Thursday, April 06, 2017

Writing Romance: 5 Tropes That Readers Love

I'm starting an irregular column on writing romance. It helps if you know what the reader most enjoys. Obviously there's room for the new but if you're approaching an established publisher it's always a good idea to begin with something they know will sell so I'm beginning with a rundwon of  popular tropes.

The Marriage of Convenience

Yes, even in this day and age when single mothers are no longer stoned in the street, it’s still possible to write this fan favourite trope.

Money is a good reason. Tricky Wills give you a lot of scope.  Okay, you can challenge them, but in the mean time you might be left homeless. Or you might discover that the inheritance you thought was safely in the bag is mortgaged up the hilt. The unexpected pregnancy after a night with someone you’ve only just met – or have known forever but as a friend, is still a useful one. Social pressures are still there, or guilt, or maybe the guy plans to do his duty, just being there, providing support and ends up falling in love. Of course you have to come up with a good reason why they ended up in bed together. That’s the fun bit!

The Sheikh Romance

Ever since E M Hull wrote the iconic “The Sheikh” they have sold like hotcakes. The first thing to realise about a sheikh romance, is that it is a total fantasy and has nothing to do with reality. The sheikh has everything. He is in total command of his environment, has unimaginable power and wealth. He also has the kind of respect for family, a sense of honour, that can leave him in some really tricky situations. Lots of scope for marriage of convenience here; if the woman is in danger, if he has some heartfelt reason for not marrying the woman his family has chosen for him. If you struggle seeing him as a hero, a former publishing director of Mills and Boon once described him to me as “a cowboy wearing a different hat”.  Same thousand yard gaze. Same deep seated honour.


Nine to Five

The workplace romance should be tricky in this PC/Human Resources dominated age but it’s is still a much-loved trope. Unlike the sheikh romance, this is something much closer to home, familiar. Most of us will have worked somewhere – office, store, factory – at some point in our lives.  These days, of course, it doesn’t have to be the powerful boss and the woman he doesn’t notice until some crisis occurs and he needs her to play his fiancĂ©e. There’s plenty of room to play out a scenario between equals, a boardroom battle that only one of them can win. So much more interesting.


 Oh now, this is always fun. You not only have two people trying very hard not to fall into bed with each other but you have it with baubles, fairy lights, Santa Claus and snow. You can dress your characters in embarrassingly silly costumes, dump two feet of snow on them and cut off the electricity, strand the Grinch and the Sugar Plum Fairy in a place from which there is no escape (it doesn’t have to be snow!) Mayhem or magic, they go down a treat.

The Mediterranean hero

Passionate, sexy, with his dark good-looks, the Mediterranean billionaire — Greek, Italian, Spanish or Italian — is the staple hero of romance.

He is very nearly as much a fantasy as the sheikh. You can throw in a palazzo overlooking the sea, helicopters, yachts, private jets, private islands and sex. Lots of sex.

That's it for now. I should probably have added babies to the list. There is nothing like a cute baby on the cover to set the cash tills ringing, but they have to be tiny (no toddlers or teenagers - they distract from the hero and heroine's story).

Look at the books being published, what tropes call you? Writing what you enjoy is always the best way to start.

Next time I'll talk about the "crucible".

Happy writing.


Liz Fielding's Little Book of Writing Romance is available to download from iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.


Laura Russell said...

Fun list!
I agree that marriage of convenience is a big fave. I love them. Could you explain why?? What makes these stories such a delight?

Amy Ella said...

Oh this is brilliant Liz, thanks. I've just finished your 'Little Book of Writing Romance' and I thought it was brilliant, very helpful. Can't wait for more of your irregular posts!

Janet Ch said...

So pleased to see this. (Hope the irregular posts will get to be quite frequent.)The sheikh books must be the hardest to write--all that research.

Nobody said...

Yes. Agree totally. Love all these.

Rachel said...

What a fun and interesting read. Loved it! :)

Liz Fielding said...

Hi Laura. I agree that the marriage of convenience is fun and I love writing them. I think there's this thing about two people who barely know one another (or maybe have known one another forever but not in "that" way) being forced into an intimate situation. There's awkwardness and a heightened awareness that has a strong sensual appeal. And then there's the struggle between attraction and - because there's usually a time limit - the need to stay distant. Never going to happen. :)

Liz Fielding said...

So glad you're finding the Little Book useful, Amy. I'm thinking about Little Book Two - when I've finished the three books and a short story on my schedule! Is there anything that you'd find particularly helpful?

Liz Fielding said...

Thanks, Janet. I love writing sheikhs. I lived in the Middle East for a number of years (my daughter was born in Bahrain). My husband used to regularly attend the Ruler's majlis and when he had foreign visitors he sent for John to sit with him and help facilitate the conversation (he speaks Arabic) He had the immense pleasure of meeting Thor Heyerdal when he passed through on one of his adventures.

It's changed out of all recognition of course, but I've been in desert and those old rackety souks, shopped in the fish market and seen the gold gleaming from the shop windows. ;)

I'll try and post as often as I can, but I've got a mid-May deadline and the broken arm seriously messed up my word count. :(

Liz Fielding said...

Thanks so much, Rachel. I hope you'll enjoy the next one, focussing on the "crucible" :)

Liz Fielding said...

Thanks for leaving a comment "Nobody". It's always good to know when a post hits the spot. :)