Best Key Elements of a Good Romance Novel
While there are no hard and fast rules for writing the perfect romance novel, many of them share elements. These similar elements can be seen in other genres as well.
A romance, in essence, must have a protagonist with whom the reader can empathize, often known as a sympathetic character. This protagonist has one or more love interests.
To keep the story intriguing, there must be some impediment to the protagonist and their love interest being together. The conflict is the name given to this impediment.
If the romance is to be satisfying, it must conclude with a happy ending. The protagonist and love interest work together to resolve the situation so that they can be together.
The distinction between a romance and a love story is that a romance has a satisfying ending in which the protagonists have a HEA (happy ever after), whereas a love story frequently has a tragic ending that leaves the reader in tears while demonstrating a strong and memorable love.
What Exactly Is a Romance Novel?
A romance novel is a work of long-form prose fiction having a love subject. A romance novel, according to the Romance Writers of America, must have a central focus on the development of a romantic relationship between two people. Another requirement for a romance novel is that it have an emotional thread that leads to a happy ending.
A Synopsis of the History of Romance Novels
Romance novels can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece, where five stories about passionate love have survived. Pamela, a novel by Samuel Richardson published in 1740, is also considered a forerunner of the modern romance novel. The successful works of Jane Austen, whose novel Pride and Prejudice considerably impacted the genre, propelled romance novels to popularity in the nineteenth century.
Mills & Boon, a British publishing house, began selling romance books through subscription programs in the 1930s. In the 1950s, Harlequin Enterprises, a Canadian publisher, began distributing Mills & Boon publications in North America. When Harlequin purchased Mills & Boon in 1971, the publishing houses combined, and romance books were mass-marketed to women in pharmacy shops and supermarkets. Harlequin/Mills & Boon continued to offer monthly book services to readers in order to market series directly to them.
Today, romance books cover a wide range of subgenres and are readily available around the world. According to the Romance Writers of America, women make up 82% of the genre's readership.
The Essential Elements of a Good Romance Novel
When you finish a romance novel, you take a step back and reflect on what you loved and didn't like about it. And if you put the book on your favourite’s shelf, you wonder what it was about the romance that drew you in.
To make it to you "keeper" shelf, a romance novel usually has to include many crucial features. Because of these qualities, some readers and writers may label romances as "formulaic." But, in essence, those tried-and-true components constitute the foundation of a good romance. They're the things romance readers expect and enjoy, and they're the reason they pick up a romance in the first place.
The hero and heroine must both be liked.
The reader must be able to fall in love with both the hero and the heroine. He has to be the type of guy that melts the hearts of readers. Sure, he has to have flaws, but only in such a way that readers still love him.
In addition, the reader must be able to root for the heroine. She can be many things, including a fiery tomboy. Certainly not flawless. She must, however, be the type of lady that readers would desire to be.
The more intricate the world, the more deeply readers will be immersed, and the more likely they will want to return. This holds true in both a current and a fantasy world. The globe isn't only about where you live. Sure, the setting and location are important, but it's the people and the community that count the most. The goings-on and personalities, the mysteries, and what's going on surrounding the primary characters and plot. That is what keeps us interested in a fictional world.
The novel is good if the reader is shown how each character relates to the heroine's struggle and how it affects them. The secondary characters will all have something to do with the hero's theme, either by hindering or assisting it. The more characters involved in the topic, the more we want to know what they'll do next and how it will affect the heroine.
Early in the novel, the hero and heroine must meet.
It's preferable if our two major characters meet inside the first few chapters. Even if there is a love triangle, readers want to know which man they are pulling for.
This relates to the previous point. Readers want to be smitten by the hero. And if they don't know who he is, it will be more difficult for them to relate to the romance.
Any hero, like every series, has a goal. Something that binds the universe, the plot, and the characters together. No two persons will have the exact same goal, but their goals must connect, whether through assisting the hero or by having opposing goals. They must be related to one another. Then, every character interaction will contribute to the world's development and the series' complexities.
Until the end, a barrier must prevent the hero and heroine from finding genuine love together.
Indeed, there could be various barriers between the two, keeping them physically, emotionally, and relationally apart.
Readers have told me that when all those boundaries come away and the hero and heroine "get together" too early in the narrative, they are usually disappointed. It deflates the intensity and gives the reader no reason to keep turning the pages, no matter how compelling the rest of the plot is.
An Outside Plot
There must be an overall plot in the series. Regardless of how minor. There is an external force that connects all of the novels. Something we've been looking forward to finding or learning since the beginning of book one. Each character will have their own subplot, but they must all be related to the main series arc.
Doesn't this seem like a lot for romance? Aren't they intended to be standalones in which a single couple falls in love?
Romances that end on a cliffhanger—where the love relationship does not end with at least a happy-for-now resolution—are often not well welcomed by the romance reader who anticipates her HEA. The romance must be resolved in some way. Romances are frequently published in a series of what are known as standalones. This means that each novel features a different romantic couple whose happy ending we eagerly await at the end.
Most romance series feature a cast of characters who are introduced in the first book or as the series progresses. You might encounter the hero or heroine, or possibly the entire romantic pairing for the second novel, in book one. The seeds for the following book's romance will be sowed as the series proceeds.
The romantic tension must be strong and build gradually throughout the novel.
Obviously, there must be romantic moments between the hero and heroine in a relationship. This does not have to imply stuffing a novel with kissing or sex. My books have very few kisses and no sex, but I incorporate a lot of sizzle in other ways.
Many authors of good romance novels make an effort to place their characters in romantic settings that are appropriate for each novel. These scenarios are even better when the pair is forced to remain together for an extended period of time so that they can truly get to know one other.
Typically, a tale idea will come to me with a theme. In each book, the protagonist will confront some baser challenges to varied degrees and levels. As the hero gets mastery, it alters and grows, or worsens. Each series is different, yet the underlying premise remains the same.
Let's imagine the theme of a novel is retribution. In each book, the hero seeks vengeance in a different manner. The series is about the ramifications of vengeance; what happens when you go after it? The hero learns more about himself than he does about pursuing true vengeance, and because it's a romance, he learns that love is far more healing than any vengeance will ever be.
The romance must conclude satisfactorily (aka happily-ever-after).
The pair must reconcile by the end of the novel. They must overcome all of the obstacles that have separated them. They must fall in love. And they must aspire to be together indefinitely. Period.
In fact, the finale should make you sigh. When the reader finishes the book, we want them to be satisfied since the hero and heroine faced huge hurdles, conquered the antagonist, matured in character as a result, and finally discovered true love.