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One Definite Rule of Writing Romance Fiction

If there’s one definite rule of writing romance fiction, it’s the one stated below. That is to say the one laid out in a few more paragraphs.

Admittedly, if you’re writing the stereotypical romance novel – as in a bodice ripper – then there are a whole lot of rules. It’s actually quite the rigid process, dictating plot points left and right such as:

  • What page you’re supposed to write the first kiss by

  • What page you’re supposed to have the first way-more-than-a-kiss by.

At least that was true some 20 years ago according to my romance-writing sources. I have no idea about now since I don’t write romance novels/bodice rippers, nor do I take on those kinds of editorial projects. So I’ve never had to really look it up before.

However, if you’re writing romance fiction that’s not filled with chest-baring rouges and passionately swooning fair maidens, then here’s your one simple rule of writing romance fiction:

Your couple had better end up together. Or else.

If you’re writing a romance, then you’d better have a happy ending filled with hearts and stars, kisses and googly eyes. In other words, the main gal and guy need to be immersed in committed bliss. Not just headed there. Utterly immersed.

It’s fine to add in some reality. They can admit they’ve got challenges ahead. But they’re still in each other’s arms, knowing they can take on the world together at story’s close.

Happy endings, writers. Writing romance fiction is all about happy endings.

Boy gets girl. Girl gets boy. Neither of them is dead.

If boy doesn’t get girl, girl doesn’t get boy and one or both of them are dead, then you do not have a romance story on your hands. You have a jerky story.

Probably literary fiction.

Maybe horror.

If you try pushing it as romance fiction writing anyway, you’re bound to find out firsthand, and up-close-and-personally, what the “or else” part of our Writing Rule really means. This includes how you’ll:

  • Lose the audience you did have – and now don’t

  • Be branded as an author who either knows nothing about romance fiction writing or is just plain sadistic. Either of which will…

  • Make readers despise you.

This brings us full circle to Tuesday’s post, which declared:

The whole entire point of the romance literature genre is to promote the idea that there really can be romantic happy endings. That guys and girls do fall in love – and stay in love. That not every relationship starts out with hearts and flowers and sweet nothings whispered into ears, only to end in bickering, boredom and/or divorce.

The romance literature genre says, “No!” to the notion that “true love” can’t prevail. With romance writing, plot is everything: and the plot is always some form of boy + girl = love.

Follow that guidance, and you have a decent shot at making some magic with your romance fiction writing.

Disobey it, and… well… you know the consequences now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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