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Writing and Understanding Romance Novels: A How-to for Men

For a few months now my wife and my best friend have been getting at me to write a romance novel. I’m not entirely sure if they just really like my writing style or if they just want to make fun of me for the many and varied euphemisms I come up with for certain body parts or physical activities. Both of which are possible. My wife insists it’s because Romance novels are big money and I could effectively make a job of it. I’m not sure if that’s really the case or not, but it’s a good excuse. The problem is: I have absolutely no idea how to write a romance novel.

It’s not that I don’t know how to be romantic. I do. Really. (I don’t care what anyone else says, dammit.) But I’ve never read a romance novel. I don’t know what goes into them or what makes a good one. My wife keeps insisting and although I’d feel really silly writing one, and probably would never admit to family and friends that I was writing Romance Novels anyway, but I have at least read a couple articles. Enough so that I can begin to understand what they are comprised of and how I might write one.

I’m an action writer. Fantasty, Sci-Fi, I even wrote a Western once. It was horribly cliche’d but there were a lot of fight scenes. The romantic exchanges between characters all happen off screen and I don’t bother to extrapolate. I prefer to let the reader do the imagining. You can’t do that with a Romance Novel. The romantic interludes are the entire point. Those scenes are the action that moves the story. Which is just weird to me.

So how do guys like me write Romance Novels?

Usually we don’t.

It took me quite a bit of thought to figure out how it might work if I ever decided to write a Romance novel. At first it was just a curiosity and then it became an annoyance and later a puzzle. I hate puzzles. I don’t leave them alone very well until I’ve got the answers I need. So I’ve figured it out.

You write a Romance Novel the same way I’d write an Action novel. Good characterization, Plot, Setting, and quality writing. You don’t actually need to change much you just need to swap a few things around. Let me show you:

1. Every scene that would usually be a fight scene becomes a love scene. You can even write them largely the same way. Keep the hectic pace and the passion of a life or death struggle. In an action novel fight scene everything is at stake. A romance novel love scene has the same stakes. It’s life and death, all or nothing. In both cases the actions of the characters are based on need and passion. In some cases you can even keep the dynamic of skilled versus unskilled. Gloss over the gore, keep the passion, and you’re good.

2. The bad guy can still be the bad guy, but just as in an action novel there are differing types of bad guy. There are some that want to destroy, some that want to own, some that want to poses. Some are looking for revenge or power or wealth or whatever. These motivations can still be there. Hell, I’ve even used ‘love gone wrong’ as a bad guy motivation in an action novel. So, most of those stay the same.

3. Gender Swap. Most action novels have Men as main characters and most Romance novels have Women as main characters. It doesn’t always have to be this way. There are plenty of opposite examples, but you have to keep your audience in mind. Most women are going to want to read romance from a woman’s point of view. It always helps if the audience can relate to your characters. But that’s a standard rule in writing.

And that’s basically it. The rest as I said before is just plot and characterization. Some Romance novels, just like some Action novels, can be really low on plot or characterization if the pace is fast and the writing is decent. (Let’s face it, trash paperbacks exist in every genre.)

Good Luck and Happy writing.