Part 3 –
Now, everyone has that perfect romantic location in their head. Be it the beach at sunset, a sunset cruise, a hot air balloon over the Serengeti or a quiet meal in. There are so many to chose from, so how to you go about finding that perfect place for a propasal?
Go back to your couple, to make things simply I’m doing the classic route of the man setting everything up. To do things right, he must know his girl rather well. If she hates hiking, a long walk to the middle of nowhere isn’t going to do the trick, even if the waterfall is stunning. The things to consider are what she likes, where she likes to go and do you have a special place?
If you have somewhere that is special in both of their hearts, then go with that. She likes to be pampered – a day at the spa followed by a meal. She likes animals – the zoo or if you can, one of those wildlife places where you can go into the enclosure.
The one thing to remember is how your soon-to-be fiancee reacts. Does she enjoy public places and won’t mind being watched, or does she prefer the quiet tones of somewhere private? Maybe picking the location isn’t going to be as easy as you thought?
But, it is. Go on, admit it. You wrote the couples background – you did, didn’t you? If not you’re on a downward streak. This is going to be hell. How can you make him propose if even you don’t know what your heroine likes? Now, go on, back to square one and get that background wrote. Amateurs, eh?
Now, there’s one more thing to remember. Women being women, she’ll have dreamed of her dream proposal. Every female does, so your mc isn’t going to be any different. If your hero is clever enough, he’d have got it out of her or asked her friends. How much easier do you want it?
Then there’s a romantic holiday route. Take her away. Whisk her off to a romantic location and pop the question. sorted. But is it?
The location is sorted, but how is your hero going to propose? The typical on one knee is common. Or maybe, have him lean over the table, the candlelight echoing around them. Maybe your hero has a joint problem and can’t kneel for the length of time required? Remember that background your wrote, go check it for those little bitty details because if he’s kneeling and you said he got shot in the knee recently…
So, hopefully this has got you thinking about this a bit more. Guess now you are figuring that romance writing isn’t that easy. Go on, you can sort it out.
But I will leave you with one last thought. How is he going to react if she says no…
So, you have your main couple but what about the others? Those minor, side characters that filter in and out. Or do they? For those who have watched Grim, What about Juliette? The Grim’s wife? Minor or major? She came into her own as the program developed and you could say – one of the major characters. This is another thing to consider. Do you what them to remain as a minor character, or are you allowing them to grow?
Think about it. Your couple must have friends. Those they have grown up with, work with, go out with. You can’t ignore them. I dare you to try it. Go on, they’ll come back and bite you. They won’t stay in the background. Remember, they will affected by whatever you through at the main couple. A close friend wont just say – ‘Oh, well, its only a story’.
Minor characters help your main ones come out into the open. They might be the ones to help them get together. Match-make – it happens. Or she has to dump her friend at a party because this drop-dead, handsome guy appears. How will her friend feel. Add it in. Is she happy or will she throw in the jealous card? Think ugly sister time.
Don’t think your readers gloss over those little, bitty characters, they don’t. Okay, some might – there’s always the one. But take it from me, most won’t. So, what can you do?
When planning out your characters, don’t just concentrate on the main ones. That’s a big mistake. Take the same amount of planning with your minor characters. At some point, it’ll pay off. When your female goes out with her best friend you need to know what both like to eat and drink. Plan their birthday’s too. If it’s his best friends birthday, is he going to forget about it – I know, its a man thing so probably yes. But his friend will probably remind him.
Make sure you know their favorite colors too. If like me you then decide to write their story, you’ll already have the details to hand and won’t need to re-read the previous book – been there too. Remember those readers, yeah, those ones, the ones which will spot the inconsistencies and break out the bad reviews. Don’t give them the ammunition.
Your minor characters could easily steal the show, so get them right. You don’t need to go into a full description, unless they are getting their own book, let the readers decide how they appear. Many readers like that. If you do add a description,l do it early on before the reader makes their own decision. Nothing worse then deciding how a character looks and the author turns it all around – I know I hate it.
So, there you go. More decisions to make. Who said writing a book was easy? They were lying.
