Romance Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Romance Story | Dani and Steve Alcorn | Skillshare

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Romance Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Romance Story

teacher avatar Dani and Steve Alcorn, Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Introduction

      2:57
    • 2. What is a Romance

      6:49
    • 3. Romance Genres

      12:15
    • 4. Dramatic Elements

      5:39
    • 5. Your Project

      3:15
    • 6. Next Steps

      3:52
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About This Class

The Romance Writing Project series helps you complete a romance novel, short story or screenplay. Each class focuses on a specific step in the creative process.

This class helps you brainstorm your project, including determining what you should write, and helps you develop the idea for both your story and plot--yes, they are different, and this class shows you why. When you complete this class you will have a clear, written plan for your Romance project.

The classes in this series include:

  • Romance Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Romance Story
  • Romance Writing Project: Create Your Romantic Leads
  • Romance Writing Project: Structure Your Romance Story

You can also complete the Creative Writing Project series to dive deeper into the writing process:

  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 1
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue
  • Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript
  • Creative Writing Project: Publish Your Book
  • Creative Writing Project: Market Your Book

Meet Your Teacher

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Dani and Steve Alcorn

Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors

Teacher

Steve Alcorn is the author of many novels and non-fiction books. His publications include mysteries, young adult novels, a romance novel, children's books, history and non-fiction about theme park design, and the writer's guide How to Fix Your Novel.

Dani Alcorn is the Chief Operating Officer of Writing Academy, a writing instructor, and author of Young Adult fiction, screenplays, and a screenwriting handbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University, where she majored in Psychology and Radio, Television, & Film.

Steve and Dani have helped more than 50,000 aspiring authors structure their novels. Many of their students are now published authors.

