I was over at How We Write Romance recently, blogging about “Voice” in a novel. It’s something unique to each writer, something we alone can bring to our books to differentiate one “Boy Meets Girl” story from another. Romance is a formidable industry based on that premise alone, and yet readers return to it year in and year out – sometimes daily – because writers put a different spin on it with the use of voice.
Afterward, I realized there was a little more to it than that. Writers act as the gatekeepers for romance, deciding what to leave in and what to leave out, shaping the genre with those decisions. Some writers include lots of steamy love scenes and some writers close the door. Some authors include complex plots with secondary storylines and some choose a more streamlined approach. That got me thinking… what elements are “must haves” in romance for me?
We could each make a list. Some readers insist on deep, dark conflicts that really take them on an emotional journey. Some readers much prefer a light read that’s truly escapist – something that will take them away from their problems and make them laugh. I can go either way on that issue. I like both kinds of stories, but I don’t like anything overly weepy. If I’m going to cry, I prefer the “laughter through tears” moments.
I like compelling supporting characters in a romance and a strong hero. By strong, I mean well-defined with a distinct personality. Also, that hero has to treat the heroine well. I’ve never been a fan of the uber Alphas who think they can get away running roughshod over the heroine. I’d never tolerate that kind of guy in the real world, and I don’t care for him in fiction either. I can find a hard-headed guy endearing, but only if he has a huge soft spot for the heroine.
Another must-have for me in romance is a conflict that shifts and changes as the relationship grows. I don’t like it when one or the other of the main characters keep getting mad about the same old obstacles. Deal with it! Grow! I like to see them overcoming one obstacle, only to be met with another bigger, badder variety of problem.
Personally, I also prefer a steamier story. A physical relationship is one of the most gratifying benefits of battling your way to a happily ever after, so I’m always glad to see the hero and heroine reap the reward of their efforts. But I don’t need to see steam on every page. It’s also fun to see the characters try to deny the inevitable and feel the tension build.
So what are your romance must-haves? Any “make or break” issues for you in a story? Do you love marriage of convenience stories or get frustrated with secret babies? Share with me some of your story preferences on the boards today and I’ll send one random poster a copy of my latest Blaze, RIDING THE STORM.