Monday, September 7, 2015

4 Tips to Writing Better Romance

So this past weekend, as I do every year, I attended the League of Utah Writer's annual fall conference. This conference is always great, which is why I always go. They have fantastic classes, I get to network with other authors, sell a handful of books, etc. I even taught a class myself this year. So, as per usual, you'll probably see a few conference-inspired posts over the next couple of weeks.

So on Friday when I got there, the first thing I did was go and set up my author's table, piling books, bookmarks, cards and other swag all over it. The woman at the table next to me was Amy Jarecki. I'll admit that I didn't particularly recognize her, but her name sounded familiar to me. She, on the other hand, said she recognized me, and asked if we'd ever met. Neither of us could remember a particular time, but we both attend this conference regularly and figured that must have been it. (The next day she figured out a specific time she remembered me from. It was a workshop we both attended a few years before. I still didn't remember her specifically (I felt so bad!) but I did remember the workshop.)

Anyway, we hit it off and started talking. She is actually a VERY successful romance author. Now, I don't read or write genre romance, but I quickly realized that this woman knows how to sell her books. So I picked her brain about it, and she was more than happy to share with me. I was so stoked! So, the next day, when I was trying to decide which class to attend during a certain hour, I decided to attend hers. 

It was, of course, on writing better romance relationships. And since I--and most authors--have romance in their stories, even if they don't write genre romance, I figured, why not? Oh I was so glad I did! I learned so much! 

So I give full credit for these tips to romance author Amy Jarecki (check out her website HERE) and to Linda Howard for the steps of progression. 

4 Tips for Writing Better Romance

Source Hawkeye and Cora, The Last of the Mohicans

1. Create plenty of conflict within the romance
     A. The two characters at the center of your romance should have opposing goals (external

     B. They should also have opposing emotional life paths (internal conflict)

Source Can anyone name this couple?
2. Define your characters' personality types. Amy suggests a book called Are You My Type? Am I Yours? by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele. This book goes into detail about the nine personality types. There are plenty of personality systems you can use. Pick your favorite and use it actively. It will enhance your characters and their interactions with one another and deepen the reality of your story.

3. Remember the power of FEAR. Plot out your characters' actions, reactions, motivations, goals and conflicts in detail. Of course we want to do this with every character and story even if romance isn't involved. But the main reason people don't get what they want right away in a relationship or claim love the instant it strikes them is because of fear. So this should be a dominant emotion in your romance arc. 

Source Kate and Sawyer of Lost
4. Keep in mind Linda Howard's 12 Steps to Intimacy. This is just a logical progression to physical human intimacy. It's not rocket science or anything, but it's something to keep in mind when crafting a relationship. It basically describes the steps people go through in their physical relationships.

     1. Eye to body contact. (Basically just checking one another out.)
     2. Eye to eye contact. (If no romantic sizzle at this point, then the relationship will not progress to romance.)
     3. Voice to voice contact. (Being flirty. :D)
     4. Hand to hand contact. (First real fear is often felt here, but it's a major turning point in the relationship.)
     5. Arm to shoulder contact. (She demonstrated this as putting arms around each other, but I really think it could be any contact that's between hand to hand and full body. Just leaning arm to arm could qualify, in my opinion.)
     6. Arm to waist contact. (A bit more intimate than arm to shoulder.)
     7. Mouth to mouth contact. (Ah, first kisses.)
Source Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
8. Hand to head contact. (This one was interesting to me because touching someone's head can actually be more intimate than kissing, depending on the kiss. I just never really thought about that before. Interesting.)

     9-12. From there we get more intimate touching, including hand to body, mouth to breast, hand to genitals and genitals to genitals.  Whether you explore those depends on what kind of novel you're writing. Most romance novels are pretty racy. For me, I generally don't do that much detail in a love scene. (And obviously these steps weren't something anyone attempted to demonstrate in a writing workshop. :D)

So that was the gist of it. Follow those four tips and your romance--be it the entire crux of your novel or just a side plot--will be deeper, more real and more compelling.

(Btw, the unnamed couple in the second picture is Beth and Daryl of The Walking Dead. :D)

Anyone else have any tips for writing great romance?


  1. I've never gotten past number seven. And probably never will.
    Welcome back!