See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to the romance writing workshop. In this course, we're going to talk about brainstorming your romance. My name is Danny Alcorn. I am the chief operating officer writing academy, and I'm also a novelist and screenwriter, and I've written a variety of genres. But the thing that ties them all together is the element of romance, which is a story that cuts across all genres and all times of storytelling is one of the oldest patterns of storytelling that we, as humans have enjoyed telling each other. Now, why should you write a romance novel? And the answer is that romance is the most popular subcategory of adult fiction out there. There is a huge and voracious market for romance stories in all sub genres of romance. It accounts for 1/3 off all fiction books sold. Every other genre makes up the rest of that pie. Ah, third of books sold in any format, our romance, and it makes up 20% of all e book sales, an even larger share across all genres. That includes nonfiction as well, and people spend more than $1 billion on romance books every year. So by writing a compelling, well structured romance you can tap into that enormous market. And that is coming from a variety of authors from the best selling New York Times authors like Nora Roberts, down to self published authors on Amazon, who have created a following for themselves and published books, whether they're in serious or stand alone, which is something we'll talk about in this course. So to answer that question, the reason that you should take this course is that you will learn what earns a book or movie a place on the romance shelf. What two things all romances have in common. How long a romance novel should be the most common sub genres of romance, what readers favorite romance troops are and why you shouldn't be afraid to use tropes in your story. We will also cover the vital difference between plot and story, which are two words that are used interchangeably in everyday speech. But for writers mean two very different important things will also cover the four dramatic elements of your story and help you create a successful premise to bring all of this together and create a package to take forward with your eyes. So I look forward to seeing you in class happy writing 2. What is a Romance: hello and welcome back in this lesson. We're going to dive in by discussing what is a romance. But before we can really tackle that question, we have to deal with the two different definitions of romance and figure out what we're really talking about in this course, as we say, romance, because a romance can mean one of two things. It can mean a relationship between two or more characters and your manuscript, and it can also refer to an entire genre of fiction. And this is an important distinction because while they share many common elements, romantic relationships are a common element of every genre of storytelling. So in this course, you will learn how to beef up those romantic relationships and make them believable and make them work. And they follow very similar beats, too, what you find in the genre of romantic fiction. However, when we discuss romance as a genre, there are some very specific expectations and constraint that readers have and that you need to know as an author if you're choosing to write and market your book as a romance. So let's dive into what those are first all romances that are published as in the romance category, show two things in common. The first is that there is a central love story that is the core element. Essentially, if you remove this love story, the book would fall apart. There would be no plot. There may be an external plot that we will get into later. That is in addition to the central love story. But the love story is a driving force behind what's happening in the manuscript and the reason for the manuscript to exist. The second thing that all romances share is that there is an emotionally satisfying, an optimistic ending, and that is important because that is what distinguishes romance as a genre from other types of romantic fiction. So the central love story is that the main plot is about two or more characters who are falling in love and or struggling to make their relationship work. The happily ever after is guaranteed in a romance genre book. The characters are rewarded for their struggling with that happily ever after, which is sometimes shortened to a G A for short. This happens in all romance novels ever, you may ask, What about Titanic? What about Shakespeare in love. What about any other book where the characters didn't actually end up together in the end? And the answer is those air, not romances. They are romantic, but they are not romances. They show many features of the romances that we're going to talk about in this course. But they belong Sheldon, a different section, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that they're not marketable as romances because they violate the central tenant of the romance genre, which is that happily ever after. Now that happily ever after doesn't mean that your characters won't struggle for it. And as well, talk about romances can be about just about shared features of just about any other genre out there. But again, the thing that they have in common central love story and a happily ever after. Now there are two main format that you'll find in the romance genre itself, so you may be familiar with things like Siri's or category Romances. Thes tend to feature shorter manu scripts, and they're usually released under a common imprint. So if you're familiar with publishers like Harlequin, they tend to focus on publishing the Siri's and category length romances, and they're offered numbered sequentially, so you'll have many volumes in the same set. They may or may not be about the same characters, and there may not be by the same author, but they sort of share a common umbrella either category, genre or theme that ties them together. The other main type of romance novel is a single title romance. And as you might expect, those are longer Manu scripts, and they're not part of a serious. So they stand alone. So these are books that are sort of more. What you might find is like literary romance fiction, if you