This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Cathy Bramley has fast become one of our very favourite romantic comedy authors and with her new book, Appleby Farm, out in paperback tomorrow, we thought it’d be a great excuse to take a masterclass in writing romantic fiction from the lady herself.
by Cathy Bramley
We all write differently from plotting with Post-It notes to just seeing where the story takes you, but here are a few of the things which I have found make my job easier.
1. Know what you're writing about before you start. If my synopsis doesn’t bring me out in goose-bumps I know it’s not there yet. Last night I explained the premise of a new idea I’m working on to someone and she filled up with tears. It was a proud moment (I am so mean) because although I haven’t fleshed out the story yet, I know that there’s something special there waiting for me to winkle it out.2. Understand your main characters’ goals and motivations before you begin too. Why do they act the way they do? What happened in their past to make them the way they are? For me, nailing the back story not only dictates personality traits but helps guide the action too.
3. This is linked to point two but the main character and her (his) love interest need to have a trait that causes conflict between them. For example, in Appleby Farm, Freya never stays in one place for very long. She is constantly on the move, looking for new challenges and new adventures and has lived all over the world. Her boyfriend, Charlie is very much a homebird and would never consider moving away. This puts a huge amount of stress on their relationship.
3. ACTION! Start the book with something interesting. Have your main character doing something important or exciting on the first page of your books to get the reader interested. We don’t need five pages of navel-gazing or back story, thank you very much.
4. Spend some time thinking about your setting. Where will much of the novel be set? Include some details about the places that your characters will spend most of their time so that the readers can make themselves at home in your make-believe world too.
5. Take your characters on a journey and make it a rough ride! The reader needs to see highs and lows and experience this journey along with them. But don’t include too many different kinds of conflict; keep to your theme and ramp up the stakes as the story unfolds.
6. My supporting cast of characters is very important to me. It allows me to show all types of emotions through the main character learning lessons from others and helping them in their own personal goals. I like my main character to have a best friend or another strong female character to share her inner feelings with as well as some older people. And I really love older granddad types!
7. Working with an editor over the last eighteen months has taught me to pack a punch with every scene. Everything we write needs to take the story forward. I make sure I do this by jotting down what needs to happen in the next scene before I write it. That way, I don’t waste time writing a lovely scene only for my editor to strike through it with her red pen!
8. I work hard to make the love story element credible. I do this by building the tension and attraction and relationship between the two characters gradually so that the reader can see exactly how the main character’s feelings towards him changes throughout the book. She can’t suddenly see him in a different light three quarters of the way through and think ‘Cor, I’m in love!’
9. My stories all have a happy ending and most of the time it’s pretty clear who the main character will be sharing that happy ending with. But they have to work hard at it; they have obstacles to overcome, both in terms of external events and inner conflicts between the two of them. I like my readers to have a ‘PHEW’ moment at the end when the two of them finally get together.
10. I read a lot of commercial women’s fiction. A lot. And this has helped me enormously in my writing. I always find kissing scenes difficult so when I get to these, I pick up a few of my favourite books by Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Jill Mansell and remind myself how these fabulous women do it to spur me on to success!