In this post, we look at five ways to begin your romance novel.
- ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’
- ‘Reader, I married him.’
These two lines are the first and last lines of two of the greatest romance novels ever written. The first is from Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen, the second, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. (It’s not the last line, but it’s the one most people remember. We’ll talk more about that in the next blog).
Be honest, you just know that these two lines encompass the entire genre, right? The raison d’être behind every meet-cute, and every final chapter, of every single romance book ever written. If aliens were to land on earth and judge us as a people they would be wildly confused. We are devouring romance books by the truck load but continually waging war against each other!
Back to the romance. There is definitely enough evidence to back up the theory that those two lines personify the entire genre. And you know what? You’re right. It’s why Romance is the best-selling genre. And why Romance outsells the next most popular genre, crime, by vast numbers.
If you are longing to write romance, but are not, like so many of us, the reincarnation of either Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë, you are probably wanting to know if there any insider secrets to writing romance. You’ll be happy to know there are. Today we discover 5 ways to start your romance novel.
5 Ways To Begin Your Romance Novel
We’re not about to give you five opening lines to regurgitate verbatim in your new novel. But here are a few to mull over. Writing romance, as we’ve mentioned before, takes discipline. Part of that discipline is to not be lazy in the writing. More time should be spent on your first and last lines than nearly any other lines in the novel. Why? Because they are often the two lines readers will remember the most. They are the keys to the kingdom and grant readers entrée to the exclusive circles of other readers who, rather smugly, know the lines off by heart.
- Throw the reader right into the plot. Start your book as Jane Austen did by stating the exact goal of the story. This, if the quill is not wielded as expertly as Jane Austen, can be ‘on the nose’ (a phrase I truly loathe). However, it does tell the reader exactly what to expect. The trick is to deliver on that promise! Unless, of course, you want your novel hurled across the room and scaring the cat.
- Confront the reader with the hero’s reputation. Ensure your opening line is laden with subtext. Take the opening line of Venetia by Georgette Heyer, whose Regency romances are always humorous. ‘A fox got in amongst the hens last night, and ravished our best layer,’ remarked Miss Lanyon. When you discover that a new neighbour is a rake from London who is soon to set his sights on Miss Lanyon, you’ll realise quite how clever this line is.
- Put the reader at the gate to the location and atmosphere of the book. Imbue the line with mystery, which in this example is also rich in subtext. ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ The author of Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, is very clear; the only way to get to Manderley again is in a dream. There is a deep pathos, a heart-breaking longing in that line that sets the reader up for the tragedy and nostalgia of the book. We immediately want to know why we can’t go there, what happened? And you’ll notice, the line refers to a house, not the hero. That alone is intriguing. Once you’ve read the book, hearing someone say that line drops you right back into the middle of the love story.
- Tell your reader about the character of the hero. This works especially well when the hero is a ‘bad-boy’. While I don’t personally think of Wuthering Heights as a romance novel, there are some that do. ‘I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.’ This line isn’t spoken by either the so-called hero, or the heroine. The line is both subtext, but just barely, and ‘on the nose’. Going into the book, the reader knows that Heathcliff is dangerous.
- And now for something completely different. Don’t be afraid to throw the rules aside and write a genuinely original romance. Everybody’s two favourite lines from this book are. ‘As you wish,’ and ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die’. Neither of which are in anyway romantic, nor are they the first line of the book. That is, ‘This is my favourite book in all the world, though I have never read it.’ Yes, we’re talking about The Princess Bride by William Goldman. While most of the story is high-farce, it’s still a Romance novel, albeit one more like a Russian doll than anything else – one story within another. What’s great about this line is that you really, really want to know why this is the author’s favourite book. As a reader, you’re already settling down to hear a great romantic tale.
No matter what era your story is set in, or whether it’s a comedy like Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, or a tragedy on the scale of A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, make sure your opening line is spectacularly good, deeply memorable, and completely compelling.
Next time: 5 Ways To End Your Romance Novel
The Last Word
Do you want to learn how to write romance? We hope this article helped you with five ways to begin your romance novel.
Suggested Posts On Romance Writing:
- A Quick Start Guide To Writing Romance
- All About The Romance Writing Genre
- The Almost Moment Is The Secret To Successful Romance Writing
- 5 Ways To Write A Modern Romance With A Classic Twist
- Why I Write Romance
- 20 Things To Remember When Writing Category Romance
- The Romantic Heroine
- The Romantic Hero
- The 4 Pillars Of Romance
- What Romance Writers Can Learn From Watching Bridgerton
TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a romance, sign up for our online course, This Kiss.
by Elaine Dodge. Elaine is the author of The Harcourts of Canada series. Elaine trained as a graphic designer, then worked in design, advertising, and broadcast television. She now creates content, mostly in written form, for clients across the globe, but would much rather be drafting her books and short stories.
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