will, rather than necessarily, although Nora Roberts and JD Robb and things like that also write books that are not part of mysterious, that air stand alone. So you definitely find those out there now if you're wondering how long a manuscript is for romance. Generally speaking, you're looking at a range of somewhere around 55 to 100,000 words long to break it down a little. This is what you can expect for a manuscript length by format, So if you're looking to write a Siri's or category length, that's going to be about 50 55,000 words. And again, there's a little bit of wiggle room there. Single title. You're gonna be more in the range of sort of a traditional novel, which is 80,000 to 100,000 again, there is some wiggle room. Um, the other one that I just want to mention is the romance novella, and a novella is longer than a short story, but not quite a full length book manuscript length. So you're gonna be in the range of about 30,000 to 50,000 words on. The reason that I bring this up is that romance is one of the best selling genres out there . It is very easy to self market and self publish your own romance novels. So compared to any other genre of fiction, there actually is a market for novella length manuscripts, which is relatively uncommon in other fiction genres. So you could put together several different novellas and perhaps bundle them all together, but she could sell them each individually online for a lower price. So if you're working with something that is a bit shorter, that doesn't quite come up to the 55,000 level that isn't a manuscript full length manuscript. There may be, ah, home for it in the the romance market, so just wanted to point that out. So that's our introduction to what romances are and what we mean when we talk about romance now, you're obviously in this course because you're interested in the relationship aspect. You're interested in writing a romance. The course is gonna focus primarily on romance as a genre. But even if you're interested in writing other genres or you're interested in telling stories with characters don't necessarily end up happily ever after. There will still be, ah, lot of content in here for you because the similarities between how romances develop, whether the subplot off a different genre book or the central plot of a romance novel are very similar. Obviously, they're almost identical if they you end up with a happily ever after for your characters. So I hope that's been helpful, and I will see you in the next lesson as we dig 3. Romance Genres: hello and welcome back in this lesson, we're going to talk about the numerous romance genres out there is that you can start thinking what genre or category you'd like to write your romance in. So look first. As I mentioned, romance novels can be any genre tone or style as long as they meet the criteria of having a central love story and a happy ending. That said, any other considerations of genre toner style are completely up in the air. So pretty much, if you can dream it, you can do it. We'll go through some of the most common here now The first romance sub genre that we're gonna talk about are the historical romances, and basically all this means is that the romance is set prior to 1950. So here are some examples you may be familiar with. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is probably one of the most famous Jeep dobro. Also wrote a knight in Training Armor nor Roberts 1,000,000,000. Um, so you know, you find a lot of, um, English and Scottish romances here, but any time or cultural before 1950 is fair game for a historical romance. Contemporary romance just means that it is set after 1950. And some recent examples of that are the kiss quotient, the wedding date and the unhooking layers. So these their own novels that are set after 1950 don't feature any supernatural elements which leads us. And also, erotic romance is a little bit steamier than these other categories. Of course, these other categories can include as much or little sex is you would like. But erotic romance features explicit sexual interaction that is integral to the love story . So again, you couldn't take away thesis Sewell elements of this genre without impacting the story that you were telling, which is sort of what sets it apart from books in the other categories that also feature more explicit sex scenes. So, of course, 50 shades of grey falls into this category on, and this is also a growing categories. You've got other examples of this genre as well. Now, paranormal romance means that there are elements of fantasy paranormal, so anything from ghosts to, um, special powers to science fiction elements that are integral to the story. So this is where your vampires, your wear wolves, you're shape shifters your mind readers. Your telepaths will live in this genre of fiction, so some examples is partnership. Briggs has written a very long and successful story about Ah, shapeshifter, who's a coyote shapeshifter and shifter and gets mixed up with a pack of where wolves. You have vampires. You have lots of other things here as well. The vampires air probably growing less in this genre right at the moment, since the market was a bit saturated with twilight. But I'm sure, you know, give it five more years and vampires will be back in vogue. Now. Another sub genre of romance is the religious and spiritual romance, and this is just a romance where the religious or spiritual beliefs are integral to the story again. And it could be any creed, any culture, any religion. So these, you know, are some examples of books that you might find in that category that focus heavily on aspect of the romance to have a relationship either spiritually way or religious way. You know there's sub categories of this as well. Even you know, there are Amish romances. There are Hindu romances and things like that, so you can continue to dive down into this strong now romantic suspense means that it's a mystery thriller, elements that are integral to the story. Again, the suspense is not about whether or not the romance will take off or succeed again. This genre you get the happily ever after you can make your characters work really hard for it, but you are guaranteed to have that happily ever after. The suspense relates to the plot