I talk a lot about speculative fiction on this blog, but not so much about romance novels.
Earlier this month, I got to go to the NOLA RWA chapter conference in Shreveport, Louisiana. Not only was it a new state to visit, but the ladies there were warm and welcoming and fed me cake and cookies.
And we talked about romance: what we like and what we don't like and what the genre is in general.
One of the things that I remember saying is that to me, all romance is a love story. You are writing love stories, even if you're writing erotica, because sex (many times, although not always) is a form of love between two people too. And because romance novels are love stories, they are character driven stories.
Which then leads to the question:
If you are writing a love story, and granted, love stories have many shades and nuances--how do you make your characters stand out? How do you make them unique enough to want to fall in love with, which I think every romance reader does to a degree? What characteristics do you put in to make the reader empathize with your romantic leads?
And how do you take that characterization and turn it into something neat with an actual plot?
A lot of people disparage romance novelists, but I heartily disagree. It takes talent and tact to write a romance novel well enough that a reader can see some aspect of themselves in the book.
We read romances to see how our own love stories have been and how they might be one day. We read them to discover bits of ourselves, or escape into fantasies. We read them because we like a darn good book.
And we read them, I think, because there's a part of us that wants to believe in love and happily-ever-afters. Escapism is good for you, in measured doses.