With National Novel Writing Month fast approaching, it's time for me to reflect on where I'm going with my next romance novel.
On one hand, it feels like every romance story that could be told has been told, then up pops something like Red, White & Royal Blue or Call Me By Your Name and everyone loses their minds. And hearts.
Now it's fair to say that these novels didn't tell a new story, but they certainly told a familiar story in a new way or with a fresh, distinctive voice.
"But Stuart," I hear you cry, "I need something to get me started. Help me, pweeease!"
Okay, here goes.
The Obligatory Scenes
I bang (no pun intended) on and on about 'obligatory' scenes because those scenes are the ones romance readers expect. Leave any of these scenes out at your peril!
Meet The Lovers! The Lovers Meet.
Readers want to meet the lovers, and the lovers have to meet. Yes, yes, it's all very obvious, but we need to see the lovers ASAP in your story. They don't need to meet right away, but we need to see them in their natural habitat.
If you're writing from one character's POV, you can get away with showing your main character's natural habitat.
Some writers call it the Meet Cute. Some call it the Inciting Incident. I like to call it Ooh, Who's This?
Thrust Together. (No, Marjorie, Not Like That.)
Okay, so they've bumped into each other, and hopefully they're kind of interested, but something is holding them back. They might have doubts about themselves, the other person, or both. I like doubts about both—it gives you so much more to work with and for the reader to enjoy. Somehow, someway, keep them together.
In my last novel, my romantic heroes were contestants on a reality TV show and forced to live together in a house (think Big Brother and you're almost there). Looking at a Mills & Boon and a Harlequin novel on my desk, one is a PA to a red-hot boss who strikes a deal with him to pose as his fiancee and the other... oh, is exactly the same.
Keep your (potentially) naughty little rascals from simply walking away.
First Kiss / Confession Of Love / Bonk
During their time spent together, there's an inkling that the other might, just might, be THE ONE. Desire has deepened, some doubts about the other or the self don't seem as important, and your romantic heroes are thinking, "Maybe this time...".
Time for them to 'fess up! They might come (steady!) right out with it, enjoy a little lip lock, or go all the way. Either way, they have THE FEELS.
Maybe. Maybe Not.
But it's not all wine and roses. You can go straight in and rip them apart or sow the seed of doubt in your lovers' minds. They are within reach of everything they want, but they're not going to get it are they? ARE THEY?!
Not in A Nightmare On Elm Street kind of way, but what they fear must rear its ugly head and make them choose to break things off. Please, please engineer something that feeds off both their insecurities about themselves and each other. They retreat in order not to get hurt.
I'm So Ronery
If you haven't seen Team America: World Police, you're not going to get that title, but hey-ho.
Your lovers must wallow in indescribable pain. There might be tears. There probably should be tears. They might consume chocolate fudge cake. The comedy sidekick tells your lovers they complete and utter nincompoops for letting THE ONE get away. Life is miserable.
Oh My God. I love Josh!
Wham! might have worn Choose Life t-shirts but your characters must choose love. The smell of coffee must wake them up. Or the booze must wear off. Or the cake wears off. But it's not going to be as easy as a simple text, is it? IS IT? No, it's going to involve going back, being vulnerable and saying, "But I wuv you".
I Wuv You & I Can Prove It
Race to the airport before they leave! Stand on a box in a crowded street and embarrass yourself in public! Give up on your dream job for THE ONE!
Make it big. The grand gesture can be funny or heartbreaking or make complete strangers cheer.
A Whole Lotta Love
They're back together. Yay! Maybe they've had a little somethin' somethin' but we need a little something to show us the lovers are—dare I say it—complete.
I love a little flash-forward epilogue, but it could be something as simple as the end of Grease when Greased Lighting takes off and... how the **** did that even happen?!
I'm still kind of fixated on the flying car from Grease, but I'll try to concentrate.
Think through your romance and make sure you have these scenes in your outline. If you don't you'd better have a flipping good excuse because there's a genuine risk you're going to upset your readers and be put on trial for crimes against the heart.
Join me in my next post for the perfect ensemble of characters to complete your cast!