Friday, May 1, 2009

WHAT MAKES A STORY A ROMANCE?

Is it the plot? Is it the characters? What? One of the biggest reasons for rejection from The Wild Rose Press is — IT ISN’T A ROMANCE!!!!

So let’s find out what it takes to make a romance – a good one.

The first thing to check is that 50% of the story is the romance – not the plot, not the setting, but the actual relationship that is developing between the hero and the heroine. Since that is who we’re interested in, then we ought to see their names — often — like 3 or more times per page. Do a search for each of their names and see how often they come up throughout the manuscript. Is it three times the number of pages for each of them? Great!

Next we come to the core of the story, the relationship. The plot revolves around the relationship; the storyline is secondary. Yes, you have to have a good story, but if the relationship comes in second, it’s no longer a romance. And a relationship isn’t about the physical heat between them. It’s what creates that heat. It’s the emotion behind the actions that count, what makes them who they are… Why does he like her? What does she see in him (aside from his gorgeous eyes, rock hard abs, and dark, curly hair)? What character traits attract them to each other? It’s not all about what they “see.” Basing their reactions on looks is not the way to move a relationship forward. Is she sweet and considerate of everyone (including his grandma whom he can’t stand)? Is he kindhearted even though he tries to act like a tough guy? Think of it this way, if you were blind, what might attract you to a person besides voice? Use all of your senses. The clean smell, the solid handshake, the considerate whisper when you have a headache…


With all that time spent on your hero and heroine then you obviously don’t have a lot of time to waste getting into the nitty gritty details of secondary characters. After all, you still have a plot to create in the space you have left. Okay, so your hero had lunch with Mom and Dad, and Dad wanted to talk about investing. We don’t need to know that Dad runs a brokerage firm and that he’s been doing it for twenty years and that his partners are like family, blah blah blah blah blah. The pages you could fill with background information are just fodder for the shredder. Does the reader really care? Not likely. They want to hear about the hero and the heroine. A quick blurb is all anyone else gets. If your hero wants to talk with the heroine later about what he discussed with Dad, great. Especially if it has an effect on their relationship. But secondary characters only put in cameo appearances, no longer than a page here and there.

And since it’s all about character, we’ll go into more detail in our next installment in just a little while.

Hope this helps. Happy writing!

Posted by Jamie West, Senior Editor and Donna Basinow, Editor.

16 comments:

marye.ulrich said...

What if I want to set up the situation and my hero doesn't appear until later in my story?

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Good morning Donna and ALL TWRP people!

I must say, when I first submitted The Inheritance to the White Rose line, I was both excited and nervous. After all, I'd been down the road of failure with 'new' publishers before, but there was SO MUCH positive feedback on this company I just HAD to try!

I haven't regretted a single day this decision.

I'm pleased, happy, excited and PROUD to be a White Rose author and hope to continue my relationship with everyone here for years to come with both short stories and novels.

Congratulations and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TWRP!

May God bless you ALL with continued success.

Pamela S Thibodeaux
White Rose Author
"Inspirational with an Edge!"
http://pamelathibodeaux.com

Ann_Campbell said...

very usefull info. Thank you

Sarita Leone said...

Great post!

Christine said...

Good morning, and Happy Birthday, three...getting old...

In the three years I've been with the Rose, I have learned that emotions, drives the characters and drives the plot.

Lynda Lukow said...

Thanks for defining romance! I adore the genre because of its guaranteed happily ever after---even on a Murphy's Law day, something will end well.

I can't wait to read more about characters.

Best wishes,
Lynda Lukow
www.lyndalukow.com

Donna B said...

Hi Mary,

Thanks for asking. There are multiple ways to answer that questioin, but I have a question in response for you. How can a relationship develop if both parties aren't there?

So how could 50% of your story be about a relationship that isn't developing until later. More than likely there's a lot of backstory there that can be eliminated.

Every editors opinion is a little different, but I wouldn't push the hero out too far.

Tess Thieler said...

What a thrill it was to discover The Wild Rose Press just last October and to have a much loved story written by me to be contracted by one of the editors. It's been a long road, but I now have a release date (Sept. 2nd) and I couldn't be happier. TWRP is making my dream of being a published author come true and I look forward to many more years of writing romance for them. HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY! I hope you have many, many more years of increasing success in the publishing world. :)

~Tess Thieler

Kathy Otten said...

Happy Birthday #3! I submitted my first short story in Oct. 2006 and have never regretted my decision. The editors have been patient and supportive, offering advice and suggestions that have made my writing stronger. Learning to market my work has also been a learning experience and the help from other TWRP author's has been invaluable.
So Happy Birthday, may you continue to grow as romance and e-publishing are growing.

Inspire Author said...

Thanks for the valuable information!!!

Happy Birthday TWRP!

Wendy Davy
www.wendydavy.com

Hywela Lyn said...

Very interesting and helpful article, thanks Donna. And I can echo the words of Pamela, that's exactly how I feel about TWRP too!

danie88 said...

to answer the question... what makes a story a romance...a happily ever after :)

Amber Leigh Williams said...

The development of a relationship is so fascinating! The goal of romance writers is to put a realistic relationship on the page and make it entertain. Make the readers laugh, cry, and never let go of the story in the heart. TWRP is blessed with stories that still haven't let me go!

Hugs,

Amber

Sharon Donovan said...

Happy 3! It's a Red Letter Day for all of us here. I have recently celebrated my 1 year anniversary with TWRP and love the garden. Here's to many more years of success!
Sharon Donovan
White Rose Author

Silver James said...

That's a great definition and I'm sure it will help a lot of aspiring writers (and some of us that have been at it awhile need the reminder, too - lol)

Historical Writer/Editor said...

This is a very useful topic, as it is unclear to many people. Thanks for posting it. -Corinne M.