So, you have your heroine and hero sorted. You’ve wrote their backgrounds but what next? Well, the plot. What are your couple going to discover? Are there threats against them? Or is it going to be a easy-going, fun-loving romance? After all, it’s your story.
But you need to get it right. So, today a few hints and tips. I’ll cover different styles of plots at a later date.
Understand your audience :- Simply right? Maybe not. Most readers of romance are female. They probably buy several books a month, so why should they buy yours? Let’s be honest, there are millions of romance books out there, its one of the popular genres. You probably won’t come up with a brand new plot – it’s all been done before. But, you can spice it up. Turn it around to your personal story. I’ve wrote a retelling of Cinderella, I advertise it as such. Why? Because readers like fairy-tales. When you here the word Cinderella, you think of her happy ending. But it’s been done before – I hear you cry. Yep, it has. So, what did I do? I got rid of Prince Charming. Sorry, I brought her a duke. No glass slipper either – can you imagine how uncomfortable they must be? I added a mask. Now they might have met at the masked balls, but that’s not where they figured out who each other where. No, I made her the owner of a husky stud. And our duke just happens to breed huskies too. There you go, Cinderella with a difference. All you need to do is think outside of the box.
Introduce your heroine : – After all, she’s the main interests here. Go and read my previous post on heroines.
Introduce her other half :- You know, the love interest. Again go and read my previous post on hero’s – but when to bring him in? Straight away or not? Now, this is down to the story. In Falling for a Dike, Ramsey turned up in chapter two. In Falling for Katie, Finlay had to wait until chapter five. Why? Because in my second Romancing in Scotland book, Katie needed more of an introduction, and the plot needed time to develop. So, add in your hero when good and ready.
Now, why are they going to fall in love? That’s the real reason you are writing the book, right? You must have some idea. Now, whatever you have planned – it’s about to go out the window. Yep, it is, don’t argue. So, you have the perfect outline but your characters don’t agree. They won’t – believe me. They will take your script and screw it up and probably be laughing. At some point you might be able to turn it back around – it might not last. Again, you need to think outside of the box – remember it’s all been done before. the girls’ been abused and doesn’t trust men? Thousand of them stories out there. The girl dreams of true love? You don’t want to know how many authors have written that – think fairy-tales again. Take your plot and spice it right on up. Make your readers believe why your couple are going to love each other. This is where the writing of your characters back story comes into play. If that is strong enough your story will fly. Too weak and it’ll flop. Above all else, bring that back story into the plot. If your heroine doesn’t trust easily, your readers will what to know why. The hero caries scars – why? At some point these issues will need adding.
Sex :- Okay, it’s a romance, this needs to be addressed. Are you writing a clean romance – no sex at all? Will you hint at it – drop out to black as they get it together? Or go the whole hog. That’s what I do. My romances are steamy – my mom has described them as filthy. I take that as a compliment – I must have done something right. Can I also point out I am single as I wrote them – so just because you don’t have another half to practice on doesn’t mean you can’t write about it. I mentioned before about google being your new best friend – you can’t imagine what you can find. Go on – google sex and see what you get. There are some good articles. And if you are a romance reader yourself, you know what other authors are writing. Don’t be ashamed of what you write because that will spoil the effect you want.
The ending :- Yes, the important bit. Your couple has met. They have had adventures which they may or may not have wanted. But remember it’s a romance – your readers want a happy ending. If it’s a standalone book, don’t add a cliff-hanger – bad reviews will come your way. If a series you can get away with a slight cliff-hanger – maybe a happy for now ending but hint at something else coming their way. My Persecuting series is out of print fort a revamp, at the moment. Book one has the happy for now ending. Book two completes their story. The others are all happy endings.The romancing in Scotland series are standalone – they need the happy ever after.
So, you have to basic outline – go and plot something.
The typical sexy hero. The one you find on the front of covers half naked.
But who’s to say this man isn’t someone’s true love either?
This one is similar in parts to writing your heroine. He must be believable. But what makes the perfect hero for your romance story. I’ve posted two picture above. One the typical sexy man you presume will turn up, but what is the heroine falls for number two? Are you going to turn off? Do you lose interest? Not if the author has done their job correctly.
