Bestselling author, Courtney Walsh guest posts to discuss how to write a good love story. Also, find out more about her new novel, If For Any Reason.
I’m a sucker for a good love story. It doesn’t matter what I’m reading or what TV show or movie I’m watching, the romance is what hooks me—and if there’s no romance, I struggle to stay engaged. Naturally, I spend a lot of time thinking about romance . . . and a lot of time trying to discern what makes a good story great.
I don’t have all the answers, but I have landed on some tried-and-true do’s and don’ts of writing a great love story. Here are five of them.
1. DO avoid clichés . . . but DON’T fear the romantic trope.
One of the most important rules in writing fiction is to avoid clichés. Basically, you want to avoid anything that’s going to make the reader roll their eyes—a heroine who magically makes a very unlikable hero likable, an evil other woman, or love at first sight might qualify. However, a romantic trope is fair game . . . if you can put your own spin on it. Best friends falling in love, second-chance romance, enemies to lovers—these tropes are all great romantic fodder, and as an author, it’s awfully fun to envision how to make them your own.
The trick is to have familiar
elements that readers are drawn to, but then to surprise them by putting a
unique spin on the story.
2. DO have a happy ending . . . but DON’T take an obvious way to get there.
It’s hard when people criticize romance as being “predictable.” Unless you’re writing tragedy (ahem, Nicholas Sparks), your reader wants the happily ever after. I know I do! I don’t want to invest in this great love story only to discover that one of the main characters dies at the end. So, even though there is an element of predictability, the story itself doesn’t have to be obvious. The author’s job is to take the reader on an unexpected journey and to infuse the rest of the plot with surprises.
One way to do this is to brainstorm various plot points, making certain to throw out your first, second, and even third ideas. Keep digging for something different, less obvious, and more unique. It’s in there . . . you just have to mine for it.
3. DO get the hero and heroine together as soon as possible . . . but DON’T use coincidence to do it.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading romance, I feel almost anxious to see the hero and heroine together on the page. And I want to see their conflict almost immediately too. It’s important to give readers the payoff of seeing your lovebirds together as much as possible, without using coincidence to do it. Characters need believable reasons to spend time together on the page—this should be inherent in the plot—and if it’s not, readers will be rolling their eyes over that, too.
4. DO give your characters flaws . . . but DON’T make the hero’s flaw that he’s weak.
One of the worst things an author can do is write a perfect character. Nobody wants to read about someone who is perfect, and it’s the flaws that help provoke conflict. Building interesting characters means exposing their flaws and making them sympathetic in spite of those flaws. That said, weakness is generally frowned upon. Nobody wants to read about a character who is weak, can’t make decisions, and is basically being steered by other people. And this especially applies to crafting a lovable hero—nobody is going to fall in love with a weakling!
5. DO give your hero and heroine believable reasons to fall in love. . . but DON’T keep them a secret from the reader.
Your hero and heroine might have no idea they’re perfect for each other. In fact, it makes for some great conflict if they can’t see it . . . but there have to be believable reasons that they should be together, and you don’t want your reader wondering what they are. The goal is for the reader to be rooting for them, cheering for them, and eagerly anticipating that moment when finally—finally—they realize it’s pointless to fight their feelings for each other.
If you can layer these things in, you’re on your way to making your love story a great one—and giving me another couple to cheer for, swoon over, and fall in love with!
About the Author, Courtney Walsh
Courtney Walsh is the author of eleven inspirational novels. Her debut, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theatre director, and playwright.
About If For Any Reason by Courtney Walsh
Releasing February 3, 2020
Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door–turned–baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.
As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.
Buy the book HERE