elements of the book as well. So here are some examples of that. Nora Roberts, writing both as Nora Roberts and JD Robb, is a famous person who writes in the Sean where a lot Amanda Quick has a new book out called Tight Rope that also falls into this category. So again, mystery got suspense. You've got thrillers. Why? A romance is also a very popular genre. It tends to get folded into sort of general. Why a literature? A lot. What sets this apart from the other genres is that the characters are between approximately 13 and 17 years old, and elements of teenage life are important to the story. So here, um, you've got works by John Green, things like that. So here are some of my favorite Of course, Twilight is a y, a romance, She Warburg Trainers and Abundance, Katherine's by John Green. One of my personal famous Le Love Simon is also a really great read. I'm also a great audiobook. Anybody like audiobooks. Now there's also growing genre that was really hot and very new. 45 years ago was sort of the first time that it was seen. And it was this sub genre called new adult Romance. And essentially, it grew out of the fact that why a young adult literature had this romance and attracted all of her had this renaissance rather, I should say, and attracted readers young and old like. But as those readers, especially the young adults themselves, began to age up, they were still sort of craving that same kind of story and weren't finding exactly what they were looking for. In general adult fiction genres and to this new adult category arose, which features characters that are just slightly older. So 18 to 25 usually is the range for new adult, and it shares many characteristics with a young adult fiction because the characters are usually going through an important first, whether that's their first time away from home or their first love or their first job. That's integral to the story, but it sets it ages it up a little bit that they things that the characters air dealing with our little more grown up a little bit more adult, a little bit more serious or sexual unnecessarily you might find in a y a novel. So here's an examples of new adult romances that you might find. Um, and again, they're sort of catering to that young adult readers as they age up and are looking for a little bit more now on the thing that is important to talk about when talking about romance are tropes. Now these aren't genres. Exactly, because the tropes can cross genres. You could have thes thes air, basically story contrivances or plot devices, and a lot of the time in other genres of fiction, these will get deemed cliches, and in romance, you also have to be careful to avoid being to like anything else. But unlike other Gianaris affection, you don't have to be afraid of them because tropes really make the romance world go round. Um, and so I'm gonna show you some examples of what tropes are to kind of explain what I mean by that. But a trope is essentially the elevator pitch for whatever you're manuscript ends up about . And so it's the thing that will sell your book in a one click by setting. If people here Ah, it's about this. I love that troop. I'm going to read this so again it can cross genres. Um, but let's talk about what those troops are. So you've got the love triangle. This is probably the most common trope out there, So Love Triangle means that there's three characters and they're interested in each other in some configuration that causes conflict, as we don't know who is who. So some famous examples of this switching into the movies for these trope examples are pretty in pink, where you have, um, two guys, and she's not sure what's one she's gonna choose at the end. Similarly, in New Moon, Stephanie Mayor brought in Jacob and developed him as a viable love interest for Bella. In the second book, Toe adds intention, where she's not sure if she's gonna go for Jacob for Edward. So this is your standard love triangle trope. You have the friends to lovers trope. So this is something where characters begin friends and end up more than friends. By the end of the books of some famous examples of that would be when Harry Met Sally, which actually asks that question whether or not men can be friends with women in the movie itself. You also have Miss Congeniality, where two FBI agents who are co workers and friends, end up more than that. By the end, you have the ever popular enemies to lovers. The most classic example of that is probably pride and prejudice. You also have two weeks notice that tricky Boss moral relationship there where they don't get along at all. And then, of course, by the end, they end up falling for each other. You can start to see how this is the elevator pitch. This is that you don't really even have to tell us when it is or what's happening. You just have to tell us enemies to lovers and people kind of know what you mean by that, especially people who read a lot of romance novels. You have the marriage of convenience or the fake relationship, so in overboard you have, um ah, fake relationship that set up due to amnesia, which is another common romance plot device in the wedding date. She doesn't wanna show up to her sister's wedding without a date, so she hires an escort. And, of course, they end up, you know, being forced together and end up falling for each other. You have the reunion romance. My character returns. So you've got sweet home. Alabama got disobedience. You have the marriage in jeopardy. Mr and Mrs Smith, who are in a kind of failing, stale relationship. But they don't realize that they've been keeping the same secret from each other that they're secret agents again, you've got the what happens in Vegas. This is kind of a fun twist on it, because two strangers end up getting married in Vegas one drunken night without really knowing each other, and then have to work on their marriage in order to get divorced at the end. And, of course, I'm sure you can tell how that plays out. You have secret relationships where characters who are very into each other are not able to tell the world. For whatever reason, you have the I'm actually a royal or billionaire trope, Um, The Prince and Me is a great example from crazy, Rich Agents is a more recent romantic comedy that also made use of that trope. You