Writing Romance: The Inciting Incident

Last month, we compared and contrasted WANT vs. NEED. Again, we’re using Jami Gold’s beat sheet as a basis for these articles. This month, we’re moving on to the Inciting Incident.

If you research “inciting incident,” you’ll find that most definitions include the idea of thrusting the protagonist(s) forward into the main action of the story. It’s the event that hooks both the readers and the characters. Note: The term is most often used in the Hero's Journey plotting.  In the beat sheet it says, “Give a glimpse of how right the characters could be for each other (Essence), but they’re not ready yet (identity)."

In a romance, this is usually the first time the hero and heroine cross paths, the first time they meet. It is generally found in the middle of Act One.

This scene can be a reflection or bookend to the Final Image/Resolution of the story. It can happen in the same place, or use similar words. Note: How much fun is it to actually see that Final Image that was used in the beginning and see how perfect this pair of lovers is for each other? If you’re thinking about doing the reflection/bookend thing, feel free to write both scenes right now. That doesn’t mean that last scene is set in stone. It probably isn’t.

Remember, this scene is all about the possibilities. Why should these two be together? What attracts them? Why might they want to fall in love?

I hate, hate, hate to throw this monkey wrench in here. But I have to. Since we’re using Jami’s beat sheet, I’m sticking with the point-by-point within it. But don’t get me wrong. It is not the ONLY way. How many of your favorite romance novels have the inciting incident be volatile and negative? Before they get out of the room, these two detest each other? That’s certainly a valid “inciting incident” as well. Then, they have a mountain to overcome right off the bat.

But let’s say you do it Jami’s way. Does that mean there’s no mountain? Well, shoot, no. There has to be a mountain. It just comes a bit after that first meeting, that first inciting incident. After they’ve met and smiled at each other and left that place with that warm, fuzzy feeling. After they’ve maybe even smiled for the rest of the day and fantasized about that perfect person.

It won’t be long until they find out who that person is - the guy that holds the mortgage to the ranch - the girl that got the job he wanted. Conflict! But for now, there’s that amazing moment in the coffee shop when they are perfect for each other. The realization that crashes the dream is so much sweeter then.

This inciting incident will be a scene you want to work hard to get right. Whose Point-of-View should it be in? What will the characters remember from this moment? The lighting? The music that’s playing? What he’s wearing? Her perfume? It’s important to get the details right. The takeaways for each character.

Craft this scene. Make it sing. Is that easy? Not really. But who told you writing a great book was easy?

Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to get it right the first time. You can write that scene and keep going - as a matter of fact, you should. If you get hung up with your inner editor making that scene perfect the first time through, you may never get the book written. Just know that it’s an important scene to get right.

Your homework is to take a few favorites off your keeper shelf and study the “inciting incident.”

Until next month - remember, Campers, BIC-HOK. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.

Jax

 

WANT vs NEED

Last month we took a step back from Boy meets Girl to focus on some preliminary work. Although you can certainly throw your Hero and Heroine together on the first page, it may be better to show them apart first.

Then, when Boy Meets Girl, you’ll have the opportunity for SOMETHING to catch your characters attention - and that SOMETHING will directly relate to what is missing in that characters life. Just be careful not to be TOO obvious about it.

Remember, your hero and heroine go into this story ready for love. Even if they don’t know it. Love is what they NEED, not necessarily what they want. If you asked the hero and heroine on page one if they’re looking for love, they would categorically deny it. Might even say HECK NO! I never want to love again. (Oooh, backstory.)

But in that first meeting, you can give the reader a glimpse into why these two are perfect for each other. Which means you have to know all that before you start writing.

If you look at the beat sheet I introduced last month (http://jamigold.com/2012/11/write-romance-get-your-beat-sheet-here/) you’ll see that the very first thing listed is the “Opening Image/Hook: Opening scene or sequence of story; create empathy with characters by showing they lack for something.”

Now this lack that you introduce in the first scenes will be made up of things the character thinks he or she NEEDS. To save the ranch. To get that promotion. To fix a relationship. To attend a crucial event. You get the picture. (Quick assignment - go pick up a handful of romances on your shelf - read the first few pages and jot down the initial WANT for those characters.)

