Writing Romance

February is the month of love and romance. So what better topic could we offer this month besides romance writing? Stay tuned to learn about everything romance…

By Fay Lamb

Not so long ago, if anyone would have asked me if I wrote romance, I’d have say, “Uh-no” in that haughty way that tells someone they consider themselves above all that.

Today, I tell you proudly that I do write romance. The truth is, I was writing it way back then, too. I just didn’t realize it. Romance really does make the world turn. I’m sure if I tried I might come up with one movie or book that is absolutely void of romance, whether it be a simple attraction, a hint of romance, or the story is all about falling in love, but romance, even if it doesn’t play out, is what makes a story memorable.

Yet, writing romance isn’t always as simple as it seems. I’m one of those authors that balk at formula, but I have to tell you, formula works—especially if you’re targeting a publisher that lives or dies by that formula. Actually, the Hallmark channel is enough proof that publishers will thrive on formula romance.

So what is the formula? It’s a simple recipe: Boy meets girl, preferably by the first scene or at least by the end of the first chapter, and certainly no later than the first scene of the second chapter. Boy and girl must share an attraction that will grow into love, but there must be an overriding conflict that keeps them from taking the plunge. In my novel, Charisse, the heroine was always attracted to her hero, even in high school. She just didn’t think he cared for her. They drift apart, and many years later, after they reconnect, the big dope, who did care about her in high school, has done something unforgivable—at least as far as the heroine is concerned. Still, circumstances cause her to work for him. Her cold shoulder toward him due to her anger and also another woman who blatantly desires him, are both roadblocks to their finding happily ever after.

Formula does seem monotonous, though, so there are elements to a story that can make it rise above the others. One thing is character. My friend, June Foster, writes romance where the characters aren’t the golden-haired beauty queens or the blond Adonis of every woman’s dreams. Nope, her delightful stories include a woman who lost a leg, a man who is obese and closing in on being a diabetic. She writes about women who are compelled to buy things and men who struggle with unbecoming issues, and those stories work. Don’t underestimate the idea of a flawed human being as a hero or heroine. Readers like the underdog.

Another angle to take could be humor. In my very formulaic romance, Libby, the poor woman is traumatized by a perceived lack of self-worth while those around her see her shine brightly. Her hero is a man who believes that his past might cause him to hurt her. In the background are two of the worst matchmakers imaginable, and everything they do to keep the hero and heroine together turns into tragic hilarity.

Finally, a little mystery or two might add to the formula. No, I’m not saying get out of the romance genre and write a romantic suspense or a cozy mystery. Simply layer in a question that begs to be answered. Currently, I’m watching an Australian show where they bill the hero as having an “undetermined number of ex-wives.” Every mention of an ex-wife makes the viewer want to know more. This type of question can tantalize readers as well.

Find something unique for each romance, and weave it into the story. Turn monotony into a story with flair, and shout to the world, “I am a writer of romance!”

 Writing Prompt: Look at the photo above. Describe who is giving this gift and who is receiving. Develop a strong character in your description.

Click to tweet: Romance really does make the world turn. But how do you write a love story? Read on. #romance #ValentinesDay


Fay Lamb writes emotionally charged stories with a Romans 8:28 attitude, reminding readers that God is always in the details. Fay donates 100% of her royalties to Christian charities.

Storms in Serenity is the first book in Fay’s Serenity Key series. Fay’s other series include, Amazing Grace and her novels, Stalking Willow, Better than RevengeEverybody’s Brokenand Frozen Notes. The Ties that Bind Series includes Charisse,Libby, and Hope. Delilah, is coming soon.

Fay’s is also the author of The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.