The hero is the one who normally rescues the heroine. (Yes, it can be reversed, but I’m not going there just yet). You man must be the equivalent other half of your female. She must fall for him, but why him? Why not the man next door? Well, she could, nothing stopping her. I mean, your heroine is a strong busty woman. She can hold her own. Does she need a man to support her all the time? After all, if she can kick-ass already, the man might not need to. She might get a bit fed up of him butting in – now there’s a story. On the other hand, your female is weak and mousy. To sacred to say hello to her shadow. Does she want a man who jumps at every slight sound? Maybe not, she wants a man who will support her, while the first female might prefer a man who is happy to let her take control. Who said writing was easy?
Back to the basics. It doesn’t really matter what he looks like. Your female might fall for his looks, but eventually it’ll be his personality which will win out. So far, I’ve written a Duke and a private investigator. Both two different men. One born to riches, the other born to abuse. But both protect their female in their own way. (I’ve a bad-boy series too – first will be out December the first. Three different men with different ways of saving their women). The man thing is he doesn’t have to be perfect. Show his caring side, his strong half, but give him a flaw of some sort. Every Female dreams of the perfect man but come on ladies, do they really exist? Can you honestly say your other half is perfect and doesn’t get on your nerves? Own up, now.
Has your hero got a bad past? Bring it out. Maybe he argues a lot? Can’t accept his females love due to previous abuse – done that too. Make him storm off when he’s outnumbered. maybe then your heroine will feel sorry for him and that’s how their love develops. But remember to add those happy memories to slow the action down a bit. Send them out on a date – even if they do argue at the end. Not all dates go in the right way.
Whatever you do, your readers need to fall for your hero. A flat, boring hero will make them drop the book. He needs to grow, develop as the story goes along. Do they have the same interests, or are they the complete opposites. It can work.
Whatever you do, make the couple appear real. If you struggle to see them together, I can tell you, your readers won’t. Then you get those bad reviews and sales drop. However, that’s when the editing comes into play. You can correct things.
Above all else, if the story isn’t’ working, delete it. Yes, you read right. I once deleted 56,000 words. I cried but, the new edition was better and stronger.
So now you should have some idea about your main characters. Go and write and write them. Go on. I know you can do it now. The perfect couple.
Let’s expand on yesterday’s post. Our heroine. What are your readers looking for?
As mentioned most romance books are based around the female. (I’m ignoring the ones based around the male for now). So, she needs to be approachable. How do you do this? I hear you ask. Well, read on.
Go and check out romance on Amazon. Go on, you have time. The first one I come across has a half-naked man on the front. You know why, right? Yep. Nothing like a naked man to draw in the eye, after all, most are female readers. (Yes, I mentioned the male readers before, I know there are some). However, check the blurb – that bit which tells you about the story – it’s written from a female point of view.
The second book as a couple on the front, but the blurb again starts with the woman. As I flick through the first few, it’s a mix of naked men and couples on the front but the blurb is mainly around the woman – even those from the men’s point.
So, the female is brought out in the lead of where most romance books come from. You have to get her right. You want a happy ending and that means she gets her man.
The heroine has to be one of your readers made interests. Plain and boring – they turn off. Perfect in every way – they turn off. Come on, who’s perfect anyway? The idea is to balance out the two. Make her plain in some aspects, others – make your reader jealous. She has creamy-rose skin which needs no foundation – that’ll make me jealous. But, shes got oily skin that takes a lot to take care of. The minus side. Now, she appears more real and your reader can sympathize with her.
Also your heroine will lead the reader into liking your man – more about him on another post to come. Not every female likes the same type of man – now wouldn’t that be dead boring and there wouldn’t be enough to go around. So, you hero turns out to be a total nerd. A computer geek – that’s one I haven’t done yet. You hate them and cant believe you are still reading the book. so, why are you? Because the author has wrote how the female loves him so much, in such a way, you feel her emotions and fall for him too. There’s the emotions added in. Now, you look at nerds in a totally different way. Your author has done their job – hooked you right in.
