by Helena Fairfax
I’ve become used to people’s reactions these days when I say I write romance. People who have never read a romance novel either ask me if I’ve ever thought of writing a “proper book,” or else they give me a funny sort of leer, as though I’m some sort of soft-porn peddler. Romance novels are held by many to be a pretty low form of the written word. Another cliché is that they follow a “formula,” and that anyone could just scribble a romance if they put their minds to it.
Anyone who has actually put pen to paper and written an entire romance novel will know that it’s incredibly difficult to write a successful romance. There is no magic “formula” for writing a good romance, but romances do need to follow a certain structure. The hero and heroine are kept apart for the entire length of the novel because of a conflict within their own characters (Lizzie Bennett’s pride, for example, and Mr Darcy’s prejudice, in Jane Austen’s classic romance novel). There will be a series of situations that test this conflict to the limit, eventually resolving in a happy ending.
All great romances follow this structure, but they’re not easy to write. A sonnet has a structure that consists of fourteen lines, each with ten syllables, following this pattern: a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g.
It sounds simple put like this, but give it a try – it’s actually very difficult to create a moving or meaningful poem that flows easily using this structure.
If I think of all the romance authors I love, like Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Crusie, Kristan Higgins, Courtney Milan, Mary Stewart, etc, they all write great stories that flow easily, and are such engrossing reads that I never consider how they’ve actually been written, or the way they fit the romance structure so perfectly. I’m too engrossed in their stories to notice how they’ve been crafted. And that’s exactly how it should be. So when people tell me that my novels are an “easy read,” I’m pleased as Punch. It means my job of writing them has been done well.
Guest post contributed by Helena Fairfax. Helena writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Her novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global Ebook Awards, and the I Heart Indie Awards. Her first novel was written through the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.