I’m in a dream that one of these days I’m going to walk into a Nairobi bookshop and find a full aisle filled with romance novels, or fiction set in Nairobi. So all of you shy Kenyan Fiction Writers, typing away in the middle of the night in your houses, get creative, even though you have to self publish e-books online, until you can manage to get them printed. Don’t be afraid, and just write. Be Brave as Dora Okeyo and if you already have published, share the link so I can read it.
Today, I’ll focus on Romance Novels. I know you read them, we need more Kenyans Writing Them.
The Romance Novel
A romance novel consists of a central love story that ends in a Happily Ever After.
1. When writing a romance novel, you place emphasis on a romantic relationship between your two main characters, and restrict your use of subplots to those that support the romantic conflict. What does this mean?
E.g. If your main characters are John and Terry, anything that happens in your story should be to support John and Terry’s budding relationship to the end. Don’t include scenes in the story that will not supplement their relationship.
2. Your choice of language is important. Most romance readers read a story to live vicariously through your characters. So, make sure your character’s words, thoughts and experiences are as he/she would experience them. Put your reader in your character’s thoughts. Confused?
E.g. Terry squashed herself into the full matatu, and tried to ignore the fact that she was practically sitting on air between two chairs. She felt sweat trickling on her forehead, and blew air upward hoping to dry it off. Her blouse stuck to her skin. She took in a deep breath and grimaced as the stench of sweat filled her nostrils. Lord help her, she shouldn’t have run to catch the matatu after all, now she was going to be smelling like a sweaty pig all day. Someone tapped her shoulder and she turned to her right to find a pair of amused dark brown eyes watching her. It was John, her neighbor’s son. The guy she’d had a crash on for as long as she could remember….
The example above, while very raw gives you an example of what I mean. Put your reader in your character’s thoughts. It makes for an entertaining experience.
And now the most important part:
Plot or Story Arc
Basically, this charts the direction of the events in your novel. The low points, the high points, the conflicts, complications and resolutions, those delicious events that keep your reader moving from one chapter to the next.
How to get started
1. Know the length of your story.
1. Short Story – 7,500 words or less
2. Novella – 7,500 – 40,000 words
3. Novel – 40,000 or more
Read about the merits of each length story.
2. Characters: Once you know how many words you want to write, create your characters. Know their names, and how many of them you’re going to have in your story.
3. Plan your Story Arc – Plot
a. Parts of a Plot:
1. Introduction of the Plot
– This is the introduction or the setup of your story. This is the part you introduce your character, e.g. quirky Terry, you tell us about her life, what she does, where she lives, and also include the inciting incident that starts the story. Your main characters meet here, due to an incident, or a situation…it’s your imagination….make it fun and write a great first meet. (cute first meet)
2. Rising Action
-I call this the meat of the story. After the introduction, this part of the story is where you have your characters getting to know more about each other. Introduce the conflicts, making the stakes rise for your two main characters. They could be cultural, economical, social, e.t.c or even personal conflicts that work to pull your two main characters apart.
Learn more about Rising Action.
3. Turning Point (Climax)
– Your characters make some decisions resolving some of the conflicts arising in the rising action. It is a major turning point because you fully develop the relationship despite the foreboding consequences. E.g. I’ll be with you even though my parents hate you…okay that’s weak, but you know what I mean. You can have your characters facing off with the parents at this point with something major at stake.
4. Falling Action
– This occurs after the Climax, and refers to the consequences of the decisions made in the Turning Point. E.g. Someone gave up something in the turning point and therefore both characters are miserably apart or one is locked away in jail or at home….hmm…well, my imagination is off today, you might have a better one. Basically it leads to the dark moment in romance novels when the romance seemed doomed, or over. Lots of tears to be shed.
– This part includes the dark moment, your characters are struggling, and all seems over, but then a solution is found and your characters can have their happily ever after.
Your job Dear Budding Writer is to take all these parts of the plot and create a great story, that will have me the reader staying up all night to get to the ending.
The Essential Elements of Writing a Romance Novel
Tomorrow, we’ll look at Conflicts and why they are such a huge part of the plot. You can’t have a story without conflict, otherwise the plot will just lay flat and your reader will be bored to tears. So, Stay Tuned.
Kenyan Fiction Writers
On a side note, don’t be afraid to write Fiction. We’re in an age where you can’t say there are no publishing avenues. If you can get online, which is everybody now, you can publish, or share your stories for others to enjoy. Writing fiction, be it Romance, Mystery, Contemporary, or whatever, do it, so that we can flood the market and make it common place to find fiction written and set by Kenyans.
If you’re unsure how, ask, the questions will be answered, or you’ll be directed to those who know more, right? Right. Keep Writing!!