Writing the Classic Love Story

By Fay Lamb

When an author tells me that they do not write romance, I laugh. Why? Because it’s exactly what I used to say. Then I realized that every story has a thread of romance. Humans, after all, crave love.

Then there are those authors who want to write a romance. Yet, they shun the classic romance formula. However, a new author writing romance without formula will struggle to publish, or if self-published will struggle to gain readership. The reason? Formula works. Look at that romantic movie channel. Readers like the formula. If not, that channel would not be so popular.

My first three novels in The Ties that Bind series are classic formula romances, one more than the others. If you are an artist who loves to color outside the lines, people will not “get” your work until you have used brilliant colors within the lines a few times.

Here are those lines that create the outer boundaries of the picture:

  • Girl meets boy
  • Girl and boy are drawn to each other
  • Conflict, either internal or external or both, keeps boy and girl apart
  • Girl and boy have an “almost” moment
  • Conflict rears its ugly head and tears them apart in a way that seems impossible for them to overcome
  • Girl and boy overcome to live happily ever after

Written out in bland terms, the formula seems pretty boring, but that’s why we write. We take the mundane and make it extraordinary. The way we color within those lines set for us is our creativity shining forth.

My most formulaic work is entitled, Libby. Here’s what is inside the lines:

  • Girl meets boy: In the story, Libby has spied her hero, Evan, in a coffee shop on several occasions. She doesn’t know his name, but attracted to him, she begins to watch for him, but she thinks no one has noticed. Her two goofy, but astute friends, Charisse and Gideon have noticed. They begin to hatch a matchmaking scheme that goes wrong at every turn. Gideon shows up one morning at the coffee shop, talks to Evan, and introduces Evan to Libby.
  • Conflict: Libby has self-esteem issues that resulted from no small incident in her life. She can’t believe that someone like Evan would ever be interested in her. Evan? He handled his traumatic past differently, and the result was rage. As he falls in love with Libby, he fears he must protect her from himself.
  • Girl and boy have an almost moment and conflict tears them apart: Evan does take Libby on a date of much importance. Libby and Evan enjoy the day. Then before they leave, Evan excuses himself. Libby misreads Evan’s actions, and she is devastated. Evan, in doing something wonderful for Libby, finds that his greatest fear has come true. He has hurt Libby.
  • Girl and boy overcome to live happily ever after: I’m not giving the story away, but let’s just say that Gideon and Charisse Tabor are the funniest and slyest matchmakers I’ve ever known.

There are other events in the story that amp up the plot and flow with the formula. For instance, there is an antagonist who separates the couple. There are funny moments and tearful ones. Those come about firmly within the formula and prove that though we are coloring within the lines, the colors we choose produce something unique for the reader. Yes, even in formula you can immerse the reader into a story that provides the depth that a movie on that romance channel never tries to reach.

Prompt: Write a classic romance. Have fun, but don’t dismiss formula until you’ve colored within the lines a few times.

Click-to-Tweet: When an author tells me that they do not write romance, I laugh. Why? Because it’s exactly what I used to say. Then I realized that every story has a thread of romance. Humans, after all, crave love.

Fay Lamb Bio

Fay Lamb is an author, an editor, and a teacher. She also loves to teach workshops for fiction writers.

Fay has contracted four series with her publisher, Write Integrity Press. Amazing Grace is a four-novel series, which includes Stalking Willow, Better than Revenge, Everybody’s Broken, and Frozen Notes all set in Western North Carolina.

Her The Ties that Bind romantic series, set in Fay’s own backyard of Central Florida, includes Charisse, Libby, and Hope, and comes to a surprising and satisfying conclusion with Delilah.

This author keeps busy. She also has two other series in the works. Her first novel in the Serenity Key series is the epic, Storms in Serenity. The other series is Mullet Harbor, a series of Christmas romances set in the Florida Everglades. Christmas Under Wraps is now available.

Fay has an adventurous spirit, which has also taken her into the arena of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook and on Goodreads. She’s also active on Twitter. Fay also invites you to visit her website and sign up for her newsletter.


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