What makes great romance writing?

In short, a great story and compelling characters.

One of the foundations of successful, and that means profitable, romance is a hero that makes us swoon and a heroine that captures his heart while also standing up to the reader’s scrutiny. Since the majority of romance fiction readers are women, when writing a romance you can safely assume that the heroine must be:

Realistic – Barbie dolls are not welcome in this genre. Yes, the hero must think she is the most amazing woman he’s ever seen but she cannot be perfect. Perfect is boring. She can have great curves, a winning smile, eyes that a man can drown in, an athletic build, a well-rounded bottom (some men love a well-rounded bottom) and so on…you get the idea.

When writing a romance, in addition to flawed beauty, she needs to have a realistic personality. Some flaws and some strengths. Generally, the flaws will challenge the hero and/or amuse him and the strengths will capture his heart.

Smart – There’s a fun little acronym in romance fiction, TSTL, which stands for Too Stupid to Live. In a novel I had the unfortunate opportunity to review the book opened with the heroine wandering through a cemetery at night with her best friend to find a party. Um…? At that point, I hoped she died. That would have been more interesting and certainly deserved.

The heroine, Barbie, yes her name really was Barbie, is then accosted, literally thrown over the shoulder of someone she cannot see but is most definitely male. He covers her mouth and takes her away from her friend and she doesn’t even wiggle or put up any kind of protest – TSTL!

Strong – Because any good story has a powerful conflict, your heroine is going to need to tap into her strength to get through it. She’s also going to need to be a good match for your hero, which means she cannot be a wimp. When writing a romance, it doesn’t matter what romance genre you’re specializing in, historical, vampire, contemporary, sci-fi, or thriller, your heroine will have to have some element of strength.

For example, in Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Bella is clumsy, she passes out more often than most, and she’s socially awkward. However, Bella Swan possesses two character strengths that will be tested repeatedly throughout the entire series. She is fiercely protective of her family and she makes a decision and sticks to it no matter what. When she realizes that she loves a vampire, for example, she makes a conscious decision to follow that love through regardless the consequences. She trusts her instincts, completely.

A compelling heroine is someone you like to write about and inevitably, someone your readers will be able to relate to and cheer for. What makes great romance writing? A great heroine. Make sure she’s strong, smart, and imperfectly perfect and you’ll be well on your way to the romance writing career you desire.