Sunday, March 31, 2013

World Building - Romance Novel Series Style

In response to my post on World Building in Series Fiction a reader asked this question. How can the principles of series world building be applied to a series of romance novels?

Rules are the foundation of any world you build as the setting for any series in any genre. Those rules differ from genre to genre according to the conventions of each of those genres.

The conventions of a genre can be most easily defined in terms of reader expectations of that genre. When a reader buys a book in that genre what does he or she expect to find in the story?

Identifying these expectations is essential to success in writing any genre novel. Violating reader expectations can thwart that success big time. Thou shalt not disappoint reader expectations.

The first among reader expectations of a romance novel is that it be pretty much all about the romantic relationship at the center of the story – the relationship between the lovers.

This convention or rule carries over big time to the romance novel series and it starts with the most basic unit of each novel in that series. That most basic unit is the scene.

Each individual scene must focus somehow on the romantic relationship. The story of that relationship as it progresses toward the inevitable happy ending is the plot of the book.

The world of each book and of the entire series radiates out from that focus. The family and the community you create exist only to provide a context for the romance at the center of each story.

When you digress from the romantic relationship focus in any romance novel scene or book or series you violate the first rule of the genre and of your series world. All other rules evolve from this basic principle.

Beyond that I have one more piece of advice. Study the champion series world builders of your genre. As always in all writing the successful authors themselves are your best teachers.

In romance I suggest Sherryl Woods and Susan Wiggs and the matriarch of them all Debbie Macomber. Deduce the rules that define their series worlds. The details that give each world its beating heart.

Ask yourself how each of these details might be adapted to the world of your series. Then go deep down to the soul of that world and with each vibrant detail make it come alive on the page.

1 comment:

Lisa Cooke said...

Thanks, Alice. I see what you're saying about consistency and genre. I think what I'm having trouble with is establishing a setting that sets the world for my readers. I used to write historical and that was easier than the contemporaries I now write. I still use your character interviews from "No more rejections" every time I start a new book. Have you ever considered putting together a series of questions we could use to help define our settings/worlds? That would be amazing!