Once it was a formula: boy meets girl, then a crisis or argument, but in the end they marry and live happily ever after. Not any more! Today, a romantic novel is one is which people start off emotionally impoverished in some way and end up emotionally richer.
They don’t have to get married, or even stroll into the sunset hand-in-hand. In the end, one of them might die (think Jo Jo Moyes “You Before Me”). But in the course of the story, they must have been on an emotional journey, and learned something about life, love and themselves.
Most romantic novels do end with the lovers becoming united. Fans of this genre like happy endings. But it’s time now to move past the Mills &U Boon type of romance. The bad news is that it can sometimes be a challenge to sell anything less than a fairytale ending to publishers, and to your subsequent readers. But you could be brave and give it a go. I did in the favorite one of my 14 published books “Esther” – a Jerusalem Love Story.
My two protagonists did not end up together, much as I wanted them to, because the dictates of their life situations did not make it feasible. It was not exactly a happy ending, but I felt it was the right ending. Giving some kinds if stories happy – rather than emotionally satisfying – endings, would be as daft as tacking on a song and dance routine to the ending of Hamlet or Romeo & Juliet.
Giving your characters hope is the key to writing a good romantic novel. Traditionally happy endings are no longer essential, but you must give your characters and your readers reasons to keep going. Some things to keep in mind are:
Is the story line too predictable? Will you be able to keep the promise you make to your characters and readers? Will they learn something along the way? Is the ending appropriate – will it be happy, hopeful or even tragic?
In my latest novella, “Searching for Sarah”, you don’t know until the last page if the couple will face a future a together or apart. I like to leave something to the reader’s imagination and let them fill in some of the blanks.
If you want any of my books, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tell you how to get them. Happy writing!
I’ll also be happy to help with any writing problems.