Attention romance writers with a desire to create the next exciting, best-selling, jump up and slap your pappy, inspirational (Inspy) romance novel. No, you don’t have to go back and reread that last sentence. Inspirational romance sells and you need to climb onto one of the fastest growing subgenres with a breakout novel or can’t-put-it-down series. I know what you’re thinking. Inspirational romance? Why write a boring, solemn, churchy-preachy novel starring a couple who must attempt to fall in love without intimate conversation, cuddling, or even one measly passionate kiss? Oh puh-leeze. Here’s a news flash: Not only can they touch, but they cuddle and share kisses that send mega shivers up and down the spine of a time-tested romance novel aficionado. It’s true.
Don’t think for a second publishers will buy inspirational romance stories depicting characters with collars buttoned to just under the nostrils or who spend an evening, chaperoned, discussing in whispered words intimate topics such as the color of Pa-Pa Wilfred’s shoelace aglets. No how, no way. Publishers know heated conflict and romance sell, so use your artsy repertoire of word paint and entice your reader to flip her book pages with enough g-force to send her cracker crumbs into the night.
Here’s another news flash: The characters in your inspirational romance have friends. They talk to these friends and share moments, sometimes intimate moments. This is how we readers get the scoop. But nobody goes blabbing all the juicy details to every person in earshot. No, and it’s the same scenario for inspy romance. Some things are kept private, so let your reader stretch her imagination. Most of the time, that’s more visually exciting anyway.
Has anyone else pondered the following question?
What Distinguishes a Romance Novel from an Inspirational Romance Novel?
Romance writers create a beautiful love story with a happily ever after ending. The writer of an inspirational romance has the same objective, but adds the element of a faith journey and meets certain stipulations specific to the subgenre. Rather than a tilted degree of focus toward physical attraction, the predominant focus of an inspirational romance is for the couple to walk a path of increased spirituality.
The Three-Thread Plot
Romance novels are riddled with conflict and the inspirational romance is no exception. When you write an inspirational romance, many of the inner conflicts deal with emotional issues like the inability to forgive, or to give or receive love, perhaps the inability to repent and resolve feelings of guilt for wrongdoing. However, when you write an inspirational romance, you will work with what is termed a three-thread plot: The external conflict, the romantic plot, and the spiritual journey:
- The external conflict will depend on your unique plot and how you choose to put your storyline together. These conflicts keep the couple from meeting, falling in love, and getting married before the end of chapter one.
- The romantic plot is your story focus. Don’t let the word “Inspirational” tip your basket off-kilter. The romance is the reason your novel is chosen from the shelf and hurried to the cashier. This reader cannot wait to arrive home, get cozy-comfy, and immerse herself in your awesome story of romance.
- The spiritual journey is a lifetime endeavour spoken of in the bible as obedience. Christians are asked to set aside quiet time every day for reflection, pray on a regular basis, and support the church financially. Basically, a good spiritual journey boils down to Christians who are intentionally learning how to be more Christ-like and applying that knowledge to help others progress in their spiritual journeys. The journey will only end when we see Jesus face-to-face (1 John 3:2).
People are flawed. Period. The inspirational romance subgenre is not about perfect couples who have no sin, far from it. In fact, many of the themes deal with flawed characters who are embraced by another and learn through the relationship how to walk a more positive path. Regardless of wrongdoing, those who have sinned are not judged or considered unworthy of love.
Three Don’ts in Inspirational Romance
Preparing to write this article, I spoke with ladies who read inspirational romance exclusively, then I researched for hours on the internet, and binge-read a dozen or so inspirational romances described as must-reads. One specific attraction for readers of inspirational romance is their ability to count on stories that do not have plots dealing with offensive language, gratuitous and premarital sex.
With that in mind, here are three Don’ts when writing a Christian romance:
- Strong Violence
- Overt Sexuality
If you are used to writing secular romance, you may need to remind yourself when penning an inspirational romance and the couple shares a kiss, write about the emotional impact of the kiss rather than a play-by-play of the physical kiss.
I tend to make my novel’s point of view (POV) character the leading female. In an inspirational romance novel, the POV character switches chapter by chapter between the heroine and the hero, and at times a villain. My first thought was ‘Wha?’
But there is a meaningful rationale behind this. While plotting your hero and heroine’s inner and outer dialogue, focus on the emotional aspects of the relationship rather than the physical. Allow your reader the intimacy of hearing the hero and heroine’s thoughts during point of view interactions to reveal their feelings for the other in relation to their spiritual relationship.
Include your reader in the inner dialogue of the heroine as she struggles when her potential partner tells an offensive joke or says a curse word. Allow the heroine the ability to show by example the Christian way to express oneself without offensive verbiage.
Most of all, when you sit down to write a Christian romance, enjoy yourself and allow your creativity to flow freely. Follow a few rules and embrace an emotional aspect of the genre- to rise above what has held you back.
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 RWA, Missouri RWA, Missouri Writers Guild, and Saturday Writers where she contributes a monthly column “On the back page With Tammy.” You can connect with Tammy on her website www.TammyLough.com.