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.

Romance Sub-genres – Part 1

Before we go deeper into the elements of a great romance novel, let’s take a side trip and talk about the sub-genres of Romance.

Maybe you’ve heard the term “Category” or “Series” romance.  These terms don’t really reflect a subgenre so much as a publishing concept.  Harlequin and Silhouette are the big names here.  Each month H/S release several books in each of their lines (sub-genres) which are on the shelf for one month.  Now, with ebooks being such a large part of the market, these books are available after their month is up.  I’ll cover more on Category romance in another post.

engagement-1718244_640Romantic Comedy:  Think “How to Lose a Guy in 10 days.”  These are light-hearted romances that pretty much keep you smiling - sometimes laughing all the way through.  Sometimes these are categorized as “Chick Lit” - though not so much any more - and something they’re shelved with “contemporary.”  Some of the bigger names in this genre are Jennifer Cruisie and Sophie Kinsella.

As long as we mentioned Chick-Lit, I’ll go over it briefly.  These romances are often set in the big city and is a sort or slice of life of a young professional woman - her friends, her job, her trials with men.  The Chick-lit craze seems to have faded away with these stories being shelved now in the Romantic Comedy section.

Contemporary:  This sub-genre simply means that the love story takes place in present times.  There are sub-genres of Contemporary as well, such as the military romances and cowboy romances I write.  Some of the paranormal romances, like the vampire, ghost and time-travel stories are shoved into this sub-genre even though they have their own.

Romantic Suspense:  usually a sub-genre of contemporary.  However these could be historical or even futuristic  These are higher-stakes romances with life and death situations.  There are elements of thrillers, mysteries and suspense novels but the romance takes center stage.  A quick look at the top authors in Goodreads gives us Sandra Brown, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts (who can fit in any sub-genre), and Julie James to name a few.

Paranormal:  These can be any time setting.  As I mentioned above, they deal with ghosts, reincarnation, vampires, fairies, and the like.  Some of the top names in this sub-genre are Staphanie Meyer (of course) and Cassandra Clare.

Historical:  Pretty self-explanatory.   Jane Austin is on the top of this list, with Diana Gabaldon (who vehemently denies that she writes romance.)

Inspirational:  These romances would fall anywhere from brief mentions of church and God, to more in-depth Christian romance.  Some of the most popular  inspirational romance authors are Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, and Debbie Macomber.

couple-731890_640-croppedOn the other end of the spectrum from Inspirational is Erotica.  You may have heard the term Romantica(TM) - this term was coined and trademarked by Ellora’s Cave, one of the early publishers of this sub-genre.  Their definition:  “any work of literature that is both romantic and sexually explicit in nature. Within this genre, a man and a woman develop "in love" feelings for one another that culminate in a monogamous relationship."  Technically, to be considered Erotica, the sex is front and center of the plot.  There is emotion and love in these stories and, to be considered a romance novel, there is a committed relationship at the end of the book.

Obviously, there is a very wide spectrum of sex in all of these sub-genres.  And, for the record, there is no rating system in place for romance books.  Sometimes you can evaluate the “heat” level of the book by its description. Words like “hot”, “steamy”, “lusty” - well, you’d know what you’re getting here.  The Inspirationals would not have sex in them.  And books described as “heartwarming” would likely not either, but also would not have the inspirational elements.

Next month, we’ll look at a few more sub-genres.  Until then - Merry Christmas - and BICHOK (Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard).

Jax

Romance: Tropes, tropes, and more Tropes

jean-honore_fragonard_-_the_stolen_kissBefore we get into the popular tropes in romance, I guess I should define a trope.

From Merriam Webster:  Full Definition of trope. 1a : a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché <the usual horror movie tropes> 2 : a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages.

I think, for our purposes, though, the Urban Dictionary comes closest:  “Despite the erroneous definitions already published here, TROPE on the interwebs really refers to an often overused plot device. It can also be described as another variation on the same theme.”

I do like what Tahra Seplowin says in her article at So You Think You Can Write. “Tropes are time-tested scenarios or plot devices that appear again and again, while hooks are any element of the story that might draw the reader in. You may have heard “trope” and “hook” used interchangeably, and there are often similarities and overlaps. One fundamental difference is that tropes are always tried-and-true devices, while hooks can be either well-known or brand new.”

If the theme of the romance genre is “love wins in the end” - then tropes are the subcategories of the theme, the overarching plot within the romance.

This is the list of tropes from the Romance Writers of America website:

Top 10 popular romance tropes: (1) friends to lovers; (2) soul mate/fate; (3) second chance at love; (4) secret romance; (5) first love; (6) strong hero/heroine; (7) reunited lovers; (8) love triangle; (9) sexy billionaire/millionaire; (10) sassy heroine

I’m not entirely sure that #6 and #10 are tropes.  And it seems to me there are some fairly common tropes left out of this list.

Secret baby - though not one of my favorites - doesn’t show up on the list. It’s the one where the hero left town, leaving heroine pregnant and now he’s back and shocked to find that he has a child.

547008052_1280x720Forbidden love - heck this one goes back to Romeo and Juliet, doesn’t it - though R&J wasn’t a romance, was it.  This is the one where hero and heroine aren’t allowed to fall in love - maybe he’s her commanding officer - or from True Honor, she’s his lawyer.

Is “older man, younger woman” (or vice versa) a trope?  I have used that one.

I really like the friends to lovers one because the hero and heroine enjoy each others company for a while before the physical longings show up.  This one can work nicely with the love triangle too.  Am I wrong in saying that Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak (Arrow) had a friends to lovers story?  Or maybe that was a different trope - loving him from the moment she saw him but from afar.  Maybe Oliver and Felicity had a “girl next door” story - or more like “office downstairs.”

Good grief!  RWA might want to add some to the list.

As I was exploring this topic, I found an article that listed - wait for it -  64 tropes.  Yes I counted them.  So, if you don’t like the secret babies trope, you don’t have to use it.

But honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever given tropes that much thought when crafting a story.  Maybe that’s because I’ve read enough romance that love stories seep out of my heart.

Tropes might be a handy tool to use as a romance writer.  The list of 64 tropes might be a great idea generator.  But now you know about them.  My work for the month is done.

Remember, the only way to get books written is to WRITE.  So BIC-HOK - butt in chair, hands on keyboard. See you next month.