WISG #3 – What Does A Reader Need?

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.


I recently saw a call for submission for a contemporary romance (click here for the call) and had the brilliant idea of giving it a try. The only romance I’ve written to-date was a sprinkling that was more of a subplot. Whoa what a difference it is to make romance the main plot of a story. Pushing my usual ideas to the background felt odd and awkward. I carried on though, thinking it would feel more comfortable after an edit or two.

The beginning was not really romantic. My main character assumed she was being asked out on a date and was really being asked to babysit so he could go out with someone else. I know this is an old trope, but I added a twist later on. The female MC’s assumption broke her heart but she doesn’t speak up until her counterpart needs her help. Then she took her venom and ripped the male MC to bits; or at least, she tried to. He was still focused on his prize and didn’t understand why she was upset.

I liked the conflict and romantic friction between my two main characters and was having quite a bit of fun writing about their antics.

But I made a big mistake. I questioned my muse.

Now I’m wondering if the people that read romance prefer the fantasy of female/male misunderstandings, and silence in the face of sharing deep feelings, to the real world romance. I don’t know. I’m not sure. It doesn’t help that I’ve only had a few romances in my life and they were… less that spectacular.

What I mean is they were not Cinderellaish or Pretty in Pinkish or Bridget Jones Diaryish, or whatever the latest is ish.

So I ask readers and writers alike: What drives us to read romance? Why do we enjoy it? What are we looking for?

I’m going to need some answers or I’m sure to disappoint.


44 responses to “WISG #3 – What Does A Reader Need?

  1. I think real world romance is filled with misunderstandings, mis-communications, and silence. I bet readers will identify with your characters’ dilemma. Don’t think it through so much. Just write! Best wishes.

  2. I would suggest reading some of the current romances out there. See what people are enjoying. We all read and enjoy for different reasons. Then enjoy your foray into new territory πŸ™‚

  3. I’d listen to your muse and write the story you want to write. Beta readers can help you piece together the rest. πŸ™‚ So long as your male MC is yummy and kind deep down, and your female MC is likeable and spunky, you can’t go far wrong. πŸ™‚

  4. sherry fundin

    Hi Anna. I like a little something extra with my romance, whether it’s mystery, suspense or a bit of fantasy. When I read novels where the characters fail to communicate (which is my biggest frustration) I, at first, am turned off by it. But – think about it. It’s true. I love fiction and if the story is written well and keeps me entertained, I give the author leeway to take me where they want. Too many people forget – it is fiction. If I wanted a true story I would read non-fiction, which I do. Let your characters free and your muse take you away. ^_^

    sherry @ fundinmental

  5. I read romance/contemporary read all the time. In every book I almost always look to see if there is a romance possible between the main character and someone else. I love when it takes a while to get two characters together or at least admitting they like each other. I enjoy the ups and downs of a romance. The pain and love that the two characters may feel. I prefer real world romance BUT with the happy ending. It’s hard to create a romance and have them be apart at the end. Only rarely do I think that’s the right decision.

  6. I am not a huge fan of straight-up romance. My favorite are served on the side.When I do read a straight-up romance I prefer both pov’s, some conflict but not over done, and I want to “feel” their emotions. I also prefer a slow build. There can be heat, and insta-attractions but professions of love everlasting on chapter 2 make me crazy. Great post

  7. jenniferbielman

    I can take my romance in anyway, as long as the couple are happy at the end. I want to read that fantasy relationship, even is it starts rocky. I want what I don’t get in every day relationships.

    • Thanks Jennifer. Good to know. Heck I used to read Harlequin every chance I got, but that was a lot of miles back. I don’t think I ever thought of their stories as realistic and I loved them all. πŸ™‚

  8. I am picky about my romance, but I do like it. Nora Roberts a standard favorite. I prefer urban fantasy where the romance is sort of secondary, but important. What I like is the connections of family, friends and community, but I want adventure and intrigue too. Yeah, I do expect a happy ending, but in urban fantasy setbacks are expected, but there is always hope, and you never doubt the real feeling and connection between the characters. I want a good story with romance and connections, while having a blast of an adventure.

    Juneta at Writer’s Gambit

  9. I love a good romance. While miscommunication are common and can be fun to read, romance also needs more. I read somewhere that if the only thing standing between the lovers is a good conversation, there’s not enough conflict. Maybe ask, what else is keeping them apart? Best of luck!

  10. In romance, I want a satisfying ending. I want characters mature enough to talk about misunderstandings rather than let them fester. I want the conflict to come from inside the characters–she wants happy-ever-after, he wants to play. Or the reverse. Good luck. As mentioned before, read today’s romances. They aren’t your grandmother’s or your mother’s romance.

