Begin your story at a moment of crisis, a point in time when your character’s life is about to change for ever.
— Mollie Blake’s Writing Workshop Notes from Secret Wedding by Liz Fielding
Blake is a woman who knows what’s she’s talking about. Well, obviously, I created her back in 2000 for my novella, The Secret Wedding and she’s come with me on the adventure of writing my Little Book of Writing Romance.
This little book is a primer, an entry level aid for the writer who has a story to tell, but is struggling to get it out of her head and onto paper. To quote the theme song for the movie of
’s bestselling book Love Story, “How do you begin…?” Erich Segal
I know how that feels, I’ve been there and this book is the distillation of the things I’ve learned over twenty years as a published author.
It’s the book I wish I’d had when I was starting out.
My purpose has been to explain, in the simplest terms, and using examples from my own work, how to make the transition from the story in your head to words on paper. How to write a compelling opening — I have deconstructed an opening scene — deepen conflict, write honest emotion, hopefully with a touch of humour to leaven the mix. How to write crisp dialogue, develop the romance, add a little sizzle.
The primary purpose of a romance novel is to elicit a positive emotional experience for the reader. Make her smile, make her cry, make her sigh with pleasure. To put it in a nut shell, to give her a good time.
To achieve that, you must give her characters she will care about, with whom she will be happy to share hours of her precious time, characters who, no matter what their faults may be — and perfection is so dull — are likeable.
To write their story you will have to know your characters intimately. For this, you need to do more than fill out a character worksheet with all their physical characteristics, their birth sign, their place in the family hierarchy, the names of their siblings.
Of course you have to know what colour eyes and hair your hero has, how tall he is, how old he is — ditto your heroine — before you begin. Making a note of these details and pinning it up so that you can check them when you’re in full flow a hundred pages into your manuscript is a sensible precaution. (You may think you couldn’t possibly forget these vital statistics but you will.)
These are, however, no more than the basics.
To come alive on the page, your hero and heroine must be more than two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs that you move around the stage. You should not be asking yourself “what can I make them do next”. If your characters are blood-and-bones, heart-and-soul real, you will know what they would do, just as you instinctively know what someone close to you would do in any given circumstance.
You may hear authors talking about characters who “take over” the story. That is not because the author is not in control of her characters, but because she has created three-dimensional, living, breathing people, men and women she knows so well that her writing brain is flying ahead of her fingers on the keyboard.
To truly know your characters you must understand not just what they look like, where they went to school, what they do for a living but see them living in their own world, having a life before you write Chapter One.
Download my book and I’ll show you how I do that :)
Liz Fielding is the author of more than sixty romances and has been nominated seven times for the Romance Writers’ of America RITA® award, winning twice with The Best Man & the Bridesmaid and The Marriage Miracle. She has also been nominated three times for the
She has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine
A full list of her books is available at: