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Transgressive Romance 101: Crafting Believable Romance Plots | Transgressive Romance Writing Tips

Romance stories have always been popular, pulling readers in with stories about love, deep feelings, and the complicated ways of the heart. Making a good romance story isn't just about making two characters fall in love; it's about telling a story that feels real and shows love in all its forms, both beautiful and flawed. In this post for Transgressive Romance writing tips, we'll learn how to make romance stories that feel true to life, taking tips from both classic and modern books, and including some spicy elements like in the exciting story of "Bella Donna."

spicy romance book reader

1. Establishing Realistic Characters

The foundation of any compelling romance plot lies in well-developed, relatable characters. Take Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." Their romance is believable because they are fully fleshed-out individuals, with distinct personalities, strengths, and flaws. Despite all the hate, for many (not me) Colleen Hoover's characters are deeply relatable, complex, and multifaceted, contributing to her massive success in the romance genre. Or Bella Andre with "The Look of Love": Andre is renowned for creating realistic, relatable characters that readers can connect with on a deep level. In "Bella Donna," I created Donna as a literature lover and this adds depth to her romantic encounter with Gio who's literature expert himself, making her journey of love, self-discovery and dark desires more relatable. In this regard, C.D. Reiss with "Marriage Games" creates complex characters who explore the darker and more unconventional aspects of love and desire, breaking traditional romance boundaries.

Now you may ask but how to create realistic characters? Here's 10 ways on how to develop such characters:

  1. Deep Character Backstories: Start by crafting detailed backstories for your characters (get free templates here). Understand their past experiences, family dynamics, education, and pivotal moments that shaped their personalities. This depth informs their motivations, fears, and desires, making them more than just figures in a story.

  2. Flaws and Strengths: Real people are a mix of strengths and weaknesses (get free templates here). Your characters should have a balance of both. Flaws make them relatable and human, while strengths make them admirable. For example, a character might be highly intelligent but struggle with social interactions.

  3. Consistent Yet Evolving: Characters should remain consistent in their core traits throughout the story, but also show growth and evolution. This change should be gradual and a result of the events in the story, mirroring real-life personal growth.

  4. Realistic Dialogue: The way characters speak should reflect their background, education, and personality. Dialogue is a powerful tool to convey character. It should sound natural and vary between characters. I have a post on writing dialogue coming and one I posted on how to write dialogue during a sex scene which you can read here.

  5. Relatable Motivations and Goals: Characters should have clear motivations and goals that drive their actions. These should be relatable and understandable to the readers, even if they don't always agree with the methods the characters use to achieve them.

  6. Complex Relationships: Show how your characters interact with others. Their relationships should have complexities, like real-life connections. This includes friendships, family dynamics, and romantic interests.

  7. Physical Descriptions and Mannerisms: While their physical appearance isn’t the most important aspect, it helps readers visualize them. Mannerisms or habitual actions (like biting nails when nervous) can add depth.

  8. Reactions to Situations: People react differently to stress, joy, or conflict. Show how your character's personality influences their reactions. This not only adds depth but can also drive the plot forward.

  9. Diverse Perspectives: Ensure that your characters have unique perspectives influenced by their backgrounds and experiences. This diversity can create interesting dynamics and conflicts in your story.

  10. Research and Empathy: Understand the type of character you're writing. If they have experiences vastly different from your own, research and empathy are crucial. This helps in creating an authentic portrayal.

2. Evoking Genuine Emotional Conflicts

Believable romance thrives on genuine emotional conflicts. Think of "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë, where the tumultuous relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff is driven by deep, conflicting emotions. Similarly, in "Bella Donna," I created protagonist's inner turmoil and unresolved feelings for Gio to build a captivating tension to add up to the essence of a spicy romance. M. Robinson's "El Diablo" has an intense and emotional storytelling, Robinson crafts a narrative rich in conflict and emotional depth, which resonates strongly with readers. Penelope Ward with "Stepbrother Dearest" excels in creating emotionally charged narratives that explore complex relationships and conflicts. Pepper Winters with "Tears of Tess" delves deep into emotional and psychological conflicts, pushing the envelope of conventional romance with challenging and intense narratives.

3. Creating a Compelling Setting

The setting of a romance novel can significantly enhance its believability. For instance, the magical backdrop of Paris in "Anna and the French Kiss" by Stephanie Perkins adds to the the romance. Skye Warren with "The Pawn"'s settings often add an extra layer of tension and atmosphere to her transgressive stories, enhancing the overall mood and impact. In "Bella Donna," the settings of France and Italy not only provide a picturesque backdrop but also contribute to the nostalgic and passionate mood of the story. L.J. Shen with "Vicious" sets her story in vivid, well-drawn environments that add to the intensity and allure of the plot. I will post an in detail article on how to build setting but you can also check my article on transgressive fiction setting here.

4. Building a Realistic Romantic Arc

A believable romance plot must have a well-structured arc. What is character are?

A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story. An example is Nicholas Sparks' "The Notebook" where the progression of Allie and Noah's relationship feels natural and real. Tarryn Fisher's "The Wives" choice of setting adds an intriguing layer to her story, enhancing the psychological and romantic elements of her narrative. Annabel Joseph with "Comfort Object" skillfully develops the romantic arc amidst unconventional and often taboo scenarios, ensuring that the progression feels both real and engaging. Similarly, in "Bella Donna," the evolution of Donna's feelings and the complexities of her relationships are portrayed with authenticity showing her past and present when encountering Gio, making the reader invest in her romantic journey.

5. Incorporating Obstacles and Resolutions

Every compelling romance plot includes obstacles that the characters must overcome. Incorporating obstacles and resolutions in a story is crucial because they create conflict and tension, essential elements for maintaining reader interest and driving the narrative forward. These challenges test and develop characters, making their journeys and eventual growth or change more compelling and satisfying for the reader. In "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green, the characters' health issues add a poignant layer to their romance. Kitty Thomas "Comfort Food"'s narrative includes significant psychological and physical obstacles, adding depth to the plot and challenging traditional notions of romance. "Bella Donna" ups the ante with the age gap between Donna and Gio, the fact that they met when she was just 16 and that he was her father's best friend, creates a deliciously complex scenario of forbidden love and past secrets that demand resolution. Another example, Vi Keeland "Stuck-Up Suit" 's narratives feature significant obstacles that the characters must overcome, adding depth to the romance.

6. Delivering a Satisfying Conclusion

Finally, a believable romance plot should offer a satisfying conclusion. Whether it's a happy ending like in "Bridget Jones's Diary" by Helen Fielding or a more nuanced resolution like A. Huss with "Turning Point", the goal is crafting conclusions that not only resolve the complex, often taboo conflicts presented but also leave a lasting impact on the reader.

In conclusion, I can add that crafting a believable romance plot requires a deep understanding of human emotions, a commitment to character development, and a keen sense of storytelling. Whether you're drawing inspiration from the classics or infusing your tale with the spicy elements of modern love stories like "Bella Donna," the key is to create a narrative that speaks to the heart's true desires and complexities.

Bella Donna is Available for Pre Order now, Order here.

Bella Donna book cover mockup

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