In this post, we look at the nine must-have ingredients in a romance novel.
As an author, how do you get from A to L, and then possibly M in your book? A being Attraction, L being Love, and M Being Marriage. Now, perhaps M isn’t the ending you have in mind, and that’s fine. If you’re writing a romantic tragedy, M may not be on the cards at all. D for death of one, or both, of the main character may be where your story is headed.
But still, how to get from A to L is the question.
Some of the questions you need to answer are:
- What’s your story’s word count? If it’s a novella then things need to happen faster than in a two-hundred-thousand-word tome!
- What kind of story is it? A holiday romance? A whirlwind romance? A one-night stand? Or a slow-burn romance?
- What is the time frame of your book? Is it set at a party, over a weekend, over a year…you get my drift.
Which of the type of romance you decide your book will be dictated by answering these questions. A slow-burn isn’t going to work in a novel set over a weekend.
Another question is what end result do you want in your novel? The actual end result, the final scene in the final chapter. You will be writing towards that.
Once you have those questions nailed down, you have to factor in the 9 things your romance novel must have.
9 Must-Have Ingredients In A Romance Novel
- The Meet-Cute – It’s how your main characters meet. Without a meet-cute there is no romance.
- The Attraction – This doesn’t have to be mutual. In fact, your main characters could start out disliking each other. But attraction must appear soonish in the novel otherwise, if it only happens right at the end, it won’t be believable.
- The Best Friends – At least one of the main character needs someone to talk to whether that’s a friend, a mentor, a shrink, or a barman. Someone through whom we discover what the MC (Main character) is thinking, planning, confused about, or has totally misunderstood. Just hearing it as thoughts can become rather dull. There should be a good mix. And while a pet can be an option, pets aren’t good at giving advice – bad or otherwise.
- The Complications – Every novel worth its ink, no matter what the genre, need complications. These must seem insurmountable, they can be desperate, although the level of desperation depends entirely on the era the book is set in, the age of the MCs, the word count of the book, etc. And there must be more than one. They can come from the same source, but the novel needs complication upon complication upon complication. The most important advice for any novel, of any genre, is to ensure that you are constantly upping the stakes.
- The Doubt – Your MCs need to be thrown into doubt. Do they really like or love, or even trust the other person? Does the other person really like, love, or trust them? As the book nears the end, and your MC seems to making headway, you need to plunge him or her back in the metaphorical boiling ink. This is the ‘dark night of the soul’. Everything suddenly seems to be going wrong, and it’s just getting worse.
- The Electricity – If there’s no electricity between your two MCs, the hero and the heroine, no one is going to believe in the romance.
- The Fight or Flight – Complications, conflict, doubt can all lead to a fight between the MCs, or the flight of one of them. You can’t just shoe-horn this in. Everything in your plot, character-arc, characters’ backstories has to lead to some form of this. They could literally leave town, or merely give the other one the cold shoulder.
- The Great Reveal – This could be the declaration of love. When Darcy bursts in on Elizabeth and proclaims his love for her, that declaration is a great reveal. But the moment is ruined as Elizabeth has a great reveal of her own. One that completely floors Darcy and seems to rip any form of romance between them to shreds.
- The Humour – If possible, don’t forget to add lighter notes to your story. Not all romances need to be filled with desperation and angst one hundred percent of the time. The Gilmore Girls TV show is a great example of how to add the funny.
The Last Word
Some of these suggestions are for character development and others for plot development. If you ensure that your novel has all nine of them, and you torture your characters every now and then, making things as bad as possible, then, when they finally do fling themselves at each other, declaring undying devotion, you’ll be fine. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and gushes about how romantic your book is. Huzzah, as they say in the classics.
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
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.
More Posts From Elaine
- 5 Things To Remember To Do When Publishing A Romance Novel
- 5 Things To Remember Not To Do When Publishing A Romance Novel
- What Is The Meet-Cute And How Important Is It?
- 5 Things To Remember When Outlining Your Romance Novel
- 5 Ways To Get You Through The Middle Of Your Romance Novel
- 5 Ways To End Your Romance Novel
- 5 Ways To Begin Your Romance Novel
- How Romance Writing Makes You A Better Writer
- Why Do We Love Mr Darcy So?