Writing Tips

Shannon’s Top Three Tips for Writing Romance

It’s February, so romance is in the publishing air. Whether or not you write romance novels or have romantic subplots in your work, almost every writer has had to think through a couple’s relationship in their work. 

Here are my top three tips for writing romance.

1. Read Romance: As Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the tools to write. Simple as that.” Reading romance novels, or novels that have romantic subplots, will help you learn the beats of a romantic plotline. (You should also check out Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes. It’s a nonfiction craft book dedicated to understanding romance beats.) My favorite go-to romance books are Harlequin. Why? Though the various imprints have particular expectations, every book is focused on romance, and it’s so easy to spot tropes from the cover, title, and synopsis. They tend to run very short, too, so you can read a bunch very quickly. Even with a shorter word count, you’ll be amazed how tight these plots are. These authors will really inspire you to find ways to cut to the chase. Keep in mind that the romance books you read don’t necessarily have to be in the same genre that you’re writing in. I primarily write fantasy and, while I definitely read enough fantasy to study those romantic subplots, I’ve found contemporary romance books have actually helped me understand writing romance more. Probably because there is less distraction (world building, war, magic, etc.) Basically, make sure you’re reading romance in your genre, but don’t be afraid to branch out either. 

2. Requited love is nice, but it doesn’t make much of a ballad. Cassandra Clare’s character Will said that when referring to why characters are put through so much hardship in stories, and I’ve never heard such a true sentiment. Listen, you’re writing a story. Stories require tension and excitement. A what if. In romance, that what if is will they get together? You have to string that question out in some way. If your characters famously get along, your reader will wonder why they aren’t together. Some writers take that to mean that a couple must disagree or not communicate, and that’s not true. There’s lots of reasons people stay apart. Beliefs. Expectations. Distance. Responsibilities, such as taking care of their family. Work that doesn’t allow them time to date. Fear of rejection. I could go on and on. You can definitely still have tension even if your couple is communicating well. But there must be tension somewhere. Your couple is made up of different people with their own goals, who happen to cross each other’s path. I think every romance novel benefits when those paths hit a crossroad in some way. Do they choose themselves or their love for each other? Bam. Tension. At the end of the day, something in their lives is unrequited

3. Couples should complement each other in some way. Is he shy and her outgoing? Is she struggling to find the last piece of the puzzle and her lover has it in her hands? Take a look at your favorite bookish couples and you’ll see that they often complement each other’s personalities and goals. They push each other to be better people or to look at the world in a new way. They experience personality traits of the other that their friends/family do not get to see. When you’re revisiting your favorite couples, ask yourself why they appealed to you. What scenes made your heart pitter-patter? Make a list. You might see a pattern emerge of tropes you love, such as the one-bed trope, brother’s best friend, enemies-to-lovers, etc. Once you know what tropes you want to work with, it’ll be so much easier to form your story.

Honestly, though, I could go on and on about romance. If you love reading romance, I’d love it if you check out my young adult paranormal romance, the Timely Death trilogy. The first book, Minutes Before Sunset, is currently free! It’s set in Kansas and follows two magical teens, who realize they’re fated to fall in love… and die.

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~SAT

Writing Tips

#MondayBlogs Writing Tips for Love Interests

Romance sells. This is a proven publishing fact. Though that doesn’t mean you should add romance to your novel just to add it, romance is quite popular in ANY genre, and let’s be real, love is everywhere. The chances of writing a book with no one (not even a side character) falling in love or being in some sort of relationship is pretty slim. Think of your own family and friends. Someone is going through something. Which is why love is so relatable. It might also be why we love reading about love. So, how do we write about love?

Like any topic, there are a million ways to write about love, but since I know you have a million more articles to read, I’m only giving out two quick tips to keep in mind when developing a relationship for your characters. But first, I want to get one stereotype out of the way, a stereotype we’ve all loved to hate. That’s right. I’m talking about Insta-love.

A note on Insta-Love:

I use the term “love” loosely here, but can we admit that insta-love happens? All. The. Time. In reality, it might be classified as infatuation or lust, but in the moment, a lot of people believe they have fallen in love at first sight or fight kiss, and technically, some people do fall in love right away. We’ve all heard stories of those couples many envy. You know, “She walked into the room, and I just knew!” It does happen, and it happens to people of all ages, but I definitely prefer when an author allows love to shape over time. This generally means love is more character-driven than plot-driven, and there are many ways to approach it.

Here is one system to think about.

1. Show How the Love Interest is Different

Why should we love them? Sure, he/she is good-looking and funny and smart, but so? Everyone is good looking and funny and smart to someone—and as an author, you’re not necessarily trying to get only one character to love another character. You’re trying to get most of your readers to also love that character, or in the least, believe in that character’s love. This is why we have to start thinking beyond types and start thinking about love in general. What makes love relatable? More love! Think about the love interest’s relationships with all of those around them—their friends, their family, etc.—and I guarantee you’ll make that character relatable. You’ll also figure out why your love interest is a standalone (and interesting) character. If that doesn’t work, try some personality questionnaires to get to know your characters better. Maybe they have a strange hobby or a secret phobia or a new dream that contradicts everything they’ve ever dreamt of before. Questionnaires will help you concentrate on the love interest as a person rather than as a love interest in your story…which is key to creating an interesting character for ANY situation. Not one character should be in a book to simply support another character. Sure, supporting characters support the main character, but much like the villain, supporting characters are still the main characters in their story. Treat them as such. Give them their own desires, interests, fears, and arcs. Love interests are never just love interests. Love interests are just characters who happen to fall in love.

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2. Now Show How the Love Interest is Different Around The Lover

This is the “two characters who happen to fall in love” part. To me, it basically translates to affection, and not necessarily physical affection. I mean, emotional affection. Maybe they open up to one another about topics they’ve never opened up about before. Maybe they simply cry in front of one another. Maybe they are the ones who challenge them the most and cheer for them even harder than anyone on the sidelines. Maybe they can dance and trip and don’t feel embarrassed that they tripped together. It’s both about comfort and accepting discomfort, knowing the other will love them anyway. The juxtaposition between positive and negative emotions—while sharing them with one another—helps readers relate to the couple while also allowing the couple to relate to one another on a more intimate level. In this process, you’ll probably see where the characters draw lines with friends and co-workers and family members as well. A great exercise I swear upon is taking your protagonist’s deepest darkest secret and figuring out how they would tell everyone in their life and why the situation changes based on who they were talking to. Of course this doesn’t have to go into the book. (But who doesn’t love a good secret?)

Of course, there are many types of love—and the English language is very limiting to the definition of love—so exploring lust, infatuation, obsession, admiration, and love all come with their own complications and expectations. That’s the joy in writing stories though. Get lost in the chaos. Figure out the unknown. Push boundaries. Listen to your gut. But most of all, follow your heart.

I hear that’s the key to love, after all.

Original—Insta-Love Isn’t Instant—is very different. 

~SAT

Enter Clean Teen Publishing’s Summer Fun Giveaway!

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Win a paperback of November Rain in this Goodreads Giveaway.

Win signed swag from The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods by signing up for the Bad Bloods Thunderclap and emailing me your support at shannonathompson@aol.com.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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