An interviewer recently asked me, “What makes writing romance so appealing to you?” I
And then came The Great Discovery: Romance novels!
For me, it started with writers like Danielle Steel … Rebecca York … Jennifer Crusie … Oh, and then the beautiful discovery of the inspirational market. Back then, there weren’t too many heroines like me in Heartsong and Love Inspired novels, but the books came regularly. Every month, fresh possibilities for my imagination: a new story … a new relationship … a new adventure. No matter the sub-genre – general market fiction, suspense, comedy, or Christian – my favorite novels, the ones that moved me to the core, were always set firmly into a foundation of romance. They got me every time.
To my readers, this likely comes as no surprise. Everything I write – even if it’s not a branded romance – has a strong thread of heart-pounding ever-after romance. Consequently, I’ve thought a lot about the necessary elements of crafting a romance that readers will remember … characters they’ll root for … an ending that will stir thir souls.
Here are my basic building blocks:
A hero and heroine readers will fall for. If they’re not likable, relatable, and free of cliches, they’ll never make it into the hearts and minds of my readers. Are they flawed? Of course. Unpredictable? I hope so. But unredeemable? Never.
An early “meet-cute” that sets up what’s to come. “Meet-cute” is a term that dates all the way back to the 1940s, usually related to film or television where a future romantic couple meets for the first time in an entertaining and sometimes amusing way. I’ve found that those first moments between a hero and heroine set the tone for everything they’ll experience – together and apart – for the duration of the book, so it better be good.
Carefully crafted romantic tension. I’ve read some books where the chemistry between the hero and heroine starts off at a fever pitch. Unfortunately, even in cases where it’s been somewhat interesting at the beginning, I find most of those authors have trouble sustaining and building that tension throughout the book. I like to think of the spark between my main characters like a fireplace on a cold winter night. First the kindling and the match … then a few added logs set into key positions … an eventual crackling, roaring fire and you’re ready for s’mores!
Obstacles, hurdles, and traffic stops. Readers of romance tend to enjoy taking aBook 1: On a Ring & a Prayer, how was I going to keep the story moving in Book 2: Be My Valentino? By the time I got to Book 3: From Bags to Riches, the challenge wasn’t simply to keep readers interested in their story, but to carefully craft the hurdles and obstacles that would keep them turning pages to find out how on earth this hero and heroine can possibly overcome their mounting set-backs. Early reader reviews indicate I was successful in that endeavor, which is an enormous relief because, above all else, satisfying my readers is my #1 priority.
Film critic Roger Ebert once said of Nicholas Sparks: “Readers don’t read his books because they’re true, but because they ought to be true.” That sums it all up for me.
Ah, the beauty of fiction … and the joy of a perfectly crafted romance!
SANDRA D. BRICKER was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years whereLive-Out-Loud fiction for the inspirational market was born. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation and Jessie Stanton series for Abingdon Press, and she was also recently named ACFW’s Editor of the Year for her work as managing editor of Bling!, an edgy romance imprint for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.She has recently handed off the imprint to another managing editor so that she can return to focusing on her writing again. As an ovarian cancer survivor, Sandie also gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure.
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