Romance writing in 2021: What works, and what just doesn’t


Sex scenes: You can’t have a romance novel without some amount of heaving, sighing, some dreamy kisses and a certain amount of frenzied activity. It just wouldn’t work.

Conflict: You can’t have a dramatic love story without some weighty opposition. It could be internal conflict, warring families or something as simple as schedules that just won’t match. Today’s conflicts tend to stem from more relatable, everyday issues: a job opportunity in another city, a tussle over personal independence, even a better-looking match on a dating app. They may not involve swords drawn or duels at dawn, but conflict there must be.

A positive ending: It doesn’t have to be happily ever after. It can be happily for now. Or hopeful for the future. But a romance writer makes a pact with the reader before they’ve even opened the book; a promise that goes all the way back to Jane Austen. The single man in want of a wife, the single woman in want of a man, they must find each other. They may still need to work on each other, themselves, the relationship and more, but find each other they must.

WHAT’S NEW

Extended family: The Western template, used in India too for decades, was boy meets girl, they fall in love, and the story goes from there. Over the past decade, with a new generation of writers and readers seeking more relatable plots, Indian romance novels have begun to feature aunts, uncles, cousins, sometimes parents too, in prominent roles.

Careers: The man was usually a languid millionaire who never seemed needed at the office. The woman was either embroidering or painting; an intern or an assistant. Today, both the men and women in Indian romance novels are busy. He may be a CEO, she may be one too. Their lives mirror more closely the lives of their readers, and the conflict sometimes comes from the lack of work-life balance. For an added twist, the heroine is sometimes the boss of the hero, or earning more than he does, or working on the same team. New clichés, and about time too.

Queerness: Gender identity is no longer dismissed in a word or sentence. Same-sex relationships, when they are alluded to in romance novels, are given more room. Sometimes they’re the key theme, as in Love Bi the Way by Bhaavna Arora (2016), about a romance between a painter and a businesswoman; or the lesbian romance in Falling into Place by Sheryn Munir (2018).

WHAT JUST DOESN’T WORK ANYMORE

The alpha male: There are few takers for the tall, impassive, high-handed, domineering man who doesn’t know how to feel or show emotion. Today’s romance novel heroes fare better when they’re more human, vulnerable, emotional.

The obsessive lover: Possessive, protective, obsessive used to be signs of true love. Most of today’s romantic heroes would have some serious explaining to do if they spent all day tailing their lover in a limousine.

The villainous other woman or man: Ex-girlfriends and even current love interests are part of the main plot, part of the conflict, but in the same way they are in real life, as potential hurdles to be dealt with, as tests to a relationship, as people with feelings. Not as skimpily clad or gym-buffed villains with evil in their hearts.



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About Post Author

Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh Born on 15 Jun 2001 an Indian author and activist from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh. Live in New Delhi