writing blog

How to write a good romance story, advice for writers

The month of February always makes me think of two things: my son’s birthday on the 13th and the following which is Valentine’s Day. Whilst the 13th may seem unlucky to some superstitious folk, for my family the February 13th is the day we all have a party in honor of our son. Despite being happy married for over a decade, for my husband and I, public and commercially acknowledged ‘day of lovers’ has become just another excuse to gorge on leftover chocolate from the night before. A random curiously fact was that our son come very close to being born on Valentine’s Day. He was born on February 13th, at preciously “two minutes to midnight”, just like the Iron Maiden song. Oh, did I ever mention how much love heavy metal…?

Photo from an Iron Maiden show in Warsaw, Poland, July last summer.

Anyway, enough with the mindless waffle, the point that I’m trying make is that whilst the holiday itself is extremely overrated it gives me an opportunity to discuss the topic of romance in writing. Whilst I’m not a fan of romance novels, I do enjoy stories with a romance plot, particularly if it’s in the fantasy, vampire horror or historical fiction genre. I’ve also written I few fantasy romance stories of my own including my upcoming novella ‘Tiriyanin’s Riddles’. So, I figured now would be a good time to offer to tips and advice for other authors and bloggers on how to write a good romance story.

First of all, there are several ways to write a good romance story, depending on the author’s own preference. Each one can work provided that it’s well written. But there are some things that you have to consider before writing one. Let’s start with two common subcategories of any good romance story: the slow burn and the fast burn.

In a typical slow burn story, the characters spend a large part of the plot getting to know each other. Their interactions tend to be rather subtle first, building up from complete strangers or even enemies to friends, before eventually falling in love. They progress from a casual tolerance or even hostility towards each other, to talking about their feelings before they are comfortable enough to even hold hands. This makes their first kiss all the more special, as it may not happen until at least half way through the story. The kiss is usually all you can expect if the said story is a young adult romance. In more mature novels for adults, you might get the odd sex scene but, that too is usually rather subtle. The emphasis is more on the emotional reactions of the characters rather than a detailed descriptions of the actual sex.

By contrast, in a typical fast burn story, the characters pair up rather quickly, driven a strong physical attraction to each other. Since they haven’t been together for very long and know little about each other, this is more about lust than love. These type of stories tend to feature more steamy, detailed descriptions of passionate sex, as that is ultimately the main reason why these individuals are together. They might get to know each other and eventually fall in love as the plot progresses, but that won’t happen until later on in the story.

Both of these subcategories have their pros and cons. Ultimately it’s down to the reader to decide which style they prefer. I know some people who love the slow burn, young adult variety and cringe at thought of having to read a sex scene in a fantasy novel. I also know others who love nothing more than a mature, steamy fast burn romance with vividly described passionate sex scenes. As a reader I’m more into the slow burn type of romance, but as writer I actually enjoy creating both varieties.

Here’s two examples of a slow burn romance from my short stories ‘Lord Makar and Lady Morae’ and ‘Avarrin’. In ‘Avarrin’, the main couple are of different race and they meet under very tense and unusual circumstances. As a human, Amara’s initial reaction to Avarrin (a woodland Enai, type of forest elf) is a mixture of fear, confusion and amazement. To her, Avarrin is a magical being she has never encountered before and only heard about in stories. Avarrin too isn’t used to humans. It takes time for him to earn her trust before they become friends and eventually fall in love. Similarly in ‘Lord Makar and Lady Morae’, the goddess Lady Morae shows up in Lord Makar’s realm and he welcomes her as his guest. Though he finds Morae physically attractive, Makar is is worried that she may not feel the same way about him. So their early interactions are very formal. Makar tries to be a good host and treats her with respect, tending to her needs and addressing her as “my Lady”. Morae spends a significant amount of time in his dark kingdom, just sitting by his side watching as he goes about his duties as the god of death. In both of these cases, the couple’s first kiss is the highlight of the story, something that the reader was anticipating and looking forward to from the start.

By contrast, in the fast burn style, fantasy romance novella ‘Tiriyanin’s Riddles’, the main characters Emperor Tiriyanin and Skaraila pair up in the first chapter of the book, driven by desire and physical attraction. The sex have they experience is very passionate and described in a lot of detail. As the story progresses, Tiriyanin; a sex addict who has had numerous lovers in the past, ends up falling in love with Skaraila, who proves to be more than just a pretty face but also an intelligent, kind woman, with whom he can connects on a much deeper level. Whilst there are plenty of steamy sex scenes prior to it, actual moment when he confesses his love to her is the real culminating moment of the story.

To conclude, I hope that you have enjoyed my post about writing romance stories. The best piece of advice I can give to any romance writer is to stick to a style that works for you. If you prefer slow burn stories with just a kiss as the highlight of the tale, that’s absolutely fine. It’s also fine to write a romance where the sex scene is of the ‘fade to black variety’, with most of the action happening off page. Or even one, where the most intimate thing that happens is that the characters hug each other. These can work just as well as the ones featuring ultra steamy, vividly described sex scenes. Just write your story the way that you want to tell it and you will find your own niche. There are readers out there who will enjoy it.