Progress So Far

  • Romance writer - Historical. Contemporary and Intrigue
  • 2 books written for HarperImpulse

Thursday, 14 January 2010

There really is a Romance "formula"....

After reading many a "how to write" a Romance book I have had it drummed into me that there is no magical "formula" for writing a romance, whether a category romance, historical, or chic lit.

But I'm going to rebel (courtesy of Deborah Hale - romance author) and suggest that there is a "formula". And here it is....... (H + h x A) ÷ C + HEA = R

Now many of you hardy romance writers will spot what the formula is right away. For those who don't here's the breakdown:

H = Hero. h = heroine. Put them together and there has to be A = attraction. Without the A there can't be a romance. Fine, but to sustain any romance novel then C must kick in somewhere - usually at the beginning of the book - preferably on the first page. C = conflict which will do it's utmost to break up (divide) the H/h. "C"'s are those internal (and sometimes external) issues/conflicts that torment, tease and down right confound our H/h right up until the end of the book - which is obviously the HEA - the Happy Ever After. So all those variables will finally result in the R - the Romance (book) that we aspiring authors all aim to produce, and hopefully one day, God willing, will get published.

Easy ehh? No not really! Downright hard work in reality getting the "formula" right. (This probably explains why I was so rubbish at maths at school!) Again
thanks to Deborah Hale for this post. I hope she didn't mind me pinching her formula. Take care. Caroline x


  1. Hi Caroline, I've been lurking for a few days now, so really it's about time I left a comment. I Like the 'formula', LOL! I think one of the longtime author's of HM&B had given her own 'formula' at last year's RNA conference, very similar to the one you've posted.

    Like you I am also an aspiring historical romance writer. Have the joined the RNA for the second year so hope I have improved from last year!

    All the best, Ferdous

  2. Or in my case:
    (H+hxA)/C+attempted HEA = Aaaaargh....

    This is a brilliant post, Caroline. The formula makes perfect sense, but as you say, very hard work to get it right.


  3. I think the word 'forumula' is probably what's most misleading here. There is a way of writing a romance, for sure, that will provide you with a book where H meets h, feels A, comes up against C, and eventually resolves all that just in time for the HEA.

    But like you say, if it really was as easy as that, we wouldn't all be slaving away to get it absolutely right, or tearing our hair out over characters that won't behave, or sharing our angst over an almost constant stream of

    I think there's a common thread, or a basic plot pattern, with romances, and some people who are not very knowledgeable about the genre, mistake that for a foolproof 'formula'. Like the one for spinning straw into gold in the fairy tale, no doubt.

    What you can't fit into that 'formula' or romance paradigm is X. The X-Factor! Which is different for every one of us, and is sadly impossible to learn or develop on your own without at least a modicum of talent. Indeed, part of that X is talent. Part of it is individual flair. The rest is just hard work and dogged perseverance.

    Basically, the only formula I believe in gets mixed up in a bottle and fed to babies. ;)

  4. Just to add to that, I prefer the concept of storyteller magic. When you're in the grip of a story, even if it could be broken down into a formula by close analysis, that's the last thing you're thinking about. In the reading, it's all about storyteller magic.

  5. I agree with Jane in that it is the word 'formula' that is the problem. Of course, there is a prescribed way to write a romance but it is so broad (in many terms) that it gives the reader a range of series and stories. But it is so narrow, you have to get it bang on right for your story to be publishable.

    But, I agree with you--I love formula you posted and it's definitely something you have to keep in mind.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Ferdous thanks for stopping by! The formula is a bit of fun. But as we all know it's hard, hard work. Fingers crossed on the RNA NWS - here's hoping you get a good critique this year. As I said 3rd time lucky for me. I've always had good feedback from the "readers" but not enough to tip the balance at Romance HQ aka - HM&B - lol. Being nosy now - what time period do you write in? As you can probably guess by my side bar I love the Romans.

    Hi Suzanne - lol on your formula. Definitely hard work ehh! How you getting on with the latest wip? Caroline x

    Hi Jane. LOL of the baby formula! Yes the X factor is a given isn't it? As I once was told by a published author there is a LOT of discarded work on the way to publication. That is what I think of when the big "R" letters come my way. But I do believe that with every ms I produce I am getting (a little) better at the "craft". Well a girl's got to believe hasn't she? Caroline x

    Hi Joanne. Thanks for stopping by. I once read (again in a "How To") book that there were only about 10 scenarios/plot devices for a romance. For example. "Lost/found/secret baby", "H/h" forced into a situation together e.g. stranded on a island/plane crash, Runaway bride, Reunion romance, Amnesia either H/h etc. etc. But it's how YOU put it together in a book, how you make the plot something different that stands out from all those other tried and tested plot devices that matters. Then it doesn't matter if you put them into a historical, a "Presents" or "Suspense" etc. Take care. Caroline x

  7. Hi Caroline. I'm currently concentrating on the Regency and Medieval period, but I absolutely love the Roman as well! I started a story few years ago and every now and then I think I should really back to it as the story is still very vivid to me. I remember how delighted I was when I came across M. Styles 'Gladiator' in WH smith - I was on maternity leave and it could not have come at a better time! Thanks for your encouragement, this year I need to 'up' my writing.

    All the best and hope the word counts keep rising, Ferdous.

  8. Crumbs, my head is spinning, trying to work out whether I've used the right equation for my novels ... ahhhh!

  9. Hi Ferdous - absolutely with you on this one. It was Michelle Styles that got me writing after I read, and loved "Gladiator". Caroline x

    Hi Amanda - lol - I *know* what you mean! Caroline x

  10. Hi Lacy. Thanks for stopping by! Caroline x