Readers of romance want and need a Happily Ever After (HEA) or a Happy for Now (HFN). All of those readers would agree that if the ending doesn’t include the couple coming together and staying together (at least for the moment) the story doesn’t qualify as romance. All this boils down to eight simple expectations. There are three bonus elements that can be used to enhance the storyline for an unforgettable, keeper-shelf, re-readable Romance. Which is the goal of most every writer.
1. Society Defined – In the first few paragraphs of a story, reader need to know how that fictional world works. If it’s a historical romance, readers want to see, feel, hear, taste and smell the time period you are writing about. If it’s a paranormal romance with vampires, werewolves and other sexy creatures (Yes sexy, because we are talking romance after all.), the same rules apply with the addition of conveying to the readers what rules hold true for your created world.
2. The Meeting – Boy meets girl, boy meets boy, girl meets girl (we do live in the twenty-first century after all.) Whichever scenario you choose, it has to happen with some snap, crackle and pop. The readers expect to fall in love with the hero/heroine at the same time as your lovers do on the page. Use whatever you can to make it memorable.
3. The Barrier or Conflict – This is the thing that seems to keep them apart. To use a very simple example think The Montagues and Capulates. Both families kept the young lovers apart and eventually caused their demise. For the record though, Romeo and Juliet is not a romance but a tragedy in the fullest sense. Another example of a conflict could be age, race, laws, internal fears, personal flaws and external sabotage from friend or foe. As you can see, the list goes on and on. Anything and everything that could keep them apart will work well as a barrier or conflict.
4. The Attraction – This is the WOW! factor. The hero and heroine have to have strong feelings for each other, even if one or both don’t want to admit it. One of them could even think the other is an obnoxious, big headed, bully, but underneath it all that person really has incredible warm blue eyes and a very sexy smile. Not to mention the tight muscular physics which screams to be touched every time they are close.
5. The Declaration – This is the point in the story where one or both declare their love for the other. If you use the example of “Pride and Prejudice”, Mr. Darcy declares his love for Miss Bennett very early on. She doesn’t reciprocate at the time but she makes her declaration known near the story end of the story.
6. The Point of Ritual Death – No, no, no. Someone doesn’t really have to die, but something does. Some call this point in the story The Big Black Moment. This usually has to do with an external force, as in another of Jane Austin’s novels. “Emma.” When Emma learns that her good friend has been carrying on with Mr. Knightly and has fallen in love with him, Emma’s heartbroken and she loses all hope of ever being Mrs. Knightley. Of course we all know that wasn’t the case, her friend misunderstood Mr. Knightley’s kindness and Mr. Knightly only had eyes for Emma. The Big Black Moment is when the romance seems doomed and the reader feels the forlornness along with your hero/heroine.
7. The Recognition – This is usually due to some internal change that has happened in a short period of time. As in the case of Mr. Darcy or over a long period of time as in the case of Miss Bennett. The hero realizes he wants to be with the heroine regardless of his past beliefs about class and social standings. The heroine finds that she is in love with the hero because of reasons up till now she didn’t see or understand. His little acts of kindness prove he is the type of man she wants as husband. The best way to put it is simply this: internal conflict that has been building over time is resolved, and the hero or heroine or both, change in some life altering way.
8. The Betrothal – This is where lovers hook up and make a commitment to be together. In historical or regency romance this is Happily Ever After (HEA) however in most contemporary or paranormal, young adult romance, chick lit and other genera’s it’s Happy For Now (HFN), the immediate future.
To make your romance unforgettable with sizzling scenes, ending that resonate with readers long after they finish, and added to a keeper shelf, add one or more of these three bonus elements to your story.
1. The Wedding, Dance or fete – This show your readers life after the betrothal and the beginning of a long-term relationship between your lovers. In “Emma” we see the new Mrs. Knightly dancing with her husband at his annual harvest celebration.
2. The Scapegoat Exiled – Any character in your story who has tried to keep the two lovebirds apart should at this point fly the coop, never to return leaving your happy lovebirds cooing with delight.
3. The Bad Converted – Say you had a character who told lies about one or both of your lovers and the lies and rumors got out of hand and caused a great deal of heartache and pain. This character can redeem himself by coming clean and giving a heartfelt apology.
By including these eight common expectations and one or more of the three bonus elements in your plot, you will fulfill not only the romance readers desires, but you as the writer will fall in love with your characters, craft and love story each time you write the romance that only you can create.