Ever since I was 10 years old I’ve been addicted to reading romance novels. It started when I went to my grandma’s house, and she lived in the middle of nowhere with no TV and scrabble as the only board game. I ended up reading through her library, which was made up mostly of romance novels.
My friend have constantly asked me why do I keep reading them? Aren’t they just all the same? Truthfully, I would have to say they are. Especially Mills and Boons, or Harleyquin publications. Mills and Boons publish dozens of books every month, all romance novels, all the same sort of story. I still go out of my way to buy them, and I look for them in second hand stores too.
Why do I like reading them so much, even though I know what’s going to happen? Because of the warm fuzzy feelings it gives me. There’s a real sense of satisfaction, a thrill from the drama and the relief from it’s resolution. When written well, I will grow to love the characters and their happiness turns into my happiness.
So here is my formula on how to write a best selling romance novel, using my expertise as someone who has read hundreds of them since the age of 10. Please take everything I say with a large dose of salt.
- Create your main characters. A strong willed woman, who has some circumstance in her life that makes her a little more vulnerable.
- A strong willed man, who is either a prince or a millionaire/billionaire tycoon of some sort. He has a dark past that keeps him from moving forward emotionally.
- Create a situation where the two characters meet. They must have an instant sexual chemistry. The only time they don’t have instant sexual chemistry is if the girl isn’t dressed up, or looks messy and you’re planning on doing a Cinderella story.
- The guy should go for the girl first, and she should stubbornly refuse. She should be confused and there should be internal dialog where she’s angry at herself.
- He wins her over and they spend time together.
- After some progression they end up having sex, and it’s the best thing either of them have ever had in the history of ever. This is the first romantic “climax” so to speak, both characters should be super happy.
- Something dramatic now happens, causing a misunderstanding between the two parties. The woman then leaves the man, and he doesn’t chase after her out of stubbornness. Often the separation is caused by a third party, often a jealous and malicious ex-girlfriend.
- After the woman spends some time in self-pity and misery, the guy comes back and begs her forgiveness, stating that he’s loved her all along and that she’s shown him love, yada yada yada.
- They live happily ever after.
That’s the basic plot line and you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. Lots of Mills and Boons authors get into a routine, and their characters are all very similar. Another romantic writer, Diana Palmer, fills the niche of cowboys who are giant assholes, who mistreat and emotionally abuse the women, and then admit to being wrong all along.
As a social commentary, although I love to read these kind of dramatic stories, I don’t feel half of the characters in these books have actual healthy relationships. There’s a lot of miscommunication and misunderstandings in romance novels, and I believe that readers like to live vicariously through the books. Now the only question left is, should I write a romance novel myself? Haha, I’m joking, I could never do it. But I look forward to reading everyone else’s submissions!