In these first scenes, you want to “introduce protagonists, hook the reader, and setup the romance conflict (foreshadowing, establishing stakes).” Does that sound daunting? It can be. But that’s why we read a lot of romance - to analyze and absorb how that’s done. And that’s why we do all that preliminary character work.

In these initial pages, you want your characters to come across as likable and to have wants that the reader can identify with. To do that, you have to know your characters. REALLY know your characters.

Why does she NEED to save the ranch? What’s in it for her. What’s behind that need/want? If you don’t allow your reader in to see the why then you won’t keep them reading, you won’t keep them caring. Most people never have a NEED to “save the ranch” - but most all of us can identify with keeping memories alive or fulfilling a responsibility that we’ve carried for a long time, or simply the need to make a living.

Are you confused by my interchangeable use of WANT and NEED? Remember, rarely does a character go into his/her story knowing what he truly needs. He knows what he thinks he needs. But that’s what the character arc is all about. The missing link in the hero’s life will be in the possession or person of the heroine and vice versa.
You’ve heard the phrase “he completes me.” Well, there it is.

A hero or heroine will likely go into the story not even guessing that there’s a huge hole in their life. One that only the “other half” will fill. That’s what the story is all about. That’s what the character arc is all about.

So, make sure you know what the true need is. But you don’t have to play that card yet. Please don’t. Simply open the H/H’s story with their normal world - skipping happily through life oblivious to what’s coming.

Make sense?

And if you’re still not sure how it’s done - keep reading great romance novels - the ones on the keeper shelf. Read them. Analyze them. Go through with the beat sheet in hand and figure out how that author did it. And don’t forget to WRITE.

Until next month - BiC HoK - Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard.

The Beat Sheet

As I thought about this series, I realized in retrospect that I wanted a plan.  And I wanted something for you readers to be able to follow along.  And I wanted it to be totally available.  AHA - a Beat Sheet.

If you don’t know what beat sheets are, here’s the short description:  The “beat sheet” is a way to sequence your story, using bullets instead of whole sentences or paragraphs. Very quickly, though, those bullets becomes sentences and paragraphs. And when that happens, you have an outline on your hands.  (From Storyfix.com)  You’ll find a lot of talk about beats and beat sheets in the screenwriting world.  I won’t get into it here, but it’s certainly something to check out if it sounds like gibberish to you.  I often use beat sheets to do some preliminary plot work once my character work is well in hand.

Jamie Gold is the queen of beat sheets online.  She has made a variety of them in Excel format so you can fill in your page goal and it will calculate where all your beats should come.  Obviously, this is a tool.  Don’t get stressed about having to follow it exactly.  Jamie even has one for romance.  Good information in the entire post.

Here’s why I’m sending you there.  It occurred to me as I was looking at this beat sheet that I may have jumped the gun last month with Boy Meets Girl.  Yes, Boy Meets Girl should happen in Act One, but there should probably be some preliminary scenes before that happens.  Note:  In the “olden days” of Romance, the requirement was that hero and heroine meet in the first pages of the book.  I don’t think that’s the hard and fast rule anymore.  But if the line you’re targeting wants it - give it to them.  You’ll have to weave the other preliminary stuff in as you do so or shortly after.

Alright.  So here’s why I’m making a U-turn – it’s only temporary.  It’s not because I’m requiring - or even suggesting - that you have to use this beat sheet.  But I will be using it as a guideline for this series of article.  It’s all about me 🙂

Last month we talked about Boy Meets Girl.  That event usually happens as the Inciting Incident in your plot outline.  Before that happens, you may want to introduce your reader to one or both characters and set up the romance by showing what your character is lacking - or what he (she) thinks he’s lacking.  In the opening scenes of the story, you’ll want to create empathy.  Showing what the character is lacking/longing for is a way to do that.

As an aside here, most of the time, the goal that the characters go into the story with is what they WANT but not what they NEED.  Over the course of the story, you’ll bring them through a character arc from what they thought they wanted at the beginning of the story to what they actually NEED.

