I have written several kinds of romances in a number of formats. The formats include basic romance books, serial romances that could be strung together to make a book or stand alone, and finally, stand alone romantic short stories. There are many types of romances that sell well in today’s market. This is a female driven market, and readers of romances are primarily women of all ages, religions, and tastes. When you figure out your audience, you can get to work!
First there are “clean” romances, which include Christian themed love stories, and Amish romances. The next type of romance is historical romance, which could take place in the Wild West or Regency England. The “regency” series of romances are considered to be a subgenre of romance and cover the regency period in England from 1811-1820. Other types of romances are billionaire romances, which have become very popular since “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Also popular are paranormal romances and gay romances. The former is filled with shape shifters and/or vampires, and can include science fiction and horror. Gay romances feature main characters, men or women, who are homosexual and these stories can play out in any historical setting, past or present. Finally there is romantic suspense where you can mix a cozy mystery with two leads with strong romantic feelings for each other. For me, all types of romances are fun are write and can be very lucrative.
The theme of all romance writing is the same. Boy meets girl and they have a magical connection. Often their viewpoints and class differences separate them and that creates tension from the start. Your job as a romance writer is to create conflict that keeps the lovers apart or forces them to solve problems and come out stronger on the other side. The readers of romances want a happy ending, but you can’t make it too easy. Like life, the happy couple has to face all types of adversity to find eventual happiness.
To begin with, I will discuss writing Christian or Amish romance. There is still boy meets girl and ensuing conflict, but the characters are clean, and one or both is religious and belongs to a church. In these love stories, you must use elements of a couple’s faith and belief in God to bring them together and keep them together despite the problems of the world. Writing Amish romance is similar but requires knowledge of Amish customs including “Rumspringa:” the time many Amish adolescents venture outside their faith and experience the “English” world of sin. For example the Amish teens and young adults might drink beer, listen to western music, and even have sex. But there is never any sex in Amish romances. Only simple declarations of love complete with kisses and hugs are allowed. In Amish romances, the story is more important than the over concentration of the physical attraction. In short, chastity and conservative values are emphasized. The audiences for Amish romances are evangelical Christian women so as a writer, you must write for that audience. I have used “Rumspringa” as the backdrop in most of the Amish romances I have written. There you can explore the Amish world as well Amish customs and compare that experiece to the temptations of the “English” world. I usually make one half of the couple Amish and the other English forcing inevitable conflict. Besides the regular life conflicts I create for the characters, the question of faith is paramount. The age ranges of characters going through Rumspringa range from ages 16-22.
For historical romances, knowledge of history is important to bring the setting and story alive. For example I wrote one romance in 1876 Dodge City, when the town was deeply entrenched in debauchery and crime. I employed some of the major players of that time including Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. It helped that I am from Kansas and know that part of the country well. It was fun creating mustachioed men with an outlaw spirit in their makeup, and strong prairie women battling the elements. After creating strong characters, I allowed them to find love amid cattle drives and violent tornadoes. Historical romances are fun to write and take you as a writer into another world.
In another historical romance I wrote about a young couple in New York City in the 1920’s. It was fun to explore suffrage, bobbed hair, flappers and a general loosening of conventional mores for the women who were challenging the status quo. Men of the era were also changing and had to accept the challenge of women in the workplace and their new right to vote. The clash of old and new creates inevitable conflict and in my story, I created an old world man and a new age woman. I thought of “The Great Gatsby” the whole time I was writing and a clash of cultures in “The Jazz Age” was fun to write about. A happy ending brought the worlds of both characters together.
Contemporary romance is fun to write as well and requires no knowledge of history. But often readers like western romances for example, a best selling sub genre of contemporary romance. I based one romance I wrote in Durango, Colorado, and the hero was a long-term rancher and very old fashioned. The heroine, on the other hand, was from LA and very savvy and modern. Thus I used the clash of cultures again to create conflict. In that romance I had the characters meet after a tragedy in the family (in this case, it was the death of the heroine’s elderly father and her inheritance of the ranch the hero worked at). I took the romance through many conflicts in three books I wrote in this serial romance. First, after the spark was ignited and their attraction was palpable, I started the series of conflicts, which included hungry developers out for blood because of valuable minerals on the ranch along with sick livestock at the hands of those developers. In addition, the couple in question faced storms, crop failures, weather problems, and all the travails that can plague a ranch. Finally, as in all my romances, the characters faced adversity and came out stronger and more in love in the end.
I have also written billionaire romances. While I have never seen “Shades of Gray” or read the book (really!), I read enough Harlequin romances when I was younger to know how to write that kind of story. First the hero has to be rich, super rich. In my last billionaire romance, the hero had a yacht, a Lear jet, a great job, and millions at his disposal. On the other hand, the heroine was appealing, but of average attractiveness and of average income. For the heroine, it was important not to make her perfect. In one billionaire romance I wrote, the female lead was curvy and voluptuous but carried about 10 extra pounds she was always trying to lose. In addition she was not happy with her crooked nose (any quirk would do). Since women are reading these romances, you must make the female leads relatable and easy to fall to love in love with. The rich hero is brazen and always a playboy, but when you dig deeper he is vulnerable and wants a lasting relationship that reaches beyond the models and actresses he has been dating for 20 years. After the inevitable culture clashes and conflict, the mismatched couple finds true love.
Finally, there is sex and most readers of romance want it. I have found that taking the couple outside the bedroom is best. For example, I had one couple make love in a room full of aging wine casks during a wine tasting. In another scene the enamoured couple made love in the back of a crowded speakeasy. Just employ imagination and originality and your sex scenes will be fun to write!
As long as women gobble up romance stories and books, authors will write them. That romances can be fun to write is icing on the cake. Knowing the rules of romance makes it easier and gives the writer a place to start. Happy romance writing!!