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Reviewing the Romance Novel

Your mission is to outwit the authors of romance novels and deduce the secret list of rules for writing these books. The authors do not want you to know these rules, and they will make every effort to keep them from you. Some rules are very obvious, others are more subtle.

Example: Romances of all kinds have a happy ending, with the hero and heroine planning a life-long relationship, nearly always a marriage.

Example: In many romances, the heroine has a "best friend" who serves as a confidante and allows the author to tell us about the heroine's background, weaknesses, and inner thoughts.

Example: While a heroine or hero can be divorced, characters don't enter into a serious new relationship before the previous one is entirely over and the person has had time to heal.

Example: In inspirational romances, faith is more important than doctrine, so specific religions and denominations are seldom mentioned.

Reaching your goal will require patient sleuthing, persistent research, and lots of reading. Begin by reading at least 20 romances by different authors and from different lines and publishers. Choose books published within the last year or two. Be careful to read critically and to think about the structure the author has hidden behind the story. Ask yourself:

1. How are all the heroines alike? How are they different? What can't a heroine be?

2. How are all the heroes alike? How are they different? What can't a hero be?

3. How long are the books? How are the chapters or sections divided?

4  What point of view is used? Whose thoughts can we eavesdrop on?

5. How many characters are there? Are there patterns in supporting characters from book to book?

6. Are there similarities in the development of the plots -- in the number and placement of complications, tension, love scenes, etc.?

7. How does the author get the reader involved in the beginning of the story?

8. How is each character first presented to the reader? When does the heroine first appear?

When does the hero first appear?

9. How does the author make you care about the characters?

When you have finished your survey, formulate what you've learned from your review of romance novels into a list for future reference.

This exercise is copyrighted material and is offered for the individual's own use. Further distribution or sale is not permitted without permission of the copyright holder. Copyright 2013 Leigh Michaels.

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