In the spirit of taking that step back, I’d like to talk about WANT and NEED before we go further.  So that’s what I’ll tackle next month.

Hope you’ll forgive the blip!

Cheers, Jax

 

 

Boy… Meets… Girl

You’ve heard the old adage that a romance novel is just:

Boy Meets Girl

Boy  Loses Girl

Boy Gets Girl Back

Well, looking at that and comparing it to a three-act structure, one might actually be able to make it work.  But it does seem a bit simplistic, doesn’t it?

In Julie Beard’s Idiot’s Guide to Getting Your Romance Published, she says this:

“Romance plots are deceptive.  To the outsider; the critic, and even the reader, they seem simple.  Here’s the basic premise (and I do mean basic!):  Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl in the end.

How hard can it be to write a story that simple?  Well, I don’t mean to be discouraging, but coming up with fresh settings, characters, dialog, and conflicts within the confines of such an age-old storyline is truly challenging!  Readers know how your romance will end.  The trick is getting them to forget the end until the end.”

So, let’s talk about how your hero and heroine meet.

The possibilities are endless.  But you’ll need to make sure that they meet in a logical way FOR THEM.  They can’t meet in a Paris bistro if none of the stories take place in Paris, can they?

But they could meet through their work. Through friends.  In an elevator.  At a coffee shop.  In jail - I started to write “well, maybe not” and realized that in my military romance True Honor, Chris and Claire actually do meet in jail.

Which led me to go back to the other four books in the series.

True Valor - Nic stops to help Julie when her car runs out of gas.

True Courage - Rick and Lily “meet” on the radio when he crashes his helo and she’s working the Search and Rescue radio.

True Honor - In jail, when Chris is arrested for murder and Claire is his JAG attorney.

True Virtue - Daniel and Sophie meet on the side of a mountain during a Search and Rescue mission.

True Gallantry - Haha - Cruz and Kit - well, they meet in book two when Kit flies Cruz to the crash site.  Their story is interwoven through the series and they get their own book in the end.

More often than not, the way the hero and heroine meet is tightly woven into the plot line.  For example, Girl inherits broken down horse ranch and Boy is the hired wrangler.  Okay, cliche, I suppose. But it was off the top of my head after all.

So, what comes first as you approach your romance novel?  The plot or the meeting? Well, there’s no right answer to that question.  But let me tell you a story.

I was driving home from visiting my daughter - about an hour’s drive.  There’s a section of that road that is flat and straight and excruciatingly boring. I sorta zoned out for a moment and, when I zoned back in, for just an instant, I didn’t know where I was. My stomach clenched with panic.  And then the instant passed.  But, for the rest of the trip home, I played with the idea.  What if I hadn’t remembered?  What if I not only didn’t know where I was, but I didn’t know who I was.  By the time I got up the mountain, I had the basic premise of True Valor, including the moment that Nic and Julie met.

The point is that it can happen in any order.  Just play with ideas till something catches fire.

And you have your Boy Meets Girl.

Your homework:  pull your favorite romance off the shelf and analyze how the Boy Meets Girl moment is intertwined with the main plot. You may want to note what page that happens on as well.

You could even do this with your favorite romance movie - like Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally or Dirty Dancing.  Feel free to share any aha moments.

 

 

 

Writing Romance – the Warrior Poet

The last romance hero archetype we’ll look at is the Warrior Poet.

The website TVTropes says this about the WP, “He's fought in a battle and is no slouch at war making, but he thinks about the purpose behind all the bloodshed and philosophizes on the meaning of life and death.

Remember the last line of Braveheart?   "They fought like warrior-poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And won their freedom."

This hero archetype isn’t just broody, though he may be broody - he isn’t your Theta or Delta.  He’s a warrior, but not your Alpha.  He’s genuine and courteous, but not your Beta.

The WP is fighting for something bigger than himself.

Here are some more examples from TVTropes

  • “D'Artagnan gets the Musketeers to like him in The Three Musketeers (1993) by tossing out a one-liner. D'Artagnan: I may not wear the tunic, but I believe I have the heart of a Musketeer.
    Porthos: Warrior.
    Aramis: Poet. “
  • Captain America - thoughtful and introspective.
  • Picard in Star Trek with “the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet.”

