There’s one thing the romance writer must always acknowledge: romance readers know exactly what they want!
- Escapism. The romance reader wants to be entertained, carried away, offered the chance to dream. So there has to be a good helping of fantasy. Find out what the women around like—the type of man who turns them on, the world they want to jump into with him, the kind of loving they’d like to receive from him. If you have any tough elements in your plot, how can you give their outcomes a positive spin?
- The romantic relationship must be at the heart of the story. Take care to keep it as your primary focus from the very first page, and don’t let yourself get diverted by secondary characters or plot threads. Ensure that a strong emotional connection between the reader and your main characters runs all the way through to the end.
- Create characters who engage the reader’s imagination. Readers want to experience the romance through the heroine’s eyes, so walk the miles of your novel in her shoes. As for your hero, fall in love with him first yourself and share your fantasy. Give glimpses of what he feels and thinks too, but remember to make his motivation believably male—therefore sometimes stubborn and frustrating! But at heart, he’s a rock with a code of honour which will see him do the right thing in challenging situations.
- A believable plot. Fantasy means anything can happen—right? Ultimately, yes, but the journey to a happy ending has to be rooted in reality for the reader to stay engaged. She wants to see the universal emotional truths that shape her real-life relationships worked through to a satisfying resolution.
- Conflict. This is a scary word that conjures up bad emotions, such as anger, jealousy and revenge. And anyway, we want everything in our romantic garden to be rosy, don’t we? In the end, we do, but consider digging up a few flowerbeds first. Too much conflict is exhausting, uncomfortable and boring. But the right amount adds suspense and tension, a delicious feeling of anticipation, and a chance to ride a thrilling roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. So think about what’s keeping your main characters apart—the motivations that divide or unite them, the personal struggles that spill over and create barriers. And how do your characters resolve their differences, by action or discussion? Fictional conflict like a sea tide; it ebbs and flows and is driven by the emotional weather, be it stormy or calm.
But, needless to say, in the end it’s your choice what you write and how you meet these needs for your audience. Be yourself and write from the heart. Because this is what the romance reader craves most: to hear that special voice of yours filling the pages.