have the soul mates trope famously used in the Princess Bride. You also have movies like Imagine You Taking Advantage of That. You have the opposites attract trope anything from 10 Things I Hate About You, which is a riff on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew to something like the proposal where Sandra Bullock on Ryan Reynolds are very, very different people, um, but end up falling for each other. Despite that, so those are some samples of the most common tropes and the sort of most common genres as well. But to reiterate a romance as long as it has a central love story and a happy ending can be any tone, style or genre on those troops are just really tools for you. So there are starting spot, so you might as you're brainstorming your ideas, begin with the idea of a trope and then build from there. And, of course, the details and the characters and the plots that you add into the trope. Keep it from getting stale. So you, you know, troops. I think a lot of people assume that they are very derivative and formulaic, but I actually there springboard for creativity. And they're a great way, especially in the romance world, to explain the kind of story that you're telling because readers know what they like. And so if they know that they're a sucker for a great enemies to love her story, that's really all they have to hear from you before they buy your book. So I hope that that was a helpful explanation of drummers and Trump's and I will see you in the next lesson. 4. Dramatic Elements: Hello and welcome back in this lesson. You're ready to begin brainstorming and structuring your own romance novel, and we're going to begin with four core dramatic elements. So the first dramatic element is passion, and this is your passion. It's why you want to tell this story. It's the fuel, if you will. That's going to get you from Page one all the way to the end. It's what's driving you to tell this story. And it could be anything. Your passion may or may not be related to the actual content of the manuscript that you're going to write. It could simply be that this is something that you have always wanted to do, and your passion is to complete the project. Your passion could be that you want to start a lucrative author career. Your passion could be about the particular story that you're telling that you think this it is meaningful to you in some way and it's gonna keep you going. So what I'd like you to do is grab a piece of paper and index card or open up a file on your computer and write a sentence describing why you want to tell your story. What is it that you feel passionate about now? The second dramatic element is a theme, and this is related to something that you will be in your manuscript directly. Your readers may or may not ever be able to deduce your passion from reading your manuscript, but they will be able to deduce your theme because your theme is what your manuscript is about. And romance novels tend to all be of something along the lines of love. Conquers is the theme, and it grows out of your characters and what they overcome. So the theme is the thing that you want your readers to take away from your story. And if it's more than a few words, you can probably condense it and express it more clearly and again. In a romance genre, it will probably be something related toe love or relationships. Now the third dramatic element is the flaw, and this is your protagonists flaw. And again, in a romance novel, you may have to protagonists, so they're each going to have their own flaw and those flaws maybe the same. Or they may be different. Now, the common applause for protagonists and these air sympathetic flaws. So you have the three closely related lack of self confidence, lack of self worth and insecurity, which are probably the trio of the most common flaws out there now. Lack of self confidence is doubt about one's abilities, whereas lack of self worth is doubt about one's value as a person. And insecurity is probably the least common of all of those because it is less personal because it is doubt about one situation. There's a little bit more focused on the situation the character finds themselves in, rather than a deep sense of lack of doubt in their self efficacy or doubt in their self worth, their self value. You also have a character who is very naive, who just doesn't really understand how the world works and must become more worldly as the manuscript progresses. Two other flaws that are commonly, um, uh found our inability to put the past behind and an inability to face the past. And on the surface, those may seem similar. But they actually produce opposite types of characters because a character who is unable to put the past behind them, the wells on their past, they can't move past that they're constantly thinking about it, whereas a character who can't face the past won't examine what happened in the past to move on and get over it and come to terms with whatever it waas. You could also go with some less sympathetic laws, like prejudice or stubbornness, which can be used to great effect. But you just have to be a little bit careful because those are less sympathetic, so they can be very, very powerful when they're overcome. Especially, you can see how prejudice overcoming prejudice would be a very powerful message. But they are less sympathetic flaws. You need to make sure that they don't make your protagonist too unlikable to turn readers away from your manuscript. Now the final dramatic element puts it all together, and it is the premise, and the premise is a simple statement about what your story is about, and it takes all of these elements and it compresses them, and it has a very simple form. And that form is what if a flawed protagonist encountered some problem and had to overcome the flaw to solve the problem? Now it may seem redundant to mention the problem in the flaw twice in this. But what it does is it really focuses you as the author on how this particular flaw prevents them from overcoming this problem and how on Lee, after they overcome the flaw, are they able to solve the problem? So this is the first building block of your manuscript and arguably one of the most important to get solid. So your test drive for this week is to write the premise of your manuscript with your flawed protagonist, encountering some problem and having to overcome that flaw in order to solve the problem, and I will see you in our next lesson. 