getting divorced and finding herself before meeting her true love. Some of those books were even good reads but they do have one thing in common. They are easily forgettable. You, as an author, want readers to remember your book, therefore you need some conflict that makes it interesting.
For example: In one of my recent books West At War (Yes this is a shameless plug for my work) my main characters are both bakers and they open shops opposite each other on the same day. This was my conflict. It provided ample opportunity for my hero and heroine to butt heads as they fumbled their way into a relationship and tried to figure out how they could make it work when they were competitors.
This is the sort of thing readers remember. Think about your favourite books, you will see what I mean. There is always some excitement that sticks in your head. Make sure your book has some too.
Number 6: Give them quirks.
Everyone has that weird little thing that they do. That move or saying that defines them. Why should your characters be any different?
Each person in your book needs their own voice. In order to develop that they need to have quirks that make them stand out. These little things are a huge part of who they are and help build believability.
Can you imagine Sherlock Holmes without his pipe? Of course not, its part of who he is. Everybody knows he smokes his pipe while thinking.
Your characters need their own quirk, something that makes them stand out. My characters quirks vary. I have one with an over inflated ego, one who is petrified of snakes, one who talks to animals and one who talks to herself. Each of these things helps define who they are as a person.
Make sure your characters have something to help define them.
Number 7: Nothing ever runs smoothly.
So, you have your thinking characters and they have their quirks and they are working their way through their conflict.
This is when things really go wrong.
Just like in real life the road to success is never smooth. Murphy’s Law says what can go wrong will go wrong and there is no reason why your book should be any different.
If I get stuck with my writing I find one of the best things to do is think of the worst possible scenario. Alright, maybe not the worst, after all, we don’t want anyone dead. Or maybe you do, it is your book after all. But, the worst possible outcome usually gives you a great place to head towards. We don’t want our characters lives to be too easy so shake it up a bit. Send them down the wrong road or into the arms of their ex.
In real life it’s very rare for things to go the way we plan so why should your book be any different? Some of my best plot twists came to me on the spur of the moment. When, “What if…..happened?” Pops into your head it can lead to some of the most interesting story lines.
Number 8: Passion
Whether you write clean romance or explicit, your book must have passion.
You remember how we talked about the clammy hands and pounding heart. You need that but so much more. Your reader needs to feel what your characters feel. They need to know how the body is reacting, what they are thinking, and what they are doing all at once.
Its fine to write flowery paragraphs about being sent to paradise by a simple kiss but your reader will be a passive onlooker. You want your reader to feel. To be a part of the story and emotionally invested in the end.
I find the best passion in books is written quickly. Its a fast scene with everything you need to know tied in. If you drag it out with long description, the reader will lose interest and most likely skip that scene. No author wants parts of their book to be skipped.
You need to keep it moving, get the reader engaged and eager to know what happens next. Make your readers heart beats as fast as your hero’s/heroine’s.
Number 9: Remember to laugh.
Okay, this one might not be for everyone but I personally think the best romances have humour.
This suits me perfectly as I struggle to take most things seriously. All of my books are romantic comedies to a degree. But I think that is a good way to reflect real life. We don’t go from day to day depressed. We smile, we laugh, and we find ways to make ourselves happy. I spread humour throughout my books, from the woman who planted a snake in her competitors home, to the alien who knew nothing about humans.
I think a romance that makes you laugh will stick in your memory. As I said, this tip isn’t for everyone but I firmly believe that for a romance to seem realistic it needs to make the reader smile.
Number 10: Don’t forget the happy ending.
Well, that’s self explanatory, you might say, and you would think so, but surprisingly a lot of people leave romance books on a cliffhanger with the hero or heroine making their merry way off into the sunset. I hate this, and so do most readers.
The whole point of a romance is for the characters to get the happy ending that we are so often denied in real life. You don’t read the book wanting to see them end up apart. You want to see them happy and a reader who reads a romance without a happy ending, simply feels conned.
If you really can’t leave the book on a happy note at least mention it in the blurb. You will save yourself a lot of head ache and bad reviews.
Number 11: Know your audience.
As authors we love language and often know at least five different words that we can use in replacement of one but you need to remember that readers aren’t authors. Forgive me for not knowing the US stats but in the UK the average reading ages is age 9. Now, I’m not saying that we should write like 9 year olds, but remember that if you fill your books with lots of long convoluted words and sentences you will drag your reader out of the story.
Many authors like to show off their vocabulary but you need to think about who’s reading your book. Even though the average romance reader is 30 years old, 70% of romance readers first discover the genre in their teenage years. Make sure your book is easily understandable to those readers. Do your research about your audience.
So there you have it. My Top Ten Tips to writing romance. I hope you like them and if you have any of your own tips you would like to share, please leave them in the comments.
Thank you Gem! Fab top tips. I am loving the flaws point and I am a big fan of clammy hands, pounding hearts and happy endings.
I hope you all have a great day!