If you missed the first article of this three-part series, check it out right here. The romance genre is unique in that writers follow a set of plot points and deep characterization to deliver an enticing story with an emotionally satisfying, happily ever after (HEA) ending. Let’s talk about how that is accomplished.
Rule 4) Hit Romance’s Unique Plot Points
Romance writers have written novels for over 2,500 years, and do I have a newsflash for you. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. There are specific plot points to nail while writing your romance to help make informed decisions as you develop the twists and turns, ups and downs of your novel. Plot points, structural integrity, fundamental framework, all mean the same thing. Hit these time-tested plot points and not only write a killer romance, but give your romance novel what poorly written romance lacks: “Heart & Soul.”
By incorporating the rules of romance plotting, by the end of your novel there will emerge a happily ever after ending (HEA) and a delighted, fulfilled reader. I will explain each of the 20 plot points in a future article.
No matter if you are a plotter with a favorite outlining method or a pantser (fly by the seat of your pants), the backbone of your story is the plot. I am a pantster with a plan. If you are not the outliner type, you will still want to pre-plan a solid idea of at least the beginning, middle, and end of your novel to keep the story cohesive and hit plot points (romance reader expectations).
First things first. Plotting begins after you know the standard word count for your genre or subgenre. With an accurate word count, you have a tangible idea of how to pace your novel.
Let’s say your desired word count is 60,000. The first 25% of a romance novel (15,000 words for this example) is known as the opening. The following plotting expectations exist in a romance novel opening:
- The characters have a meet and greet. An “eyeball” so to speak.
- The author should reveal her character’s internal (need) and external (want) goals
- The author should establish conflicts (worse-case scenarios) keeping your characters from achieving their goals and ending the story at chapter one
When you plot the middle section, a whopping 50% of your novel, or 30,000 words, include the following:
- Sparks fly between the couple: What started as enmity or friendship grows into a physical and emotional attachment and a loving relationship.
- Midpoint: Right about the middle of a romance novel, you need to have your couple sit down for a “come to Jesus meeting.” They’ve been butting heads and need to iron out their feelings and how, moving forward, they are going to play a lot more “get-along-gang and less “it’s all about me.”
The last 25% of your romance novel comprises the final conflict and its resolution/acceptance by your hero and heroine. Here’s what your reader will expect:
- The Darkest Moment: The Darkest Moment is a romance novels’ do-or-die-turning-point, and leads to a crisis. This crisis is akin to a crash and burn, take no prisoners catastrophe. The heroine is rushed to a trauma center after falling up the spiral staircase and rupturing her liver. And, the hero’s evil twin has been stepping out with the heroine unbeknownst to her, or the hero. Who, by the way, the heroine does not believe for a second.
To write a convincing darkest moment, we must show the relationship as irreparable, thrown in the dirt and stomped on with spiked golf shoes, then buried six feet under concrete. Then, we need to further up the ante and really make it hurt. Jerk your readers chain, get her riled up, then jerk it a little harder. Lions and Tigers and Bears . . . Oh My!
- The resolution: a solution to what seemed an impossible feat for the couple, and a satisfying reward. A steamy roll in the hay? Yay! And a HEA.
Rule 5) Write Your Authentic Passions
Do you have a character(s) with an infectious personality hanging out among your brain cells? A character who would make a perfect heroine or hero in a romance novel? What about that scene, the one that plays like a mental movie trailer when you try to fall asleep? Wouldn’t you love to put your twosome through the same harrowing ordeal and see how they survive?
Let’s say you have imagined the most heinous of vengeful villains, viler than any scum you ever loved to hate. Why does this creep make your blood boil? Penning from an authentic passion is what brings out killer dialogue and/or narration and turns a romance novel into a finger flipping page-turner.
Writers are blessed with creative minds, so build upon your ideas and create a unique romance novel out of your innermost fiery passions. When you aren’t sure what direction to take at a fork in your novel, try asking the following hypothetical questions.
What if . . .?
Example: What if every day the heroine harps on the hero for leaving his shoes wherever he happens to kick them off?
Because of this, X happens?
Because she tripped over his shoe, she fell down the steps and ruptured her liver.
If the scene you visualize moves the story forward, shows characterization, or both, go for it. If it lacks those two-mandatory scene-makers, revise to include these elements. When you write a scene with passion, it transforms the enjoyment from black and white to vivid technicolor.
Rule 6) Ensure a Satisfying First Kiss
The scoop on a first kiss: The first kiss in a romance novel is such an anticipated moment and because you utilized inner dialogue, we all know the heroine is thinking, sooner or later, it won’t be long now, is he going in for the smooch this evening? And she can’t wait.
Here’s how to add flash-bang to this scene: drag it out. It’s important to wait until your reader and the couple are ready. Have them kiss too early? It removes some of the sexy head-party going on in your reader’s mind. The heroine has never seen his eye’s with such dark intensity, she feels a tinge anxious and looks away, then returns her attention to his full bottom lip. She blinks and her mouth goes dry. She pulls her sweater close after a sudden chill. Does he lean forward? Can she feel the warmth of his breath on her cheek? Does he see a gentle fluttering of her lashes, the shadows falling on her cheekbones? Is there a warmth to his lips as he presses them softly, gently to hers? Get the picture? Feel his lips? Break time for Tammy!
My next article will conclude this three-part series with rules 7-10. We will explore the “L” word with “Paint an “I Love You” Scene. Then oops, we must “Send the Tasmanian Devil, aka the hero, a packing,” followed by “Place a Love Tap on His Shoulder” and finally “Make Reuniting Exciting.”
Until then . . . May all of your endings be happy!
Tammy Lough is an award-winning author who loves writing romance and creating unique characters who burst with personality and frequent sprinklings of humor. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Missouri Romance Writers of America, Saturday Writers, and Missouri Writers Guild where she serves as liaison. You can connect with Tammy on her website www.TammyLough.com.