Romance: the Same Old, Same Old?

Born Valentines Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin’s Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.

Ane asked me to talk about how to keep the romance from being the same old, same old. How to bring something unique to it.

I think having at least one character in a very noble, very unique and heroic career helps. That’s one thing I do. Another thing that keeps it unique is well-placed humor in proper doses so as not to offset the developing romance or detract from that. Developing that elusive thing called “voice” can set work apart and bring something unique to it. Each author has unique life experiences and relationships with family, friends and community that can enhance a story and thrust it above the norm.

Another thing is to strive to write evocative without being provocative. That’s a real challenge! Having the characters NOT be perfect is key. Yet there’s a balance of keeping them likable/irresistible/endearing/sympathetic and all those other positive attributes that keep readers reading. Sure the character could and should be flawed somehow. But not so much that it’s too much like real life and the reader is buried in angst.

I’ve found that most romance readers prefer more light-hearted stuff. And I myself read for escape and don’t like very heavy stories where a lot of sad stuff happens. So keeping the story real yet upbeat is a nice challenge to have.

But I think the biggest preventative measure for same-old-same-old-itis is to write romance that is outstanding. Romance that stands out makes for a more memorable story. That comes through author voice. Finding subject matter in the plot of the romance that the author is passionate about is key. Stray from cliché is a mantra I write on a lot of contest entries and critiques. Say it better than anyone else in the world. Say it different. Write lines in such a way that whoever’s reading it wishes like crazy they’d been the one to think of it.

Avoid cliché pitfalls. In almost every romance I’ve read in the past ten years, there is a point when the heroine trips and falls (literally) into the hero’s arms. Or (and I’m guilty of this one) using the plot device of having them transferring an object and their fingers brush, eliciting an electric charge. That sort of thing is so common. Find a way to show romantic tension differently than anyone else in the world.

There are many hooks in romance, meaning certain themes that occur often, such as good-girl meets bad-boy, secret baby, marriage of convenience, boss-as-hero, heroine nanny and on and on. There are only so many plots to go around. But the unique spin that each author puts on it is what makes the romance go around.

Another important thing to strive for is to have a strong core of emotion in the romance. Write romance that moves people. Write the kind of heroines, who women want to be and heroes, who women want to be with. Write heroes, who men want to be and heroines, who men want to be with. Write romance with the intent to move the reader. To evoke emotion. I’ve often heard editors say, “If we cry (or laugh), we buy.”

A Soldier’s Reunion

Despite a decade apart, this isn’t the reunion Mandy Manchester expected! She thought she’d put high school sweetheart Nolan Briggs behind her. Now he’s back…and the pararescue jumper literally sweeps her off her feet.

He’s ready and willing to rekindle what they once shared. Mandy, though, isn’t prepared to put her heart at risk. He left her before—she won’t trust him again. Can Nolan teach this grounded girl to take a leap of faith?