5 Traps to Avoid in Romance Writing

February 8, 2016 by Jen Jandavs-Hedlin

Valentines Day is just around the corner, and there is no more fitting a time of year to consider novels have an element of romance. To be honest, this is not my favourite genre, due in part to the inevitability of it all. I’m sure that most of us have read a book or watched a movie where it’s obvious that the hero and heroine are going to fall in love from the opening scene. Ugh! At that point, two types of people emerge: those who love romance and settle in for a no-doubt-beautiful-but-predictable drama, and those like me who are (sorry) likely to stop engaging (aka, close the book or turn off the TV).

At this point, I should say that some people love romance because it exudes the simplicity and purity of new love, without all of the complications that tend to appear in real life. Those are genuine lovers of romance, and if those are your readers, please feel free to disregard the tips below and just give them what they want.

For the rest of us though, love plays a pivotal role in storytelling, and thus it’s important to be able to include love without turning off your audience. With that in mind, here are five tips on how to include a romantic component in your novel that will keep readers intrigued:

1) Have more than one viable candidate for love in at least one gender.

When there is only one single man and one single woman in a story, it strongly hints that they will be saying “I do” on page 184. Keep the readers guessing as to which of the dashing young men will win her heart and we may all feel butterflies fluttering in our stomachs as we read your story.

2) Love doesn’t conquer all… of my flaws.

Being in love does not strip away someone’s personality or instantly transform them into the kindest, gentlest, and most perfect creature to ever walk this earth. Love changes people, absolutely, but that does not remove our human-ness. We still sin, make mistakes, say things we regret or worse yet, actually mean. My heart skips a beat when I think about love in spite of my flaws rather than love that doesn’t see them.

3) Love at first sight is overused.

While there could not be a more romantic notion, it’s far too easy to have your character see someone across a room and be hopelessly in love in an instant. When does this ever work out in real life? God has created us to be complex creatures with intellect, feelings, and ambitions that go far beyond our external appearance, and so should the love between your characters. I’m falling head over heels for the concept of love that is beautiful inside and out.

4) They don’t have to hate each other to start.

There are differences between men and women, and it’s not uncommon for there to be friction between differing perspectives. However, that does not mean that every love story needs to begin with opposite personalities who share nothing but mutual distain. It’s okay for passion to take root from something other than hatred. I feel weak in the knees for characters who don’t see conquering their opponent as a prerequisite for love.

5) Stay away from cliches.

Is he really tall, dark, and handsome? Is it possible for her to love someone who isn’t? Does she have doe eyes and rosy cheeks? I hope it’s not a fever setting in. We have a beautifully varied population, and it would be remarkable to see that represented in all genres. Here’s to love that’s more than skin deep.

Well, there you have it, five of my biggest beefs with romance writing. And while this is far from an exhaustive list of potential pitfalls in romance, I hope it’s a helpful start. Or, if you disagree with me entirely, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Hopefully, we can kiss and make up later.

About this Contributor

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Jen Jandavs-Hedlin has worked in the publishing industry for over a decade and is passionate about helping authors to share their stories. She enjoys cooking, reading, writing, and organizing her home into boxes and containers. Jen lives in Winnipeg with her husband, and their canine companion, Montgomery.