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Rules for the Romance Novel

This is not intended to be a complete list, nor is it the "right" answers to the exercise.  It is offered as a guide to assist you in thinking critically about the romances you read.

Romance novels vary widely from sub-genre to sub-genre, and there are exceptions to all rules.

1.  The heroine nearly always appears on page 1, and the hero appears by the end of the first chapter. In rare instances this is reversed, but both characters are nearly always presented to the reader by the end of the first chapter.

2. The heroine's immediate problem -- the difficulty which will change the rest of her life -- is shared with the reader by the end of chapter one.

3. Sometimes the hero's immediate problem is shared with the reader by the end of chapter one; sometimes not till much later in the story.

4. If the hero's viewpoint is to be included, it usually appears for the first time by the end of the second chapter.

5. Each chapter is roughly equal in length and may include one to three scenes, seldom more.

6. Each chapter ends with a hook or exciting moment which draws the reader into the next chapter.

7. Point of view characters are usually only the hero and heroine, though in some longer books the POV of a significant secondary character might be included.

8. The author involves the reader with the heroine by showing her as a sympathetic character with a problem the reader can relate to.

9. The author draws the reader into the story by starting with action rather than explaining the character's past.

10. The heroine often has a  best friend or family member in whom she can confide, to allow the author to share the heroine's feelings through dialogue rather than through her thoughts.

11. If either the hero or heroine is involved with another person at the time the story begins, the relationship generally doesn't involve deep emotion or lasting romantic love.

12. If there is more than one love scene, the later scenes are more intense, emotional, and erotic than the early ones.

13. The number of significant characters is limited -- often to ten or fewer important characters in the entire book.

14. Though heroes don't have to be fabulously wealthy, part of the fantasy is for the couple to be able to support themselves and a family in comfort.

15. Heroines are never desperate to be married; they'd rather be alone than marry the wrong man.

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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