Eileen Charbonneau really nails this when she states that “his roots are in the Irish Fianna, an ancient society of professional protectors of the poor and voiceless.”

She points to Robin Hood and King Arthur, and St. George.

This hero may have darkness in his past.  But he has also had light and love to show him the way.

Susan Sarah calls him the M&M Hero - crusty on the outside, soft on the inside.  She notes that he is restrained emotionally but has a deep capacity for love.  Of course, his heroine will bring that out in him, giving him a safe place to be himself.

William Wallace is often pointed to as this Warrior Poet hero.  Real quick, let’s look at his life (in the movie Braveheart, of course.)

  • A father that loves him.
  • An uncle that loves him and takes care of him when his father is killed, raising him to love books and education.
  • He comes home to build a life - take a wife - have a family.  He doesn’t want trouble.
  • He attends the wedding and, in one of my favorite moments, has his eye on Murran but when he’s interrupted by another village girl asking him to dance, he says, “Of course I will.”
  • He falls hopelessly in love with Murran and only goes to “war” when she is murdered.
  • Even though the “war” starts with her death, it becomes something much bigger.  Scotland.  Freedom.
  • This Warrior Poet makes those around him better. More courageous.  He does this with his friend Hamish, Stephen, Robert the Bruce (Unite the clans) and even Queen Isabella (“If I swear to him, then everything that I am is dead already.” And, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”)
  • He inspired the Scots with this infamous speech

“Wallace: I AM William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?

Veteran soldier: Fight? Against that? No, we will run; and we will live.

Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!!!”

Again Susan Sarah:  “In some ways, the Warrior Poet is the most realistic of heroes, the most balanced, the most attainable and familiar sort of hero. He is everywhere, on the news every day, and living in our own homes. He has strength and gentleness, courage and hesitancy, power and tenderness. He’s fascinating, and he can live without his heroine: and therein lies a great challenge and journey for her, and the writer, and the reader too.”

Of my own heroes - I think Daniel Fraser (Book 4 of True Heroes series) is the Warrior Poet.  He’s an ex-Navy Seal - who gave up “Sealing” for the love of a woman.  He’s introspective - his team calls him Professor.  But he’s courageous, kind, and his whole being is wrapped up in helping people.

I hope you've enjoyed this look at our wonderful romance heroes archetypes.  I imagine you might be ready to jump into something more.  No more archetypes, I promise.

Until next month, remember BIC-HOK - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.  Scribendo disces scribere.

Writing Romance – the Delta, Theta, and Beta Heroes

Welcome back, Campers.  This month we'll look at three other types of romance heroes:  the Delta, the Theta, and the Beta heroes.  (And how about those Oxford commas!)

The Delta - the dark and dangerous. His past is so dark, so damaging, and combines with such a darker temperament that he exiles himself from society and takes on loner/outlaw status. His issues have to do with the past and how to overcome it - guilt, shame, rage, isolation versus need for love.... Delta means change, and these heroes most of all must change to be able to give and accept love freely.

Conflicts for Delta

•Guilt vs Trust

•Outlaw vs Authority

•Freedom vs Home

•Self-sufficiency vs Family

Trust/Love/Intimacy

He lets no one see inside.  Trusts no one.

 

The Theta - the wounded. Theta means both death and art. These are the wounded creators, the ones too sensitive to put on the Delta's armor, and too passionate about life to kill themselves. Their very vulnerability to life's suffering makes them creative. They can be artists or writers or healers, but

their way of dealing with pain is to create with it. The Theta's issues have to do often with the self-destructive nature of the artistic temperament--substance abuse, loneliness, the need to stay open to life without dying of the pain of it.

Conflicts for Theta

Addiction vs Pain

Art vs Life

Past vs Future

Care-taker vs Care-needer

 

Then there's the Beta, and him I define not as a wimp but more as a good-time guy. He's the open, friendly fella always willing to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on. He likes a party and has many friends, most of whom take advantage of his good nature. His issues have to do with 'self' boundaries - care-taking, giving too much, and not planning for the morrow because today is too involving. He could be a leader but is too lazy or too busy or too uncaring to do that. Mostly he just wants to enjoy life today.

