If you write romcoms or are mulling over a romcom story idea this post is for you.
I am thrilled to have Zoe May on my blog. She’s a romcom queen to me and I can’t believe she’s written me a wonderful guest post.
Photo taken from https://www.zoemayauthor.co.uk
Zoe May is the author of four romantic comedy novels, published by HQ Digital, HarperCollins.
Her debut, Perfect Match, about online dating, was an iBooks bestseller.
Zoe is currently working on her fifth novel, Flying Solo, which she is self-publishing this summer.
So I am going to hand over to Zoe May *squeal*
Hi, here are five things I believe your female character needs to have.
I’ve read a few rom coms recently where the main character is practically Mother Theresa and it really annoys me! I strongly believe that characters don’t need to be perfect in order to appeal to readers. Some of my favourite rom com heroines, like Becky Bloomwood from Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, are flawed. Becky is completely materialistic, a little shallow, a bit self-involved and pretty misguided, but that’s what makes her interesting and relatable.
None of us are perfect and when I read about an overly nice character in a rom com, it feels like a likeability box ticking exercise by the author. The heroine ends up seeming fake and the execution feels forced. I like writing characters with flaws because I’m flawed and so is everyone. Flawed characters feel more real and as a result, they’re more engaging to write about. Giving your character flaws also gives them an opportunity for growth throughout the book. My debut, Perfect Match, is about a woman who has a very superficial attitude to dating, looking for a rich, handsome, successful man, and the story is about how she changes and grows and realises what’s really important in a partner. Her growth drives the story forward.
Your heroine has to be relatable and fairly likeable (in spite of her flaws), and relatable and likeable people tend to have friends. Including scenes featuring your main character’s friends will show us more about her as a person and will move the story forward as her friends may encourage her to make certain decisions. For example, in my current novel, Flying Solo, my heroine’s best friend supports her decision to embark on a trip to India to win her boyfriend back after he dumps her to jet off on a self-discovery mission.
Your character’s interactions with her friends can provide good opportunities for humour too. I love writing funny dialogue between best mates.
Not too much baggage
While I think main characters should have flaws, I think there are limits to how much baggage heroines should have. Rom coms offer readers escapism. The world is a messed-up place and when we pick up a book with a bright happy cover and a chirpy blurb, we don’t want to be reading about dark themes like death, abuse, rape, violence, war, terrorism or whatever else. We want to be cheered up, not depressed! I steer clear of anything too dark. My heroines tend to have had pretty decent lives. It may not be totally realistic as terrible things do happen to lovely people in real life, but I think it’s best to keep that kind of thing off the page when it comes to rom com.
A good heart
I’ve mentioned that I think main characters need to have flaws in order to feel human and relatable, but that being said, in the genre of rom com, your main character definitely needs to have a good heart. She may be misguided at times, she may make mistakes and screw things up, but ultimately, she must be a decent person. Rom coms are meant to be uplifting and stories about bitchy girls tend not to be. If you want to write about an antagonist, write a thriller!
Your main character has to be funny. Her thought processes, the situations she gets herself into, her dialogue with people – she needs to be entertaining. She is the epicentre of the story so if she is not amusing, the whole book will suffer. We read rom coms partly for the “com” element after all, so she has to be humorous!
Check out Zoe’s latest book, Flying Solo, here.