Rules Of (Fictional) Romance


Valentine’s Day might be over, but as every single girl knows real romance lasts all year. Or at least as long as the Kindle battery remains charged.

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Though I certainly recognized when I was writingm first novel that I had slipped in a romantic subplot, I was a bit surprised on the day of its release to find it listed under the Gothic romance category on Amazon. Brushing aside the fact that it’s not overly Gothic, there was the absurd idea that I had somehow written a romance. We’re talking about the girl who as a preteen preferred the death and gore of war stories to the lip-smacking drama of Sweet Valley High. We’re talking about the woman who walked by the romance section of Borders for years, giving the bodice ripping covers the same condescending glare of repugnance that other readers save for comic books and vampire novels. We’re talking about a sometimes bitterly single chick who has bought herself Valentine’s Day gifts for the past three years. Now I’m writing romance?

Since the book was released, I’ve made some giant leaps into the world of romance reading. (It’s all research, of course. I’m just doing my due diligence as a supposed author of the genre.) I moved from reading only paranormal romance, to holy-I-hope-that’s-not-normal romance (thank you, Fifty Shades), to wow-I-wish-that-were-normal romance via the Outlander series. After all this hard work, I’ve come to some conclusions. One, I don’t write romance. I dabble in romance while I’m writing other plotlines. Two, fictional romance has its own rules, and they are not found in your grandma’s guide to dating etiquette. But they do make for some spicy reading!

Here are the top five rules to fictional romance.
Rule 1: Nobody’s easy. In real life if you knew a woman who jumped into bed with a guy she met just hours ago, you’d likely call your friends and whisper a few choice words about blitz brigade hacks her, ‘easy’ being the most fit to print. In fictional romance, fast and furious is the way to fall for a man. Don’t know his full name? Not sure what species he is? Pretty sure he might have been stalking you? Perfect. Mysterious is mind-blowing. It’s almost as good as a gun to your head, which leads us to…

Rule 2: Imminent death is the best aphrodisiac. If one or more person isn’t slated to die in the next scene, what’s the sense in even having sex? In fact if bombs aren’t exploding, enemies aren’t approaching, or illness is not about to suck the last breath from your lover’s lips, than clearly now is not the time to be making love. Don’t fret, though, if lover number one is safe for the time being, there’s always lover number two, because…

Rule 3: One man is never enough. This makes sense, I suppose. Men spend endless hours planted on the couch watching their favorite sports teams battle it out. Why? Because everyone likes some competition. It’s that natural, survival-of-the-fittest instinct boiling to the surface, and it’s not only men who have it. Good fictional romance is the female version of the Super Bowl. The two hottest teams are the male suitors, and the heroine is the Vince Lombardi trophy-seriously, we’re relegated to trophy status in nearly every one of these books, yet we keep devouring them. That’s awful, but then every girl loves a (fictional) bad boy. In fact…

Rule 4: The badder, the better. In the world of the romance novel, you know you’ve found Mr. Right, if everyone around you thinks he’s Mr. Wrong. Because clearly the people who have known and cared about you your whole life are bound to be wrong Check our website when it comes to one of the most crucial choices you have to make in life. If he’s a criminal, he had good motive. If he’s cold and emotionless, it’s because he had a hard childhood. It’s all okay, though, because…

Rule 5: People can change. In reality, no woman ought to get it in her head that she can fix, train, or otherwise change a man in order to mold him into perfection. In books, it’s not only possible, it’s downright predictable! The tough guy will soften. The bad guy will show his true, honorable colors. And the heroine who went through all the crappy in-between stages to get him there, will live happily ever after with her newly created Prince Charming.
And despite the fact those of us reading these books in the real world know that this is not how it does, or even should work, we still find ourselves reading these romances and sighing, not in exasperation, as we should be, but in admiration of the fictional men who’ve stolen our hearts and any common sense we ever had.

Man, I wish I really could write romance.