Conflicts for Beta

Commitment vs Freedom

Loyalty vs Loyalty  (friend/job/girl)

Trust vs Betrayal

(Delta expects betrayal – Beta doesn’t)

 

My favorite Beta hero - Jack (Bill Pullman), the nice younger brother, in "While You Were Sleeping"

Example: He's playing cards with his comatose brother and says, "Whoever gets the high card, gets Lucy." (No direct confrontation.)  Love this guy!

Feel free to leave comments about these heroes – your favorites – and any questions you have.

That does it for our Romance Heroes for this month.  Next month, we’ll talk about the last one.

Until then, remember BIC-HOK - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.  Scribendo disces scribere.

 

Writing Romance – the Alpha Hero

The most obvious starting place to discuss the types of romance heroes is with the Alpha male - Alpha hero.

Alpha Male:  a domineering man; the dominant member in a group of males, especially animals.

They say that the term was coined mainly to distinguish between boring heroes and exciting heroes.  Really?  I’ve seen some very un-boring heroes who were Beta or Delta Heroes - we’ll get to those later.  And it’s the plotting that makes the story exciting, don’t you think?

Here’s a fun conversation between Booth and Brennan from tv’s Bones.

Booth: Ok, what is so funny?

Brennan: I just never figured you being in a relationship.

Booth: Why? Do you think something's wrong with me?

Brennan: Not wrong. You just have alpha male attributes usually associated with a solitary existence.

Booth: What me? You're solitary.

Brennan: No no, I'm private, it's different and we weren't talking about me.

Booth: I was.

Brennan: I wasn't. Look, I'm happy for you. Relationships have anthropological meaning. No society can survive if sexual bonds aren't forged between -

Booth: What the hell are you talking about?

Booth is most definitely an Alpha hero.

When we look back at the history of the romance genre, we see a time when the heroes of these novels had their way with the heroines, whether she wanted to or not.  The biggest writers in the genre in the early ‘70s - Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers - both wrote these type of “heroes.”  These types of heroes might not fly today - I mean, taking her without her permission - um, that’s rape.

It’s entirely possible that I’m out of touch here.  When Googling romance books with Alpha Heroes, I found a list that started with Fifty Shades of Grey and continued with erotic romance heroes.  I’ve not read Shades and erotic isn’t my thing.  So, forgive me if I don’t include your favorite if that’s your genre.  What I’m trying to say - and not very well, I might add - is that “dominant” or “domineering” heroes may be Alpha males or may just be jerks.  So maybe the Alpha hero has himself evolved.  Or maybe he hasn’t.  I guess it depends on the genre.

At the most basic level, the Alpha hero is a leader. Or so says Alicia Rasley. “The Alpha hero is above all else a leader. He's someone who takes charge. He's just about bound to end up as the boss of whatever group he's joined.  That is, whatever wounds he's suffered in the past don't keep him from accepting his ultimate role of leading. He is not an outlaw (or if he is, he's the leader of the outlaw band). He is part of a group, not an outsider. And no, he's not dark and dangerous. A truly dark and dangerous Alpha would very likely be a tyrant. The Alpha male is a social creature, not a loner.”

Your Alpha hero is the guy that takes charge.  He’s in control of the situation and in control of himself.  He’s not touchy-feely and holds his cards close to his chest.

He’s John Wayne in almost every movie he was ever in.  He’s William Wallace, Jetro Gibbs, Raymond Reddington.

Some of the conflicts for an Alpha hero include:

Loyalty vs Truth

Ambition vs Friendship

Power vs Abuse

Confidence vs Insecurity

Last month I sent you away with homework.  Your homework is to think about your favorite romance hero.  What makes him heroic?  Why do you love him?  Did anyone do it?

This month I’d love to hear who your favorite Alpha Heroes are.

Next month, we’ll talk about the other types of romance heroes - the Beta, the Delta, the Theta.

