The Romance Genre Rules

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I'm guessing that if you're reading this, you want to write a romance novel that makes money. You'd like to sell more than three copies to friends and family.

How do you do that?

You have to write to reader expectations.

Rule 1: For a book to be considered romance, there must be a happily ever after or at least a happily ever after for now. (This is why Nicholas Sparks doesn't consider his books to be romance. Romeo and Juliet is not a romance. It is a tragedy.)

The hero and the heroine must end up together. (This can be over the course of several books if you have an ongoing series. I know Fifty Shades of Gray doesn't always end on a happy note, but the last book does.)

If you do not give your readers this, it is not a romance. Romance readers want the emotional payoff. That's why they picked up your book.

Rule 2: No cheating. The hero cannot cheat on his girlfriend to be with the heroine. He needs to break if off with 1st girl before dating heroine. (And vice versa) You can play with this, but know that cheating triggers a lot of unhappy reviews.

Rule 3: The romance is what is important. It is what the book is really about. There can be zombies and aliens and nuclear bombs, but if the book isn't focused on the relationship, then it's another genre with a romantic sub-plot.

Then within each sub-genre there are expectations. Sweet romance: no sex. Erotic romance: hot, steamy awesome sex. Historical has different rules than paranormal (historical peeps like factual details.)

How do you discover these rules? You read that genre. If you want to write historical fiction, you need to read a bunch of historical romance novels. Read the best selling ones and see what they do well. Read one that has terrible reviews and see why people hate it. (Or just read the reviews on those. They usually spell out why they didn't like it pretty clearly.)

Follow authors' blogs and Facebook pages. There are some great resources out there! (I'll be adding some links soon!)



Heroines

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Not the drug, but the person.

The heroine should be someone you would like to be or someone they could be best friends with. Since they are one of the two main characters in a romance story, they should be someone that the reader will enjoy. The reader will be spending at least two hours with this person, so they should like them.

(There are of course exceptions to this rule. There are always exceptions.)

We want to live another life. That's why we read fiction. It gives us a chance to fall in love with different people and live lives that we could never have. I will never be a 16th century courtesan, but I can read it and give my brain the sensation that I am. I'd love to fall in love with a handsome billionaire, but my husband would miss me.

That's why I read instead. I get all the thrill, but none of the work.

As such, make your heroine someone that your reader will want to be. Make them funny or sweet. Make their life more exciting. They can have danger and drama without the risks. They should never be boring or rude. We have to like them, even if we don't agree with their decisions.

You can have a strong heroine. She can be brass. She can be ditzy or even a little self-centered, but we have to like her. We need to see something redeemable inside of her. Romance readers want the happily ever after (that's why we read romance and not other genres) so she needs to be capable of not only having that good ending, but deserving it.

Your heroine may not be everyone's cup of tea, but she should always be kind. She needs to be someone you want to spend the next week with (as a writer and a reader.) I'm a shy introvert, so I don't always see myself as the bold, uber-friendly heroines. However, I would LOVE to be their friend. I can get behind a heroine that could be my best friend.

Your heroine can make mistakes. She should make mistakes. If Elizabeth Bennet wasn't prejudiced, we wouldn't have a story. But, the important part is that even though Elizabeth has all the wrong ideas about Darcy, we still like her. We understand why she's sure that Darcy is a prideful snot, and we can see a bit of ourselves behaving that way too.

Keep this in mind while writing your character. The heroine is your reader. No one wants to think of themselves as rude or unkind. We all want to be Cinderella with animals that come rescue us because we are so damn awesome. She shouldn't be perfect, but she should be someone we want to be. Someone we would want to be friends with.

The main point here is that the heroine should be likable. We should want her to succeed. We need to feel that she deserves this chance at happiness.

As you write your heroine, make sure that she's always someone you'd want to have around. Even when she's sad and mopey because she's lost the love or her life, we should want to bring her ice cream. We can want to smack her upside the head, but we should want to do it because we love her and want what's best for her.

Not because she's annoying the crap out of us.

Your heroine should be someone you want to be or someone you want as your best friend.


Creating Characters

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Characters are what make the story. You have to have good characters or the story won't matter. We need to care about these people and what happens to them. I would bet your favorite movie has interesting characters that grow and change through the story.

Boring people don't sell books. We all know too many boring people in real life. We want a chance to escape into a more interesting world for a while. That's why billionaires, princes, aliens, shifters, pirates, historical, and motorcycle clubs are all popular genres. We want something new and original in our lives.

