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  • Writer's pictureElira Barnes

10 Critical Scenes Readers Look for When Reading Romance Novels - by author Kimberly Barnes

I have been reading romance for the past fourteen years. Many romance readers have the same amount of, if not more, time under their belt. Regardless, stating that romance readers are dedicated to their genre is putting it lightly as it is the top selling genre in the publishing industry.


Those who share my love of romance will understand when I tell you there are certain scenes we all look for when reading a novel from our beloved genre.


And if they aren’t in the story…. Well, let’s just say it’s not good for your novel. If there is one thing you should know about writing romance, it’s that a true romance fan will be able to sniff out amateur writing within the first chapter.


I mean, that’s a lot of pressure for someone – whether they’ve been writing romance for years or are just starting out.


So, from the perspective of an avid romance reader, please allow me to share with you the scenes that are essential to the construction of an epic love story.


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Scene 1: Introduction to the Hero and Heroine


The beginning of the novel is the best time to introduce the two main stars of your novel: the hero and his heroine.


Within the first four chapters, a reader should know key details about the setting, lifestyle circumstances, character personality, goals, needs, and motivation of both your hero and heroine.


Before writing, take some time to really analyze your story idea in order to build the beginning of the story.


Some questions you might ask could include:


  • What city and time period does the story take place?

  • Is your character wealthy, middle-class, or poor?

  • What is your character missing in their life? What could make their life better?

  • What short-term and long-term goals does your character have?

  • Is your character spontaneous, quirky, a shut-in, or a bully? Questions such as these will help determine character traits to share with your readers.


Additionally, switching point-of-view is a popular method utilized in writing romance. It enables the author to build a connection between the audience and both the hero and the heroine. Sharing the character’s thoughts, feelings, and secrets from the point-of-view of either the hero or heroine can greatly enhance the connection with the reader.

Should you choose to use multiple points-of-view, introduction to the two main characters can be in whatever order you wish. Some authors start the novel from the perspective of the heroine while others start from the perspective of the hero.


Note that when deciding to write from multiple points-of-view, be aware of head-hopping as too many swaps between one character and another can confuse your reader.


In order to determine the character POV you should start with, look at your plot and analyze which character would better drive the story forward into the heart of the novel. Instinct will tell you which character that is.


On a final note, be daring when creating your characters! Don’t be afraid to think outside stereotypes and clichés! The best characters are uniquely themselves and utterly flawed, which is why us readers can connect with them so well.



Scene 2: The Hook / The Meet Cute / The Intro


There are many names for this scene (as clearly indicated above). But whatever you want to call it, this scene is critical in introducing the hero and heroine to each other. This is:


  • The moment when the hero and heroine meet for the first time

  • They do not know and are not yet connected in any way to each other.

  • They are virtually strangers but feel a pull toward each other unlike anything they’ve ever felt before.


This scene does not have to be all butterfly’s and rainbows, but it should pack a punch. The reader should feel the connection between the two characters. It must be evident that the characters are meant for each other, even if they don’t yet know it.



Scene 3: Plot Setup


After the characters are introduced to each other, the plot setup will need to be declared.


In this scene, the author will need to identify how the hero and heroine will be working together to solve goals and foreseeable obstacles they will need to conquer.


It is important to note that this problem should keep the hero and heroine stuck together for most of the book.


I read in Leigh Michael’s book, On Writing Romance, that a hero and heroine should not be separated for more than ten pages. As a reader, I wholeheartedly agree with this analysis!


I’ve read novels where the author made this mistake. The book ends up feeling boring or dragged out when the characters aren’t battling out the problem together consistently!



Scene 4: The Buildup / Heat / Friction / Lusty Urges


All the lusty urges and heat will surface in this scene making for all the feels between the hero and heroine!


At this point in the story, the hero and heroine have been working together for quite some time. Their forced proximity has been creating some heat between the two of them.


A prolonged glance…


A goose bump inducing caress…


A stolen kiss…


You get the idea.


This most likely will be spread out amongst the book to aid in building up the sexual tension.


However, you should at least include a scene where the hero and heroine begin to acknowledge their attraction and need for each other. Keep in mind that this is not the same thing as acknowledging their love for each other.


Whereas previously the hero and heroine would have been in extreme denial about their feelings, the characters begin to accept the inevitable acceptance of their attraction to each other.



Scene 5: The Love Scene


The moment in which the hero and heroine finally submit to their physical urges to that other person. They cross the line into the unknown and throw caution to the wind in terms of their hearts.


If you choose to include a full-on sex scene, keep in mind that just because your characters finally have sex, it doesn’t mean they don’t want each other anymore after the deed is done. In fact, they should want each other MORE!


Additionally, a full-on sex scene does not necessarily need to be included in your novel to create a love scene. You can include as little or as much of the sexy details as you feel comfortable.


The key is to create sexual tension between the two characters that resonates with the reader. Novels with a high amount of sexual tension will transcend to the reader. It is important to remember that sexual tension does not always translate into physical foreplay.