5. Your Project: Hello and welcome back. Now let's talk about the project for this course. Were you time All of the things you've learned together. So this is the project you're going to put together essentially the beginning of your pitch packet for this particular idea. This is where you try all of the things that you have learned and put them into a neat package or pitch packet that is essentially your elevator pitch for this idea. Now, this is important for you in your journey to creating this novel or screenplay, because it is the thing that will distill down all of the different elements that you have whizzing around in your brain to their core and the most important elements that you can return to again and again and again as you continue developing this project. So the first thing you're going to come up with is your working title. Now, don't put too much pressure on yourself at this point. If you're someone who struggles with titles, you can always change this. This will just help you give a shorthand to refer to the project from here on out. Now you can narrow down what romance shoves sub genre and or primary trope you are going to target. So as far a sub genre goes, you can begin to ballpark whether you're writing historical, contemporary or some other genre like paranormal or suspense in there. And the primary troop that you use can be applied to any of those genres that will help narrow down your focus as you think about what books you're going to read to research what styles you're gonna be writing in and the trope will help explain quickly to others sort of what the big idea behind your story is now. Also include 1 to 2 sentences describing your passion, the theme of your novel or screenplay, who the love interests are and the one sentence description of your story premise. This will get you started thinking about the core of your idea. So, on a piece of paper or a file on your computer, open up a new document, a new page for this particular project. Work out these elements and brevity really is key here. If you're writing paragraphs and paragraphs, that's fine for your notes, but you really need to be able to distill each of these elements down to a sentence or two that clearly and concisely conveys what they are. At the point that you can do that, you really have the beginning of your idea, your romance idea. Once you're happy with it, please post your project in the discussion area. In this course, you'll see it under your project. You can create your project and share that and get feedback from us on your different elements. And I look forward to seeing all of your projects, and I will see you in the next lesson for a wrap up of this course. 6. Next Steps: Hello and welcome back. Congratulations on completing this section of the romance writing workshop now to quickly sum up where we started. We talked about the romance genre in general. We learned that the two things that all romances have in common are a central love story and emotionally satisfying, an optimistic ending. And that is what earns your novel a place on the road pants shelves. We also learned that there are two main formats of romance novels out there. They're Siri's and category romance, which tend to be on the shorter end. And there are single title books that stand alone under, published independently, that tend to be on the longer end, so your manuscript should ultimately range somewhere between about 55,000 and 100,000 words . We also talked about the most common sub genres of romance, including historical anything said before 1950 contemporary anything said after 1950 then delving into other genres sub genres like erotic romance, paranormal romance, religious or spiritual romance. Romantic suspense, which is one of the best selling genres right now, and also the categories of young, adult and new adult, and got into the differences in terms of what each of those means. We also talked about common romance tropes from love triangles, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, marriages of convenience, fake relationships, reunion romances, marriages and jeopardy secret relationships. The common trope of I'm actually a Royal and or billionaire soul mates and opposites attract. And we talked about why these tropes are not formulaic and can in fact help in the marketing phase off developing your romance idea to convey the big idea. And then you add the details of your specific characters, your specific set up to keep these feeling fresh. We also talked about the vital difference between plot and story plot being your protagonists, physical journey and story being your protagonists, emotional journey and how vital it is to balance these two elements throughout your manuscript and not rely solely on one or the other. We also talked about the four dramatic elements that the core of your idea your passion for writing the theme you want your readers to take away from your manuscript, your protagonists flaw and the premise, which is a single sentence, which focuses on how the flaw prevents the protagonist from overcoming the problem and how overcoming the flaw allows them to solve that problem. Now. I hope that you have posted your projects in the previous lesson, and if not, please do so. I would love to see them. You can also take other writing academy projects in writing romance for creating your romantic leads and structuring your romance story. And there are additional, more detailed lessons in the creative writing project. Siri's about the process of writing your manuscript from specific details of creating scenes and dialogue and settings, and I look forward to seeing you in those courses as well. In the meantime, you can also follow our blawg at blogged out writing academy dot com. Make sure you sign up for our newsletter, where you will get free writing tips and information about resource is four Raiders. You can also follow us on our social media channels Facebook. You can find us writing academy, and you can also find us on Twitter at Underscore Writing Academy or follow me at Danny Underscore Alcorn Happy writing