The romance genre has a number of fairly common and overused tropes and conventions, and sometimes this keeps readers coming back. For some people, losing oneself in a story that follows a predictable path with a guaranteed happy ending is relaxing.
However, if you’re learning how to write a romance novel that stands out you may want to try a different approach. Some readers yearn for those novels that make an effort to subvert the genre, breathing new life into old clichés, if not eliminating them altogether. By avoiding clichés or at least revitalizing them, you can write a richer, fresher book and give it a better chance of securing a place on the bestseller list.
How to Write a Romance Novel?
It isn’t true that the romance genre is just one massive cliché that refuses to change. However, one cannot ignore the fact that some clichés simply refuse to die to the detriment of the genre as a whole.
While it is true that clichés can sell, new authors trying to figure out how to write a romance novel are encouraged to challenge themselves by avoiding those clichés common to the romance genre. The 5 most common ones to consider avoiding (or at least putting an unpredictable spin on) are as follows:
The Evil Woman
Almost every romance novel today has an “evil other woman” in its cast; sometimes she is the hero’s former mistress, other times just an acquaintance. Whatever the case, she wants the hero and she will stop at nothing to have him.
More than just another scorned woman venting her frustrations, this woman is often evil to the very core. She crosses every line possible to bring misery to the protagonists of the story. What makes the evil other woman so loathsome is the fact that she is often presented as a strong assertive woman. This of course in direct contrast to the meek, timid heroine, which tends to antagonize many a female reader.
The Country Mouse Theme
The country mouse theme is disturbingly common in romance today, and while some writers can give it a cute twist, others make it annoying. Almost always it goes like this: a powerful and arrogant heroine who, having grown up in the city, visits the countryside and meets a rough-hewn hero.
Naturally the hero dismisses city women as vain and weak. Therefore the heroine must prove herself to be every bit as strong as the country born wife the hero lost. Most such plots depend on silly misunderstandings to thrive, creating unrealistic pastoral wonderlands devoid of the real problems of modern rural life.
Innocent Virginal Heroines
Many readers are getting fed up with this type of character. So what’s wrong with the virginal heroine? The romance genre has thrived on this trope for generations. The heroines are presented as naïve, virginal women that require the touch of the hero to show them the ropes and deliver to them truly pleasurable experiences. It would take a skilled writer to write innocent, naïve heroines of this sort without falling into the traps that have rendered so many romance novels unrealistically dull.
The Duke of Slut
For those that do not know the term, it refers to heroes in fiction that have slept with every woman they have ever met with the exception of their mother. And because they have only ever known harlots, it will take the naïve, virginal girl to tame them, showing them a more virtuous approach to romance. Writers that create these rakish heroes seem to believe that such men would be so willing to reform, let alone settle down, in the name of pleasing the virginal heroine.
Romance authors love to use silly misunderstandings to manipulate their readers emotionally. Misunderstandings are a common element of ordinary life. What elevates the misunderstandings in romance novels to ridiculous levels isn’t the drastic impact they almost always have, but it’s the fact that they could be resolved with a brief honest conversation. Misunderstandings, especially the kind used to create drama in romance, tend to manifest plot holes.
You will find a lot of these clichés in every romance bookshelf imaginable. However, just because a plot is a cliché doesn’t mean no one wants to read it anymore. Anyone trying to figure out how to write a romance novel needs to understand that there is nothing wrong with using clichés, so long as you can breathe some new life into them.