I cannot remember a time that I did not want to be a writer. As a kid, I was always making up stories and telling them or acting them out for anyone that would sit still long enough. I spent high school dreaming of romantic dates and trying to make reality fit those dreams...Then I grew up.
I still enjoy writing romances because the genre offers so many opportunities for plot twists and turns. A look down the bestseller list shows that romances aren't the dominating force that they once were. Maybe the reason is that readers have grown up and are ready for something a little more cutting edge. So as writers, how can we do this?
Heroes and Heroines: Okay, outside of historical romances, it might be time to get rid of the predictable alpha male with the flowing hair. Maybe these guys aren't diamonds in the rough; maybe they are flawed individuals that our female leads would do well to stay away from. Then there are the heroines that need to be something more than damsels in distress. The romances that are making a mark today feature women that just suck it up and save themselves, getting her man is just a bonus.
Life and Relationships Aren't Perfect: Life has changed, people have affairs, and relationships are toxic. Romances for the modern reader need to show that an affairs and toxic relationships are a part of life. Are these flaws your character must overcome? Do you use a toxic relationship to show you female character's strength in overcoming it? It's long past time to bring some of these things into the forefront.
Rethinking Villains: Okay, when was the last time that you met someone that was all bad or all good? Romances today need to move deeper. Perhaps the "villain" is just a man that was deceived and now he's bitter and jaded. Maybe your "hero" and "heroine" love each other too much to stay away from each other, but never fail to bring out the worst in each other. Would this make them the villains?
Happy Endings with A Twist: No one's life ends with the perfect happily ever after and while fiction can offer an escape and give us what our lives can't, we have to be honest. Normally for our characters to be happy, someone else has to get hurt. Readers don't mind a happy ending, but the idea of they all lived happily ever after doesn't cut it anymore. Maybe the woman finds herself, but turns the guy away. Maybe they decide they are better off apart. Maybe she's married and decides the love of her husband is more important than the passion she feels for the hero.
It doesn't matter how we as writers look at it, our readers have grown up and to be a successful romance author, we have to grow up with them.
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