The best part is that you don't have to come up with a brand new character all on your own. You already have hundreds of them in your head.

Think of your favorite movie. I'm guessing you have a favorite character. They probably have something interesting about them. They probably have someone that they interact with that is interesting too. There is a relationship that makes it fun to watch. The way they react to problems speaks to you.

You can have a Mary Sue (someone with no real characteristics) as a main character, but only for self insertion. Think of Twilight- most people don't really love Bella, but we can easily insert ourselves into her head. She's a blank character. If we were reading this from someone other than Bella or Edward's point of view, we wouldn't see why Edward is so enamored with this very normal/boring girl. She could use a little more humor. Or a hobby. Or something that makes her stand out more than just she smells really delicious. We can't love her based on looks/scent/can't read her thoughts alone. We need to like HER. Not her attributes.

Being pretty isn't enough. Being handsome isn't enough. We need some flaws. We need something that we can connect with.

Let's create a character for a book. Let's call him Joe.

Joe is prince charming. He's handsome. He's rich. He's in the perfect age range.

Do we actually like Joe? Would you talk to him at a party? Would you set him up on a blind date with your sister? What kind of date would they go on?

We need more. He can be handsome. He can be smart, but we need to show that intelligence, not just say it. Instead of “Joe was smart” we need to say “Joe sped through his advanced physics homework. He didn't even need a calculator.” We should also clarify if he's book smart or street smart.

Then we need a flaw. It doesn't have to be something terrible, but something that trips them up. For Aladdin, he is a street rat with too much confidence. For Thor, he's not all that bright sometimes. Loki is self-centered and a trickster. Edward Cullen likes blood. Mr. Darcy has way too much pride.

These flaws make the story much easier. Why can't Mr. Darcy find love? He's got too much pride.

It makes the character relate-able. If the character is too perfect, we can't put ourselves in their shoes. We don't care about them. The Stepford Wives are only interesting as plot devices, not as characters.

Your hero and your heroine both need a flaw. If their flaws clash, even better. Your hero has too much pride? Your heroine having some prejudice against prideful people is great. We have drama.

In creating characters, use what you know. Is there a friend that you adore? Can't stand? Why do you feel that way? Take them and make them a character.

Same with TV shows. Do you LOVE Dr. McSteamy? Why? What makes him real to you? He's kind of an ass, but there's something charming about him. Use that.

There are so many amazing characters out there. Use literature (Pride and Predjudice), TV (Grey's Anatomy), Movies (Disney Princesses) and make them your own. Make Disney's Mulan meet Mr. Darcy, but they're on an alien spaceship. Maybe Arya Stark should have a meeting with Marvel's Loki, but they're both high powered business lawyers.

Imagine the possibilities!


Working on Your Writing Brain

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Story Plot Exercises

You have this idea for a book, but something is missing. Or maybe you're stuck on a plot point.

What do you do?

The best thing an author can do is watch TV and dissect the plot and characters. Asking why a plot is working and how the writers did that, or if it isn't working, the things the writers can do to fix it will build your storytelling muscles in no time. The best part is you can do this with any show. It doesn't have to be a romantic movie- any story will help you become a better story-teller.

I play this game all the time with my husband with our kids' movies since we have to watch them nine million times.

For example, Frozen. It's a great movie and it's made billions of dollars. It's not a traditional romance, but we can still learn a lot about it.

The main criticism of the movie's plot is how out of the blue Hans' transformation to bad guy is. In the movie's commentary, the original story had Elsa being the villain, but the song was just too good and they changed the story around. Knowing that, it's easy to see why he has such a abrupt change of personality. They morphed him into the bad guy rather than making him the bad guy from the beginning.

So, how do we fix it?

My plan: Hans needs to show more uncaring characteristics earlier on. The gloves theory (he's wearing gloves while professing his love to Anna and thus doesn't mean it) is weak. We need a clearer hint. Perhaps during the meeting with Elsa, he says, “when I'm king…” and Elsa corrects him that he'd still be a prince. He can smile and brush it off. But, the audience would have the hint that he wants more.

He can say something again while handing out blankets. “When I'm your ruler, things like this won't happen.” The people can smile and cheer, and Anna can be happy she has a strong man to help her. She doesn't have to see anything wrong with this statement.

