Friday, February 5, 2016

Key Elements of Crafting a Romance by Sandra D. Bricker

Casey here: I'm excited to have the sweet and fun Sandie Bricker sharing with us today! Sandie has written dozens of novels, including one of my favorite series by her, the Emma Rae Creation books. SO fun!! Sandie is here to share some tips for what makes a great romance. Thanks for joining the conversation today!

An interviewer recently asked me, “What makes writing romance so appealing to you?” I
had to really think about that. I suppose I attribute my love for a romantic happy ending to my childhood, largely spent plopped in front of the television watching sitcoms … or negotiating with my parents for some extra money to go to the movies yetagain. At a very young age, I loved the idea of the wrap-up. Whether in thirty minutes for my favorite TV show or ninety at the local theater, tying things up with a happy bow thrilled my soul.

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 a
bumpy ride-along with the hero and heroine as they face down the challenges of being together at last. This can be particularly difficult in the case of writing a series when each book needs to stand alone, and yet the challenges must be sustained over two or three separate books. When Jessie and Danny in the Jessie Stanton series, for instance, got together at the end of Book 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 where
she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rear view mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books, and a best-selling, award-winning author of Live-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.  



Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Thank you for this post, Sandra! I'm a new novelist, and I'm editing my second book. This second book could easily be a series--I have so much of what could follow in my head already. But it seems so intimidating to tackle the things you mention here (making sure it stands alone while sustaining challenges). My head hurts just thinking about it. I will read the Jessie Stanton series to get a feel for how it works. I haven't read enough series to attempt it yet. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Your book covers are so adorable!! And I love your snappy writing style.
Thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom on The Alley.
I love writing meet-cutes! So much fun!