So, you have two characters, and you want them to fall in love. You want them to fall in love so much, you’re willing to spend the time and energy needed to write an entire novel about their romance. Yes – you are going to write a romance novel. But what are the rules, and how do you know you’ve really written something appropriate for the romance genre.
The Rules of the Genre
While there are people out there who turn their noses up at genre work, the entire point of genres is to help guide readers to novels they will particularly enjoy. In order to belong on the romance shelf at the bookstore or the library, you need to ensure your work abides by the demands of the genre. That said, romance is as flexible and varied as other niches, like science fiction and fantasy.
The single, most important genre rule you can never really escape is that your characters must come together in the end. There must be no doubt that they have a happily ever after in each other’s arms. Readers expect this from the moment they pick up your book, and failing to pair your characters not only disappoints your readers but also changes your book’s genre. Romance is the genre of happily ever afters. Stories with mixed feelings in the end or broken relationships move into drama and tragedy.
A Mystery in Reverse
While this does mean all your readers essentially know the end of your story before they pick it up, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Think of it this way: you’re writing in reverse. Everyone can anticipate the end, but it’s the beginning they don’t expect. If you have two characters who hate each other, how in the world are you going to pair them up by the end? How will you overcome obstacles to help true love win? How and why do these characters’ feelings change? It’s like a murder mystery in reverse. Everyone expects the body to drop in the beginning of a mystery, and it takes the whole book to figure out the how and why. A romance flips that and provides a much sweeter conclusion.
Remember Your Story’s Focus
When you set your romance novel on the high seas, it’s easy to get distracted by pirate shenanigans, trouble with the Royal Navy, and mystical maps that may or may not lead to treasure. While these are all great things, if you let them become the focus of the story, then you have an adventure novel on your hands. Even if your characters get together at the end, if the narrative doesn’t highlight their feelings and relationship over all other plot elements, then you haven’t really written a romance. After all, romance appears in many other genres. What sets the romance genre apart is its emphasis on – well – romance.
Are you ready to break out the roses and start your romance novel? The rules are simple, flexible, and easy to manage. This genre offers an interesting challenge for writers, and it’s a great way to stretch your creative abilities. It’s also – of course – an awful lot of fun!