Also, when he's interrogating Elsa in the dungeon, he could try and woo her a little bit. This would make it a lot easier to hate him, and make it more believable that he'd do anything to be king. It also makes his feelings for Anna, or rather the lack of them, make more sense.

The audience LOVES to figure out the clues to a puzzle. That's why mysteries are so popular. That feeling of “I KNEW IT!” is super powerful and motivating. We want to keep the story going to see if we're right. It's important to give hints and clues so that the A-ha! Moment can happen. Plus, if you do it well, you'll get a re-read. How many people watched The Sixth Sense at least twice? You don't have to have a huge twist, but making the reader/viewer feel smart for figuring it out will definitely make your book more enjoyable to them.

How do you then incorporate this into your story?

-Make sure you're characters decisions make sense. They don't have to be rational (who in their right mind goes and looks for the scary noise without calling the cops?) but it does have to be believable.

-Use inspiration from other stories. That CSI episode might give you a great idea for why your character needs to go to Vegas. Use your favorite TV shows to fuel your brain. Don't just consume the show blindly- analyze them. Why is this show entertaining to you? What's the story that's got you invested? Put that in your book, or use it as a motivation elsewhere.

So, go watch some TV 🙂 It's not totally part of your writing process.


Tips on Being a Romance Writer

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I'm going to start a new blog series:

Tips on being a Romance Writer!

I might come up with a more exciting title, but for now it's pretty explanatory. I'm a romance writer and I'm going to explain how I do what I do.

This will be great for those looking into writing a romance novel or even those who already are in the business. I know I'm always learning new things from other authors!

So, stay tuned for a new post every Friday!


Love Under the Mistletoe

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Do you love Hallmark Christmas movies? Do you like mistletoe magic and falling in love?

Then Love Under the Mistletoe is just for you!

It's on sale for a limited time on Amazon, but also available for FREE in Kindle Unlimited. I hope it brings you Christmas spirit and joy!

 

Can a kiss under the mistletoe save Christmas?

Holly has always loved Christmas, but this year is different. As a school teacher, she's worried about her students, her dad, and her entire town. All of them are poised for a terrible Christmas, and there's nothing she can do about it. The only bright spot in her life is the mysterious man she meets at the holiday party.

Nathan has always hated Christmas, but this year is different. As a billionaire, he's excited about his new plans for his company, but as always, it's all about the money. When he meets the bubbly woman who doesn't care about his wealth, love blossoms under the mistletoe.

It almost seems like magic.

But their lives are more intertwined than either of them originally thought. It turns out that Nathan's plan for the future of his company is the very thing that's destroying Holly's community.

Holly begins to understand why everyone refers to Nathan as a Scrooge, and she thinks that the wonderful man she shared a passionate weekend with was nothing more than a lie. Will Nathan be able to prove that she saw the real him?

Will Christmas magic prevail, or will their love vanish like a kiss under the mistletoe?

NYT Bestseller Krista Lakes brings you this brand new heartwarming holiday romance. This standalone novel will convince you that love can make the magic of Christmas real.


Free Romance Novels!!!!

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Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR free books! From now until the end of Tuesday 11/13/2018 all four of these books will be available for FREE!

Please spread the word! If you haven't read one of these books, now is your chance! If you have and you loved it, tell a friend 🙂

Happy Veteran's Day with FREE BOOKS!

 A Billionaire Love Story

A Forever Kind of Love


Halloween!

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This year I was Princess Peach and my boys were Mario and Luigi 🙂 Their Dad was a dinosaur (supposed to be Bowser)

I know we don't have very many years of themed Halloween costumes left, so I'm enjoying the ones I have. When my boys no longer want to match, my poor husband will have to be my Halloween partner. To be honest, I already have some Disney princess dresses in mind… (for me. Not him)

I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween full of jump scares (you can see mine below) and candy! My kids don't like 100 Grand bars or Mounds/Almond Joys, so I have no guilt eating their candy. 😀

What were you for Halloween?


Back in Kindle Unlimited!

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So, Big News!

All Krista Lakes books are back in Kindle Unlimited!

What does that mean for you?

Well, if you are a subscriber to KU, then you can read my books for free! If you don't subscribe to KU, that's ok! The books are still available to purchase on Amazon! Unfortunately, this does mean they are no longer on the other retailers. We may go back after the 90 day requirement, so enjoy now!

And just so you know- the new Christmas Novel (coming in November) will be in KU as well!

 

…and that's a lot of exclamation marks! (I'm just excited about this!)