Remember, all heroes have a bit of each of these types inside.  These are just jumping off points.  Feel free to digress.

Have a great month, Campers.  Remember BICHOK - Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard.

Writing Romance – Starting with a Great Hero

Which came first, the plot or the character? Likely a question as old as fiction writing.

I’m not going to answer this question so you can relax.  But what I am going to say is that, at least for romance novels, readers fall in love with characters.  Not plots.  So where do we start writing a romance.

My opinion is that we start with a hero.

Let me tell you a story.  Years ago, I was driving back to Westcliffe from Pueblo West, along that stretch of Highway 50 that is straight and barren.  I zoned out for a moment.  When I zoned back in, for just an instant I didn’t know where I was.  My “what if” took off and, by the time I got home, I had the beginnings of the plot for True Valor.  More important, though, I had Nic.

What I did in that instance is take a germ of a plot - what if the heroine finds herself behind the wheel of the car, not knowing where she is, how she got there, or even who she is.  She needed a hero.  But what sort of hero?  Nic D’Onofrio is an Air Force PJ (Pararescue Jumper) whose nickname is Batman.  He simply can’t help himself - he HAS to rescue those in trouble.

That was a little side trip.  But let’s get back to what makes a romance hero.

Well, that sorta depends.

Susan May Warren, in her book How to Write a Brilliant Romance, says that first of all, a hero much be NOBLE.  I think she’s right.  I’d add honorable, gallant, virtuous, courageous, valorous.  In my True Heroes series, I used those in the titles of the five books. 

Did you realize, though, that within the romance genre, there are categories of romance heroes?

Author Alicia Rasley breaks down the categories this way.

  • The Alpha Hero
  • The Beta Hero
  • The Delta Hero
  • The Theta Hero.

Jo Beverly adds a Gamma Hero.

And what about the Warrior Poet?

Tami Cowden has these hero archetypes:  Chief, Bad Boy, Best Friend, Charmer, Lost Soul, Professor, Swashbuckler, and Warrior.

Confused yet?  Don’t be.  It’s all good.

Laurie King has her list:  the Duke, the Laird, the Golden Boy, the Lone Wolf, the Warrior, the Brain, The Libertine, the Black Sheep, the Sorcerer

The thing to remember here is this: 

Powerful Characters create Powerful Drama. 

So, above all, we want our hero to be a character that catches the imagination of the reader and holds her in place, flipping pages, until that last kiss.

In the next few articles, I’ll go into detail on some of these hero types and what makes them tick.  Your homework is to think about your favorite romance hero.  What makes him heroic?  Why do you love him?  Feel free to comment.  That will be fun!

Until next month, campers, remember BICHOK - Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard.

Jax

 

The 411 on Category Romance

Are you tired of all the businessy stuff yet? You might be. But let’s not lose sight of the importance of knowing the industry. One more post and then we’re on to boy meets girl.

Today we’re addressing Category Romance, a.k.a. Series Romance. Here’s the definition from Goodreads: “Category romances are short, usually no more than 200 pages, or about 55,000 words. The books are published in clearly delineated lines, with a certain number of books published in each line every month. In many cases, the books are numbered sequentially within the line.”

The big players here are Harlequin and Silhouette. Harlequin was founded in 1949 in Canada as a paperback reprinting company. It wasn’t until the mid-50’s that the focus narrowed to Romance. They’ve partnered with many different publishers over the years and are now owned by Harper Collins. It wasn’t until the 70’s that they had American authors - it was all British writers until then. They actually turned down Nora Roberts because they’d signed Janet Daily and she was their “American.” Can’t you just see them sipping their afternoon tea with their noses in the air? Their bad. Eventually, Nora would write for them. So there was a happy ending.

In 1980 Harlequin terminated their relationship with Simon & Schuster, leaving them high and dry. So they formed Silhouette to compete with Harlequin. These books featured American settings and characters. Over time, the heat-level of romance went up and some other companies entered the scene. Harlequin didn’t adapt well, and in 1984, they purchased Silhouette. The Silhouette imprint continues, though. In the 90’s many of their authors began writing longer, single-title romance and, to keep them the Mira line of longer books was created.