The best sexual tension between your characters develops as a result of unsatisfied need they have for each other but have not been able to provide.


And finally, don’t make your characters have sex just because they can.


Readers will appreciate a love scene that furthers the plot of the story and serves an overall purpose.



Scene 6: Conflict, Conflict, Conflict


Love isn’t easy and the best romance novels reflect that.


This is not a the-end conflict. It is more of a I-want-things-my-way conflict. The hero and heroine are at odds at first but eventually negotiate and come to an arrangement in which they are both happy with and are happy with the other person for being able to negotiate.


Therefore, your conflict needs to be strong enough to pull the hero and heroine apart but at the same time weak enough for them to conquer it and get back together.


Many authors, even seasoned authors, struggle with crafting a strong conflict for their novel.


Its extremely challenging.

But not impossible!


When brainstorming your conflict, keep in mind that conflict does not mean fighting between the characters. It cannot just be a problem they argue over; it must be a problem that keeps them from being together!



Scene 7: The Black Moment


This is the moment where either the hero, the heroine, or both, are so upset that they feel they can’t repair what has been broken. This could be broken trust, secrecy, misunderstanding, etc. What is worse is that every possible idea they might have to fix the relationship feels impossible.


It is the moment in which the reader feels like there is going to be no happy ending - even though we all know there will be.


You will typically find this scene near the end of the book as this is not a midpoint or pinch point conflict. It is important that you be sure to demonstrate to the reader how much pain your characters are in from not being with each other.

Because that is the point of the black moment! It enhances the feelings between characters by sharing with the reader the devastation they feel by the impossibility of being with the one they love (love that has been realized by the characters but not yet declared).



Scene 8: The Comeback


This is the moment in which the hero or heroine muster up the courage to forgive or move forward from the black moment. They realize they need to suck up their pride because the thought of living without that other person is what is truly impossible.


In this scene, the characters take the time to really consider their problem. They brainstorm problem-solving ideas and really develop a solid plan to conquer the issue at hand.


Typically, this plan usually involves declaring their love for the other character before tackling the problem.


Which brings us to the next critical scene…



Scene 9: The Declaration of Love


The moment in which the characters have implemented their plan and repaired the black moment.


The characters now have developed complete trust in each other.


They finally declare their love for one another and make it clear that living without the other person is not an option.


Note that this cannot be an unspoken vow. It must be a verbal declaration from one character to another with the other character verbally accepting and reciprocating that love.


They most likely will make plans to marry one another.


And they are now ready to come together and tackle the problem head on.



Scene 10: The Ending – or in Romancelandia, The Happily Ever After


Everyone knows about the Happily Ever After (HEA). Mostly everybody loves it.


It’s that moment at the end of the book that gives readers all the warm fuzzies.

The moment in The Notebook when Noah brings Allie back to him by reading their love story to her.


Or when Drew Barrymore finally gets her kiss at the end of Never Been Kissed even though the timer went out (not a book but still great!).


You get the picture!


And sometimes the HEA isn’t necessarily happy. Like Romeo and Juliet or Me Before You.


But what matters is that the ending is satisfying to the reader. Ultimately, your readers are okay with how the story ended.



These are the ten scenes that every reader looks for in a romance novel.


Obviously, romance novels are always going to have A LOT more than just ten scenes.

But these ten scenes are what make your readers connect to your story and want to read more.


Once you get an idea of how you want to structure these scenes, then the rest of your story will fall into place.


If you feel you need just a little bit of extra oomph to get started, check out these tips for success and resources to help you find direction and inspiration.



Last minute tips for success:


  • Be sure to spend an adequate amount of time on character development. If a reader has a hard time connecting with your character, then they won’t want to continue reading the book.

  • To reiterate, be sure to keep you hero and heroine stuck together. I once read that you shouldn’t keep them apart for more than 10 pages. I wholeheartedly agree with this! I find myself quickly getting bored when I’m not reading the excitement between the hero and heroine.

  • Read, read, and read! The more you read in the genre, the more you will understand how romance is crafted and what it takes to create a story that can’t be put down!

  • Finally, get connected to Romancelandia! If you are stumped on what type of story makes readers rush to the bookstore to pick up your novel, then book bloggers and readers on Instagram or Twitter could be a great place for you to find inspiration! We are not shy about sharing our opinions!



Resources on Writing Romance:


Books:


The list below includes a few books to seek out if you are looking to read more on how to write romance.


1. Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie J. Wainger

2. On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels

3. Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance by Jennifer Probst



Articles:


The articles listed below provide some interesting notes on how to write romance.



 

Kimberly Barnes

Kimberly Barnes blogs at Parker Mayne where she shares and discusses the best love stories found in books, movies, and television with kindred fans of the romance genre.

Currently working on her first novel, Kimberly writes in every spare moment available while also consuming any romance novel she can find in Romancelandia.

If you enjoyed this post, check out more here.


Follow and get in touch with Kimberly Barnes

Instagram: @parkermayneblog

Twitter: @parker_mayne



 

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