Just remember one thing. I’m not going into conflicts in this post, but it will happen in your story. Make her responses real. Hopefully, most of your readers won’t have lived through whatever you plan to do, so she needs to make them feel the same way. Back to the emotions. If shes crying – write her crying. Don’t say – ‘she cried her heart out’ all of the time. Show your readers she’s a bubbling wreck. The same is she’s out enjoying herself. (I’ll do the show versus tell at a later date).
One more thing, characters have to develop. Make her grow throughout the story. Yes, she can go backwards too – this might cause her to lean on her hero a bit more, think about it. She’s mugged, now too scared to go outside. Will her man walk away? Will he stay inside with her? Or, will he help her get back into the big, wide world? This goes back to perfection. If your heroine doesn’t have any flaws, how will the hero win her over?
And the last thing – and this goes for any character in your book. The name, keep it real. How many How many Tammy’s were there in medieval days? Probably none, so your heroine from the 1800’s might not have fitted in – unless its a time travel story. Research the era and get those names right. I have a book of Scottish names, first and last names. Some aren’t truly Scottish so I stay away from them. Getting the name wrong will lose you readers and get you a few bad reviews.
Let’s approach this question for any budding romance writer must cover a few necessities.
Have a believable heroine.
This is the main point required. Now, it can be reversed to the man being the prime character but most of the time it’s the woman who needs rescuing. Give her a decent back story, one your readers will fall for. After all, most romance readers are female. Yes, before you argue there are men too. I have a few. However, you need to make your readers fall in love with her. Give her strength to fight for her man but weakness too. After all, when you add the man, he needs a reason to be there for her.
Add the love interest. Bring in the hero
Now, again this can be reversed to the female, but everyone likes a tall, handsome man to win the day and the maiden. Just look at the Disney films. Snow White has her Prince Charming, Cinderella has her Prince. The man is normally the hero. (And yes, I know there are exceptions). Make him strong enough to save the girl but give him flaws – no one likes the perfect man and lets face it, they don’t exist. Go on, try and argue. But think out of the box. Not every hero is tall, dark and handsome. Some come in different packages.
Emotion and tension
Now, who has read the usual type of romance? You know the type. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy marries girl. Boring, right? A plane romance will get you nowhere. You won’t pull at the heartstrings, your readers won’t be hooked and sales will drop. Okay, there are readers who like this type of thing but the others? They need some grit to get their teeth into. Think about a Cinderella. Did she just meet her Prince and lived happily ever after? No, she had a wicked step-mother. So, add in emotions and tension. Give your hero a reason to fight for his girl. Is there a second man on the scene? Is there a threat against her life? Will he take a bullet for her? Now that’s an interesting one. How many general, bog-standard men will jump in front of a bullet? Yes, bodyguards, security men, police etc might, but Joe Bloggs? There’s a story in itself. How would he feel if he hesitated and his girl got hurt? Write that correctly and your readers won’t be putting your book down.
Make it believable.
Okay, you have your couple, a decent plot but have you checked the details? Google will become your best friend, at this point. In the olden day’s you had to find someone in the business to check details with and probably pay a fair bit. Now, google can answer most things. I use it all the time. There is nothing worse than writing the perfect romance and then a reader comes along and say – there is no way that would have happened. So check, check and check again. I”ve wriiren a big scene in my upcoming Christmas release, it’s the basis of how my couple comes together. I spent a fair bit of time googling. Now, I’m happy my details are right. Go through your finished, edited manuscript with a fine-tooth comb. Get those little bits perfect.
And that happy ever after ending
Everyone loves a happy ending. You’ve put your couple through hell and back. Given themto each other and pulled them apart – probably several time. Built up the tension. Now what’s it all for? That happy ending. Your readers what your couple together and in perfect love. Yes, yes,I know. It doesn’t always happen. And written correctly, you can still have a winner. But you want the perfect romance story, so add in that happy ending. Or, if it’s a series, a happy for now, ending.
That’s it for now, but I’ll be back with more hints and tips.