But this was all before e-books. Remember, the way these category romances worked is that the company had a number of “lines” of books. Each line featured three or four books a month that were only on the shelves for that month. So a book had a 30-day window to sell. Many customers had subscriptions and got the entire line every month. That help these authors become successful, but it was truly a roll of the dice.

That 30-day window is still around. That’s still how these books are sold. Subscriptions are also still available but are much less popular. Of course, now these books are available beyond their store shelf-life on the Harlequin website in paperback (until sold out) and ebook format. Many romance author still make their living staying within the Harlequin walls.

One of the things - from an authors perspective - that sets Harlequin apart is that they do take un-agented queries. The first version of my True Valor went to New York after a request for the full manuscript. It was ultimately not a good fit for them but I was thrilled to have had it considered.

Their categories now include:

African-American
Classic Romance
Contemporary Romance
Erotic Fiction
Fantasy
Historical Romance
Home and Family
Inspirational Romance
Mystery
New Adult
Paranormal Romance
Passion
Relationship Novel
Romance with More
Spanish
Suspense
Teen
Thriller
Wholesome

Something for every romance reader and writer. If you’re at all interested in pursuing category romance, their guidelines are all available on their website.

Okay, campers. Next month - we’ll get into the nitty gritty of writing romance. In the meantime - happy Valentine’s Day.

Romance Sub-genres Part 2

Happy New Year, Campers. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Ours involved 80-100mph winds and no electricity. We had a daring chicken rescue as well but that’s a story for another time.

Last month we covered some of the sub-genres of Romance - Romantic Comedy, Chick-Lit, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense, Historical, Inspirational. Wow, that’s a lot. We also “touched” - haha, get it? - on the different heat levels in some of the genres.

This month, we’re going to finish up with sub-genres. We’ll look at the vast world of Paranormal and also talk about Regency Romance.

Let’s do Regency first, shall we? Regency romance has a very strict set of rules.

• It must be set in England in 1812 (okay you can fudge just a smidge on this - but not much)
• It must be historically accurate for the time and place. It was a time of violence and danger lurked around every corner. The streets weren’t safe. King George III was on the edge of insane and England was embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars.
• It must include kings, and dukes, and lords and ladies and titled nobility of all sorts. And you have to keep them straight and right. Your readers will.
• It must include accurate character names that fit the times. Keep your classes straight and your names fitting.
• It must use the language of the times. Peculiar terms and phrases abound in Regency.

With Regency - the authors writing this sub-genre are well versed readers first.

If you come across the term “Regency-set historicals” think Regencies set in locations other than England. America was fighting a war too at the time.

Want to write Regencies? Read Regencies.

Now on to Paranormal.

Included in Paranormal Romance are Fantasy Romance, SciFi Romance and Futuristic Romance, Time Travel Romance, Reality based vampires and werewolves and such, Ghosts and Angels and Goddesses, and also more sinister creatures of the night.

Fantasy Romance will include the world building common in all fantasy fiction - from complete other worlds to earth realities that have their own rules.

SciFi and Futuristic Romance can include elements of SciFi, Space Opera, etc. The difference between the two is SciFi is outer space based and Futuristic is Earth based.

Time Travel Romance - pretty self explanatory. Might Outlander fit this category?

Reality based creatures - these would be stories much like Contemporary Romances with vampires or werewolves in staring roles.

The term Light Paranormal refers to your ghost stories and angel stories - suggesting that these paranormal creatures are friendlies. Dark Paranormal would be your blood suckers and baddies of every variety. Fairies and leprechauns and selkies and such can be creatures of light or creatures of darkness. You get to decide.

But remember, in all these sub-genres, the key is the Romance. It must be front and center. Any and all of these sub-genres can and do have further categories such as Young Adult and New Adult.

After I finished this list, I realized I’d left out the paranormal I’ve written. It’s a reincarnation story. So there’s another category.

Confused? Don’t be. Just be aware that the variety inside Romance is LIMITLESS. There’s something for anyone who loves happily ever after.