Genre 101: Crafting a Romance Novel



Romance is synonymous with the human experience. Finding and pursuing love is a past-time of the ages and it's no wonder that writers all around the world write stories, poems, and novels dedicated to it. As one of the most popular and longest-existing genres, it still remains as potent today as when it first started in ancient times. These stories provide us with hope, optimism, faith, and escape. Their primary draw is the "happily-ever-after" ending that we are lucky to experience in real life. In today's post we explore what goes into crafting a romance novel.


What is the Romance genre?


A type of novel and fiction genre where the focus is on a relationship and the romantic love between two people. It typically has an optimistic, emotionally satisfying ending. These types of stories usually feature the development of a relationship over time and showcase the natural ups and downs that a couple faces while spending time with each other. The goal is to overcome all of the challenges that occur and have their love come out stronger in the end.


What types of Romance subgenres are there?




You can find more specific information about the types of subgenres and what makes them different/similar in my Genre 101: The Complete List of Genres & Subgenres for Fiction Writing Part 1 post. You'll also be able to see examples within this genre with links to be able to purchase them if you choose.


How did Romance novels begin?


Like most story types, Romances first appeared in Ancient Greece. While over twenty romance novels are known to exist from this early time period, most are too fragmented and ruined to read. Only five of these novels have been preserved: Chareas and Callirhoe, Leucippe and Clitophon, Daphnis and Chloe, The Ephesian Tale, and The Ethiopian Tale.


In 1740, the sentimental novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson became the precursor to modern romances. Pamela was the first novel to be based on courtship written from the perspective of the heroine. It was also unique because it had a happy ending, which was uncommon for novels of this time. It was one of the first bestsellers, with five editions printed in the first eleven months of release.


Later in 1813, Jane Austen greatly influenced the genre with her novel Pride and Prejudice (published the same year), which gained popularity as the best romance novel ever written. Later Charlotte Bronte followed in Austen's footsteps with Jane Eyre (1847), introducing the orphan heroine. This novel introduced a wider scope for romance novels, with elements of both the gothic novel and Elizabethan drama intermingled with traditional romance characteristics.


The popularity of this genre skyrocketed after the First World War. The Sheik by E.M. Hull (1919) grew immensely popular, with a movie adaptation starring Rudolph Valentino as the leading actor being produced. Mass marketing of romance novels began in 1921 when Georgette Heyer published The Black Moth. Her novels were inspired by Jane Austen and used the Regency time period as their primary setting. What set them apart was that she used the setting as a major plot device, something that had never been done before within this genre.


Widespread publication and the start of category romances dawned in the 1930s. British publisher Mills & Boon began releasing romance novels in subscription form, gradually moving towards commercial sales in the '50s through Canadian publisher Harlequin Enterprises. Come the 1970s the two publishing houses merged, bringing about the drug store and supermarket shelf era. They still directly sold their romance novels through monthly subscriptions throughout this time.


It wouldn't be until 1972 in America where these novels took on a more modern shape, becoming more graphic in nature. Avon's publication of Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower was the first of the modern "bodice ripper" romance novels which opened the door to showing what occurs between the couple within the bedroom as well as outside of it. Other notable novels of this nature was Woodiwiss's second novel The Wolf and the Dove, and Rosemary Rogers's Sweet Savage Love and Dark Fires novels. By 1973, over 150 paperback romance novels were hitting shelves nationwide.


Today romance novels are everywhere and span a wide variety of subgenres. From soft to graphic it is safe to say that there is now a romance novel to suit every reader's taste.


What are the 2 Types of Romance novels?


Here is a breakdown of the two types:



What are the characteristics of Romance?



Historically speaking, romance novels have come a long way. In the beginning the virtue of a woman was of utmost importance, and speaking, let alone writing of premarital sex was virtually unheard of. In the early days, publishers strictly censored the content that romance writers could write about. Premarital sex was relegated to rape fantasy, heroines had to be virgins, and adultery was unacceptable to include in romance novels.


Today romance novels features heroines who are strong-will and clever. They are often independent with successful careers in male-dominated fields. They are also more nuanced and in turn so are their male counterparts. There's been a shift in the level of sensitivity and emotional capabilities of male interests that has softened the rigid masculinity that is traditionally shown. The power dynamics in romantic relationships are also more balanced, while traditional gender roles have become more fluid. Now there are varying degrees of sensuality in romance novels, ranging from chaste kisses to explicit erotica as the views on virginity and the worth of women have evolved with the modern era.


What can I use to research and further develop my Romance novel?


If you're new to writing romance or are simply looking for some fresh ideas, then this section will benefit you. I find that any sort of writing can sometimes be difficult without the right tools. That's why I decided to provide some tips for helpful resources that you can use to craft your own romance novel. Here are the resources that I personally use and the links to help you get started:


  • Pinterest: This one is great because it helps with the creation of characters, relationships, settings, and allows you to brainstorm for new ideas. On this platform you can create visual "boards" that can be saved and come back to at any time. You can also keep them secret so that only you can see them. All you have to do is search for an image or quote and then pin it to your designated board. You can also label, organize, and even create sections within sections. Best yet, when you're ready there are options to be able to share it with a friend privately, have someone else collaborate, or publish it for the entire community to see. To start your own visual journey, click here.


  • Trello: If your weakness is organization and planning, this is an excellent resource tool. With its boards, lists, and cards it makes keeping every idea and plot point in check. The best part is that the cards function allows you to rearrange them to find the best combination. It also allows you to look at your plans from a distance so you can see the big picture. This becomes incredibly useful when brainstorming a scene or your plotline overall. Click here to sign up for Trello and start organizing today.


  • Grammarly: Having a backup option when it comes to grammar and spelling is never a bad thing. I know that I still make mistakes (more frequently than I care to admit) and using grammarly has helped make my writing more concise. It never hurts to have another pair of "eyes" on your work and this program acts as my own personal copy editor. Register and download by clicking here.


  • Skillshare: This one is super cool. If you haven't signed up for it yet, you should. With it's endless amount of classes on all sorts of creative topics, you can spend hours learning whatever peaks your fancy. This includes how to write romance novels. However, it's not limited to just one topic of writing. You can learn all about writing in general through a variety of writing-related topics. It's also excellent if you'd like to gain another creative skill (like painting) or you want to do some research on a skill that makes an appearance within your character or story. The site gives you two options for learning: free and premium. Premium runs for $15 a month (or $99 up front for a year) and allows you to use all the functions of skillshare, including access to premium classes. Put simply, you learn more if you sign up for Premium. If you click here, you'll be directed to a special premium membership link that gives you a 30% discount when you sign up.


  • Name generators: Need help coming up with the perfect name for your main character's love interest? Look no further! With name generators a ton of names are literally a click away. The same goes for place names in case you need help in that area as well. From fantasy to modern, this generator has names divided into several different categories. There's even one section under "Real Names" that hosts names organized by ethnicity. Visit here to see my absolute favorite generator. It's free!


  • Refer to my other posts: For further reference materials regarding building characters and their relationships I recommend that you see my writing series on characters. Here I introduce the nature of all things character-related and show you how to build them from the ground up. From creating characters to building their relationships and backstory, to the types of archetypes and discovering their motivations, you'll come out with the knowledge to create deep and interesting characters strong enough to hold your reader's attention and carry your story to its end. Check out my character series here to see the exciting creative tools in store for you!


Romance novels are one of the most common types of literature published. From ancient Greece, to the Victorian Era, to modern times love has been a best-seller. Learning to write in this genre requires the ability to expound upon a couple's relationship, knowing the characteristics and the two types, and having the tools you need to pull it all together.


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