Swoon Author Kate Evangelista: Key Elements to a Category Romance
In all the books I have written so far, the common thread is romance. No matter what the story is about there will always be two characters falling in love. This is because I enjoy romance. It’s my favorite genre to read, watch, listen to. Whatever. If it’s romance, I’m in!
Since joining Swoon Reads I have been focusing on a particular kind of romance which is called the category romance. With each book that I write I have come to realize that there are key elements that make up these kinds of stories. Assemble all of them into a manuscript—no matter the storyline—you’ll have a novel to fall for.
First element: Pick a trope. Any trope.
Basically, a trope is the plot device that brings your characters together. Here are a few examples. "Across the Tracks," which I used in No Love Allowed, features characters that are on opposite sides of the spectrum—the most common of which is one character is rich (Caleb) and the other character is barely getting by (Didi). "Friends to Lovers" is what I used for No Holding Back, which features Nathan and Preston who have been best friends since forever and one of them is in love with the other and as the story progresses a confession is made and they move from being friends to lovers. Another trope is "Redemption," which I used for No Second Chances. Jax made a mistake and he seeks Natasha’s forgiveness throughout the book.
Other examples would be one character having amnesia. Blackmail is a great one. Sports or a main character as an athlete is always popular. Flings, forbidden love, fake engagement, boy/girl next door. And two personal favorites of mine are mistaken identity and royalty. I can go on and on. Look at the romance novels you love to read. Most likely there is a trope that connects all of them.
Second Element: The Meet Cute
If you’re an avid reader of romance, you know this is where your main characters first come together. The more creative you get the better. For No Love Allowed, Caleb first meets Didi when she serves his table at the country club. No Holding Back shows a different kind of meet cute in that Nathan and Preston already know each other but in that moment you see Nathan’s devotion to helping Preston fulfill his dream. Another unconventional meet cute is employed in No Second Chances where Natasha and Jax see each other again after six months of being apart.
Meet cutes vary from story to story. It’s up to you to make the meeting of your characters fit the plot you’re writing. Sometimes you can find your meet cute by the trope you have chosen as the base of your category romance. So look at the trope closely. Your meet cute is in there somewhere.
Third Element: Fun and Games
No matter the type of romance there will always be a series of chapters where the characters are shown falling in love with each other. No Love Allowed shows this with each party that Didi and Caleb attend together. In No Holding Back it’s every country that Nathan and Preston visit in Europe. And in No Second Chances it’s with each grand gesture that Jax fulfills in order to get Natasha back.
The fun and games portion may also be filled with conflict depending on your trope. But most often this is the section of your novel where everything seems to be going well with your characters until that point where you drive them apart. Insert evil diabolical laughter here. Which brings us to the next element.
Fourth Element: "Dark Night of the Soul"
This is the part of the novel where our in-love characters are driven apart by whatever main conflict is in the story. This is usually right before the climax. Where it seems like the characters will never get back together. The relationship is doomed!
In No Love Allowed the dark night of the soul happens after Caleb and Didi get into an accident. Things get real for the both of them. In No Holding Back, it’s when Preston gets accepted to the swimming club of his dreams. How can Nathan come between him and that? And in No Second Chances . . . well, you’ll have to read it to see because it’s kind of spoiler-y. Like big time.
Fifth Element: The Grand Gesture
This is where the feels returns after all that icky drama stuff. One of the characters does something to get the other character back. This is usually the running-through-the-airport scene in most romantic movies in the '90s. We all know we can’t do that anymore.
Caleb is the author of the grand gesture for No Love Allowed. For No Holding Back, Preston is the one who shows Nathan that he can’t fulfill his dream without his best friend turned lover by his side. And in No Second Chances Jax actually has to perform three—count them, THREE—grand gestures to get Natasha back. He must stop time, defy gravity, and bring down the stars. After what he did? Three is just right.
Check out all the romance novels in your personal library. Even romantic comedy movies. All five of elements are there. Take out one and the romance won’t work. Remember, no matter the story, there is a trope, there is a meet cute, there is fun and games, there is that dark moment, and there is the grand gesture at the end. It’s not even just for the romance genre. You can also find these elements—maybe in a different form—in sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, you name it.
So do you have a category romance in you? Are you writing one now? What’s your favorite trope? Share it in the comments section. I’d love to see what you’re reading/writing at the moment. Recommendations welcome. And if you can guess the trope of my next novel, I will give you a special gift!