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How to Write a Romance

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Contrary to what some people seem to think, writing a romance is no easier than writing any other type of book. In fact, if writing romance and relationships doesn’t come naturally to you, it may be harder than writing any other type of book. Writing a straight-up romance where there isn’t a suspense or other sub-plot to help drive the action is certainly harder for me. Which is why almost all of my books have a major plot line in addition to the romance to drive action through my books.

That said, if you want to write a romance, you have to write the romance and that romance/relationship has to be a major part of the plot.

So, how do you do that?How to write a romance, add conflict

You start with characters.

As with all books, characters need goals and they need opposition to those goals or the story will be flat. Actually, there will be no story. Story isn’t just a recounting of life events. Story has purpose, an overcoming of obstacles.

Romances need that too.

The easiest way in a romance to build a strong conflict that can’t be explained away with one conversation is to put your hero and heroine’s goals in direct opposition to each other.

If he gets what he wants, she can’t get what she wants.

Let’s say your heroine’s burning goal, the thing that will drive pretty much every action she will take in this story, is to keep her small children’s bookstore alive.

Not easy in today’s world, but certainly doable, especially in the time frame of a book (or in this case movie).

But (and here is the conflict) there’s this guy and his goal is to open up his own bookstore, one with a fabulous children’s department with story time and nannies and free foot massages for the mothers. (Okay, over the top, but what a good marketing idea!)

Now to get his goal, to make his children’s department a huge success, he is going to have to get his customers somewhere… Oh, yeah, how about that small store down the street?

And voila! You have conflict.

Two characters with opposing goals and you have a story. You don’t, however, have a romance—yet.

To take this story and make it into a romance you also have to give the characters things they have in common and needs that no one but the other can seem to fill.

With these two characters they both have books. In the beginning it may appear that our hero isn’t truly a lover of books. He is instead all about the money. This increases our conflict. Our heroine hates this about him. It gives her more reasons to fight him.

But this fixation on money is actually a mask that the hero wears to cover some need. Perhaps he needs validation and uses his striving for money to prove his worth. Perhaps at some point in his life someone made him feel like a love of books was a weakness. So his love was twisted. Deep down he still loves books, but he has forgotten that while pursuing his need for validation through money.

This hero will in fact never be his true self, never be truly happy until he gives up that need for validation and embraces who he really is and what he really loves.

And who is the best person to help him on this journey?

Our heroine, of course.

And then you have a romance.

Two people with opposing goals/a conflict that cannot easily be talked away, at least at the beginning of the book. But also two people who, when placed together in conflict, will reveal each others’ true selves and be able to walk away from whatever fear or need that held them back at the beginning of the story.

Two people who at the end will find a happily ever after together.

Lori Devoti is the multi-published author of romantic comedy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She also writes the Dusty Deals Mystery series under the pen name Rae Davies. Look for her workshops at Write by the Lake (DCS University of Wisconsin), at various conferences, and here at the How To Write Shop. For more information, visit .
  1. had to laugh…isn’t that pretty much EXACTLY the plot of “You’ve Got Mail”? Well, guess that proves it works :)
    Thanks for the reminder that romance does indeed require a real plot

  2. That’s why I said “in this case movie.” :)

  3. Wow, that was really helpful! Essays about writing usually don’t help me but that was very practical and useful and I’m definitely gonna use the “conflicting dream” formula. Thanks very much!

  4. Great, Pete! I’m glad it was useful for you.

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