So just what do romance readers expect in an inspirational romance?
Basically, everything they expect from any other SWEET romance sub-genre but from a Christian world view.
WARNING: If you do not enjoy reading SWEET romance novels with low sexual content, you will not really understand this and will disappoint avid romance readers. And I am very aware that these days there are novels classified as sweet which still contain levels of love-making you may not like or approve of in Christian fiction. On the other hand, there are also “sweet” novels that have little or no sensual tension and simply can leave a reader wondering if Christians never have desire for a member of the opposite sex!
This means it is essential to understand those basic elements any novel classified as a romance should have plus the faith elements. I only had space to touch on some of these elements in Part One. The best way to discover these is to read widely in the inspirational romance sub-genre, including novels of varying lengths and from different publishers.
When you find writers whose style and content you really enjoy, read their books again as a writer and try to dissect why and how they have made you enjoy their type of novel. Check out the author’s website and/or blog. See if they have made comments and written articles that will help you.
Okay, romance novels all end up the “same” so what keeps readers wanting to read them? Basically it is the story, the characters, the emotional impact and the way the couple overcome all obstacles to their having a believable HEA ending. So whatever the sub-genre inspirational – contemporary, historical, mystery, suspense, etc – this makes the whole plot, setting and characterisation very important.
Plotting: The romance, while not the story itself, is central to the plot and MUST be adequate. In inspirationals, the faith element must also be woven throughout. Remember, this also can include SHOWING the different responses of characters without faith as well as those with faith - including whether weak or strong faith. Do remember to make sure the reader knows that because a character has no personal relationship with God does not automatically make them a “bad” person. Unfortunately we know that there are many unbelievers who by their lifestyles can put professing Christians to shame.
Character’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict: With characterisation, I touched on these in last Monday’s post. Characters should have a goal - or goals. Make sure it fits with their personality and history. Whether a good or bad goal, the reason for it has to be strong enough to motivate the characters in what is thought, believed and acted on in an attempt to reach it.
Of course, these are all very important for any novel but you must study and understand these elements as applied to romance. Remember, you can make many seemingly unbelievable things believable with strong enough characters who have strong and believable motivation! A strong goal can supply motivation to keep the character persevering through the journey to reach mountains as well as when things happen and they are in the valleys of life. (Sounds like writers!)
Conflict between hero and heroine is essential and also requires extra consideration in how to include the faith elements. There must be believable, strong external and internal conflict that cannot be resolved easily so tension can be maintained between the characters and keep the reader turning the page. It is also important to have conflict that is possible to be resolved.
Because of what I have personally seen happen between couples over the years, one faith “conflict” that I have tried to highlight in some of my novels is the issue of a believer marrying a non-believer. Then after writing my first single title, Return to Baragula, I wondered how a heroine without faith might feel and respond when she realises that is the main reason the hero with faith refuses to allow a romantic relationship between them to develop. However, in Outback from Baragula I then had to make both characters “lovable” enough for the reader to care about what happens to them despite their differences. They had to have strong reasons, strong enough events, in their past histories to make them the way they were when the story commences. However, that “theme” of being “unequally yoked together” needed to
Time line: Another important element in a romance is having the hero and heroine together in scenes long enough to develop a realistic, loving relationship that leads to marriage. Love at first sight? Perhaps there is, but whatever the time frame, their relationship has to grow. They need to be seen together in scenes to show the reader how they get to know each other. Show how and why their relationship develops until they both realise their love for each other. Even after that there may still be obstacles of course preventing them from committing to each other.
I have touched on only one faith theme here. In Part Three next Monday, January 6th , I will share a little about “How much spiritual content?” “How much sexual content?” and other hints about how readers expect inspirationals to be “different” from other romance novels.
Are there any themes you have read in inspirational romance novels that you thought very important, were challenging and you really loved? Are there some you thought were not relevant or important enough to make you want to read more?
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(Currently all her Heartsong Presents Kindle editions are on sale. Not sure when they will revert back to full price.)
Website and blog: http://www.mary-hawkins.com