    • Romance writing has changed, but I still want to believe in that undercurrent still drives us no matter what year it is. I guess we’ll find out how close I hit the target. πŸ™‚

    • The more I think about it, the more I think you’re right about times changing with the romance writing. Lucky for me its a short and not a novel. πŸ™‚

  11. What keeps me turning pages in a romance is chemistry between the potential lovers. I should feel the sparks fly and the connections, even if they don’t yet.

  12. I rarely read romance-centric stories, and prefer there to be something else going on as well as the characters moving toward getting together. But I like romances where the characters slowly get to know each other – when they start off friends and, with time, realize that there’s something more there, that they really fit together, that sort of thing. Stories like that feel more real to me than sudden love or “I hate you, I hate you, let’s go make out.” ^_^

    And nothing makes me more tired of a romance plot than people having major communication issues and jumping to conclusions about the other person. It’s been done so many times and it just makes me wonder why these people even talk to each other. And then they have some kind of breakthrough and suddenly everything’s okay despite all the awful things they said before. Ugh.

    • I agree if one of the set is spewing negative thoughts, words, etc, it ruins it for me too. Somethings can’t be taken back. Or forgiven.

      Thanks for the reminder. πŸ™‚

  13. I have to agree with a lot of people here. Overthinking kills the Muse. I believe we live by watching, by learning, by being. This translates in our writing more realistic characters. Don’t think Em. Just write! (and write more please!)

  14. If I read romance, I like it to have a solid believable plot, where I can REALLY see them becoming a couple… And little bits and pieces that make me smile or laugh always help — those heartwarming moments where neither the characters seem to understand what is happening, but the reader can see the sparks of romance beginning to grow.

    • Actually throughout the chaos, that’s exactly what I’m hoping for.

      Light romance and a laugh or two with a difference of opinion. She thinks she’s right for him, then rethinks things as she gets to know him. He, of course, is doing the same thing in reverse. Lucky for me no one ends up in the friend zone. πŸ™‚

  15. I think the answer to your question is to answer your own question. What drives YOU to read romance? Why do YOU enjoy it? What are YOU looking for? In the end, you have to write the story you would seek out to read if someone else had written it because you’re not the only one interested in your kind of romance novel.

    Good luck with everything! πŸ˜€

  16. I think readers prefer great stories — whatever you write, if it comes from teh heart and you put your heart and soul into it, the readers will know and they’ll love it! πŸ™‚

  17. I agree with what Cathy said about finding your own answer and writing for yourself. For me, though, I love romance that seems real life. Sometimes the romance in books seems to planned and perfect. Here’s some things I enjoy: the characters do not have instant attraction, they fumble through talking to each other (or even figuring out their feelings for each other), they’re flawed, but likeable, they “complete” each other in some way, they have a shared sense of humor.
    A couple “real romances” I enjoyed recently: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (YA) and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

    • I agree with Cathy too and have a funny feeling I’ll be trusting my muse on this one. Tweaking here and there because of the feedback would be a wise choice too. πŸ™‚

  18. Hi Emaginette, good on you for trying your hand at romance. I tried to write one too, many, many years ago. I had storyboards and pictures cut out of magazines, the works. However, that issue you talked about at the start, where the romantic coming together of these two people has to be the force driving the story, didn’t work for me. It wasn’t ‘interesting’ enough for me to be able to keep going. I ran out of steam about halfway through writing it, and never went back!
    Good luck with yours though. Did your muse forgive you yet? πŸ˜‰

    • We are barely talking. Maybe I can use that in the story. πŸ™‚

      Lucky for me it is a short and only took three days of hard writing to complete. I didn’t have to maintain the romantic dance for too long and there is a nerdy scifi subplot that makes the story more interesting–I hope.

  19. I am not a romance reader. Mostly, it makes me want to slap the characters. Like in Romeo and Juliet.

  20. Okay Anna. What I like in a romance is tension. It ALWAYS goes back to Jane Austen for me. Give me misunderstanding, misdirection, misinformation…in other words, a whole lot o misses. I have to think they are never going to get together until somewhere after the 3/4 mark or I put the book down. I hope that helps.
    Leanne ( readfaced.wordpress.com & LeanneRossRF )

    • Thanks, Leanne, for the info and the link. Asking everyone like this is getting to the root of the matter. I think most of us feel the same way. πŸ™‚

  21. I can’t really give much advice because I don’t read much romance. When I do, I tend to get annoyed because if they just talked then all the problems wouldn’t happen. GAH!

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