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How NOT to Write Romance

Updated on March 8, 2012

Romance novels get a really bad rap. I know for years I wouldn’t go near one. I kept expecting overly-muscled manly men who constantly save or protect virginal young women from themselves, or better yet some equally handsome villain with defilement on the brain. To make it worse, the first romance novel I attempted to read (suggested by a friend) was exactly that. Love rods bursting from denim prisons and all. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to refer to my bits as a love pocket. It’s just weird.

More recently, I have been reintroduced to the genre and have discovered it’s incredible variability, fun and unique style. The only thing romance’s today have in common with one another is the all-important HEA or Happily Ever After, a must for any novel calling itself a romance. So, whether you’re interested in reading them for the first time or are considering writing your own the following are tips NOT to follow when writing your romance novel.

The all importnat HEA or Happily Ever After
The all importnat HEA or Happily Ever After

Good Guys and Bad Guys

Tip #1 Baddies

Every good romance novel has a scary villain. Maybe even two. What do all the best romance villains have in common? Their scary evillness is due to nothing other than good old fashioned lust. If you have scary-bad-guy lust you don’t need any other motivation.

Tip #2 Virginal

Best kind of heroine? The virgin kind, with little to no life experience; all the better to be swept off her feet by the experienced and worldly Mr. Hero. Now that’s a love story!

Tip #3 Magic Membrane Mania

Obviously it’s common knowledge that all women are ruined and debauched the moment they’ve lost that magic membrane. Never mind that chicks lose it all the time from leading an active lifestyle. Just remember, no matter how painful it was when you lost yours for romance heroines it’s just a twinge, enough so that the hero knows he’s plowing prime property but not enough that she can’t do it twelve more times that night.

Tip #4 The roles of men and women

Conversely, if your heroine is no blushing maiden make her a hardcore ball buster (these are really the only two suitable kinds of herione) who just needs the strong, controlling, insulting hand of a complete a**hole to help her embrace her natural, blushingly feminine timidity.

Tip #5 Magic force fields

Be sure that controlling hero I mentioned earlier has a whole collection of belts filled with notches for all the women he has “bedded” irresponsibly. A collection he doesn’t have? STDs. How? Magic force field…duh.

Tip #6 TSTL

Whether she’s a ball buster or a blushing virgin one absolute MUST of all romance heroines is that they must fulfill the requirements of TSTL, or Too Stupid To Live. Need to get that plot moving? Get her convinced a serial killer is outside. What would you do? Run outside in your underwear with only a butter knife to protect yourself? Naturally.

Tip #7 Surprise!

Did your virginal heroine lose control after seeing the hero’s bulging pecs and get herself knocked up? Of course she did! And now she must keep the baby a secret and win the hero back without telling him. Because massive cover-up stories are the foundation of all strong relationships!

Tip #8 Losing control

Make sure your hero is so pumped up on testosterone than any mildly alluring thing the heroine does riles him up so much that things start to throb and pound and you get to use a lot of synonyms for heat. Make sure he’s got no level of accountability for what he does when he’s overcome with such manic lust. He’s got a magic force field remember?

Tip #9 Man meat

In romance novels, just like in the real world, men are only attractive when they have rippling muscles, washboard abs, long blonde hair and throbbing members of love.

Tip #10 Lady meat

Equally men only love women with smooth unblemished skin, long golden hair and small, pink nipples.

The Plots

And now for the most used (and therefore best!) romance plots. Use any of these and you’re guaranteed a bestseller.

Tip #11 City mouse

Awesome plot number one? Got a big city heroine? Send her off to some tiny city or country farm (extra points if she messes up her 500$ heels as soon as she gets out of her fuel efficient car) and have the hero sneering and thinking she’s pretty but useless. Then, have her prove she can be as tough as any farm girl, thereby winning over the cow pie shovelling hero.

Tip #12 Matchmaking from beyond the grave

Ever notice in romance novels and rom coms how often dead people are setting people up? They’re eaving wills and letters that stipulate the hero and heroine (who hate each other’s guts) have to spend so much time together. And then for some reason they do and the dead person is always right and they fall in love? Sheer brilliance!

Tip #13 Amnesiacs anonymous

The world of romance novels has really done a lot as far as bringing awareness to the very serious and widespread condition of constant amnesia (only experienced by beautiful people with dark secrets in their past).

Tip #14 Love at first sight

Ever met anyone who didn’t fall in love the second they saw those ridiculously over described eyes and a perfect jaw line? Nope, me neither.

Tip #15 The Grand Gesture

Yep, my husband has also stood outside my window with a stereo and walked fifty miles in the rain and professed his love in some ridiculously public place after filling my office with my favourite flower and sticking an engagement ring in my dessert. And if he hadn’t I wouldn’t love him.

Tip #16 Divorciness

Did your hero just get divorced from some (evil/crazy) ex-wife? Screw time to adjust and fix his issues so he doesn’t make the same mistakes over again. Forget working through his emotions and taking time alone to figure out what he wants. He should be diving in, emotional issues and all, to his next relationship with your (virginal/ball busting) heroine.

Tip #17 Il-fated relatives

And a lot of them. Hell, all of them. Parents eaten by sharks, and sisters getting crushed in tree cutting thingies and brothers devoured by boars and cousins sucked into quicksand and…

Tip #18 Seduction?

You know what’s great? Those almost-rape-but-not-really-because-suddenly-she-likes-it sex scenes. Not weird at all.

Alternative Universe’s and Their Governing Dynamics

Tip #19 Superhuman senses

Before you start writing your romance novel it’s important to forget how your senses work in real life and start describing every smell as though you’re a sommelier with your nose stuck in a glass and ever colour as if you were a Victorian Era painter getting all pedantic in Paris.

Tip #20 Magical coincidence powers

The magical, unlikely coincidence is a great tool! The more unlikely the better! For example: Even though your hero and heroine both have mundane jobs in a mundane city they coincidentally bump into each other in some exotic location where they are both on vacation/work trips for the same three days at the same hotel with their (jealous/difficult/rude/possessive/abusive) significant others safely at home.

Tip #21 Protection

Condoms? Anyone? No?…I guess you’ll be hitting up the secret baby cliché. Unless your hero has that magic force field.

Tip #22 Super-broodiness

Superhuman alternate universe mega brooding powers are a must for your hero.

Tip #23 Foodiness

Always remember that it’s not becoming for a woman to eat…ever. If she absolutely must eat something (you know if she’s starving to death after a traumatic kidnapping) then I suppose it’s alright if she nibbles some food. Preferably while gazing out a window. But nibble is the only verb you get!

Tip #24 Magic money

Your hero and heroine shouldn’t have to worry about silliness like rent and food (not a problem for your heroine) and other bills. Avoid such nonsense with these quick fixes: inheritance, wildly successful small business, well-paying and prestigious job that requires 3 hour workweeks, alimony from mean ex husabnd, fairy dust.

All jokes aside:

Please don’t take this article to mean I don’t love the genre (I write it) or that it’s all bad. Every genre has it’s special pile of dung that you’ll have to sift through to get to the good stuff. Some great romance novels even follow the tips above without making you want to gag. If you’re new to the genre though, don’t risk picking something off the shelf randomly that’s going to ruin romance novels for you forever. Ask around, find some suggestions on line. In romance there really is something for everyone!


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