Romance Novel Writing 5 Key Elements

Writing a romance novel is harder than people think it is. To write a romance novel you need to incorporate specific elements. Not saying that the romance genre is completely formulaic, however, certain things are expected when reading a romance novel.

According to Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies (insert laugh track here) there are 5 key elements that should be incorporated.

  1. A sympathetic/relatable heroine
  2. An irresistible hero
  3. Emotional/sexual tension
  4. An interesting plot
  5. A happy ending (of course)

Let’s break these down a bit.

A sympathetic/relatable heroine.

As a woman who reads romance books, I want to be able to sympathize with the book’s heroine. I want to relate to her, feel like I could be her friend if we met.

As a writer of romance books, I want my reader to root for my heroine. To want her to succeed. To get the guy (if that’s what she wants). I don’t want the reader thinking, “he can do better.

Side Note: I’m tired of reading romance books where the heroine is damaged. Actually, let me rephrase. I’m tired of reading romance books where the heroine is damaged due to some sort of sexual abuse. I know this is a reality of the world; however, this seems to be a growing theme in the romance genre, perhaps more in the New Adult sub-genre. My point is … we’re all damaged. Many other things can truly fuck a person up; let’s try using one of those to make our heroine sympathetic.

An irresistible hero.

In the same way, we want a heroine we can relate to and be friends with if possible, we want a hero we’d fuck ourselves given the chance. Am I right?

We don’t want our precious heroine to end up with some douche who we wouldn’t want anywhere near us. We want the fantasy of imagining a strong, sexy, irresistible man with her and in turn with us.

Let’s keep in mind, however, perfect is boring. Of course, you can have your hero want to save his lady from a burning building, but maybe instead he trips and falls running into the building. Then, finds out that she was outside the entire time, after saving herself.

In my opinion, make him a little nerdy, add some glasses, and I’m completely hooked — but that might just be me.

Emotional/sexual tension.

I think this one goes without saying. Would it be a romance novel without emotions running rampant and uncontrollable sexual tension? Probably not.

Even in the tamest romance novels, there needs to be sexual tension. You need to convey to the reader that these two people are attracted to each other. Also, give a reason why they are attracted to each other. And it cannot be because you’re the writer and you say so! Make the reader believe it.

Building tension? Say you have your characters sleep together in the first chapter. That’s fine and dandy. However, something has to keep them apart for the majority of the story afterward, in order to build that tension. If it was good, they’re going to want to do it again, as the writer you have to impede this until the right time.

And of course, when they do FINALLY get together, you have to follow through with the tension you have built upon. It should be worth it for the reader.

An interesting plot.

This is true of any genre, really. A story needs a good plot.

However, no matter what’s going on around your hero and heroine, the love story comes first. You can’t have one disappear for half the book and expect the reader to be invested enough in the relationship to care once they reappear.

Readers want to experience your hero and heroine interacting, falling in love.

A happy ending.

This is a necessary evil of romance novels. Readers expect a happy ending. Even if by the end, as the writer, you hate everyone and want to kill them all in a massive explosion, the hero and heroine MUST live happily ever after. Even if they are the only survivors, living in a gigantic sinkhole, they must still have each other in the end.

Need Inspiration?

Read, read, and then read some more. If you want to write romance novels, you should read romance novels.

Here are some of my favorites:

Perfection by R.L. Mathewson

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid

Faking It by Cora Carmack

Good luck on your writing adventure.

Until next time!

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