The back story: Our lovely daughter, Rachel, writes on occasion and has a real gift for creating sarcastically-skewed fiction that is hilarious. We wish we were as funny. But, not interested in the dogfight known as publication, she only writes when the urge strikes. Most often, she writes fan fiction and she’s built a small but steady readership.
Months and months ago, she decided to try something new. Just for the fun of it, she thought bury her sense of humor and aim for the heart of romance fans everywhere – still in her wheelhouse, still in fanfic – just to see what would happen. Then she hit ‘publish’.
Her readership swelled by more than a factor of ten. While her other pieces found a half-hundred viewers, this piece went into the four digits. Even today, it’s her most popular work. “I found out I could please an audience if I wanted,” she says, “which is interesting but not as interesting as writing the stuff I like.” So she went back to doing her own brand of fiction but not before we asked her to tell us how she’d done what she did. She shared with us so we can share with you...but she’ll want that ten percent commish once the sale is final. (She's kidding. We think.)
These, then, are Rachel’s Rules and Regs of Writing a Successful Romance:
Heroine: Pretty, but not stunning. Average height and build, thin but not anorexic. Not rich, but not poor. Intelligent, but not a genius, and witty... but not to the point where it overshadows the hero’s wittiness. Has been in a series of so-so relationships, possibly just got out of one. Not really looking for a guy.
Hero: Eye-meltingly gorgeous. Intelligent, charming, seductive. Tall, maybe 6’2. Broad shoulders, well-defined arms and abs. While he’s quite muscular and fit, you will never hear or see him doing anything to keep his physique this trim – he is just naturally hot. Independently wealthy. Maybe he invested wisely in stocks years ago or he set up a very successful business that he sold for a lot of money, something like that. His eyes MUST be piercing, and usually blue or green, while his hair is dark, thick and full. His skin is flawless, as are his teeth. He is an impeccable dresser. He’s self-assured to the point of cocky, but not obnoxiously so. He will never brag about how rich he is or how smart and good looking he is... but it is obvious that he is well aware of these things. He is also well traveled and knowledgeable about the world. He is dangerous, a bad boy, tough, but with a soft romantic side that comes out occasionally. He’s not afraid to stand up and fight for what is right or the woman he loves (awwwww).
Their relationship: She is the resister, he is the pursuer. Always. I mean, rule number freakin’ one, practically. She finds him irresistably gorgeous as does anyone with a pulse, but his dangerous side and his cocky nature leaves her resistant to his charms. Still, when they cross paths (which will be frequently, but not in a “I want to wear your skin as a suit” kinda way), she can’t help but be wildly turned on by him, although she denies it to his face (as he will bring up her obvious attraction to him, and she will deny it – strongly at first, and then as her resolve fades the protest will become weaker and weaker until it finally breaks and they share a passionate kiss, which she will pull away from and later say was a mistake, but the real hot action is soon to follow). What will finally wear her down is when he saves her. Because there will be something dangerous, life-threatening most often, that will be shortly down the horizon threatening our heroine. She CANNOT save herself in this situation, she must be saved by the dashing hero. This is not the big danger that will serve as a climax to the story, but it will be the danger that sets the ball rolling to her taking her panties off for Mr. Amazing.
The sex: The beginning of the story is all about foreplay. He wants her, he pursues her, he knows that he will have her. She resists, although she secretly wants him to throw her down and rip her clothing off. So at the start, there has to be a ton of sexual tension. Brushes against the skin, moments where they look at each other with lust and then she forces herself to look away, etc. Then they will kiss, after he saves her from danger X. She will be so turned on and it will be the best kiss ever, but she will rip herself away and leave, conflicted by her emotions. Eventually when they meet up again, it will progress to more... you know what I mean, the dirty-dirty. The sex will be incredibly hot. He will be a patient, experienced lover, and the first time they have sex, it will be love-making, and it will be mind-blowing. He is strong and competent, but not nast-ay. She will melt in his arms and become a puddle of orgasmic goo. Basically, our hero is a giver in the sack and expects little in return, other than that our heroine love every second of it. Ba-bam!
The action: Basically, there are two dangers: little, and big. Little danger will set the scene so she will fall for our hero, and the reader will get to see his bravery and willingness to put his life on the line for his lady love. The second danger is the danger that threatens our heroines life in a big way, and will serve as a big plot point to the book (other than the romance). Our hero will stop at nothing to save her; maybe their meeting was not accidental, and he was sent to save her life for some unknown reason. At any rate, this big bad will be fought off quite successfully by our hero, who will be devastatingly brave and self-sacrificing and will nearly die while saving her life. She will be so concerned and crushed at the thought of losing him that she will realise, finally, that she loves him! Flowers and sparkly puppies, yay! And he loves her, too. Big danger defeated, they ride off into the sunset, him making some witty comment and her blissfully happy with her rich, handsome genius. Game, set, match.
Now, where’s that royalty check?