Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Guide To Writing Romance - Part Seven

My first two novels were set in Regency England. In order to write about this period convincingly, I immersed myself in that world. I read all of Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels, bought books on Regency clothes, gardens, houses, and fashions and researched all manner of other details necessary to create a believable setting. One of the biggest challenges of writing an historical novel is the fact that no-one alive actually lived during the time you’re writing about, and so every detail of the setting you are creating has to be carefully researched.

Alternatively, it may seem that writing a book in a modern setting is therefore much easier.  But this isn’t necessarily the case. My third novel, Send and Receive, was set in Durban, a city I had lived in for a number of years. This made it easier for me to write about it. However, if I hadn’t lived in Durban, I doubt I would have set my novel there as it is so easy to get the atmosphere of a city wrong. Often you need to live in a city to know the myriad small things that lend it atmosphere. It’s not something that can easily be researched online, although online research is, of course, an invaluable resource for any writer.

Read on to find out more about this topic from “The Guide To Writing Romance” online course:

Seventh Secret: Give your characters a believable setting.

We want to see your characters in their natural environment. It must be vivid and have just enough detail for us to believe in it. To do this, you have to know it very well yourself.

You need to know far more about their environment, and perhaps their occupation, than will ever appear in your book. Don’t set out to set your first love story in a hospital if you know nothing about how doctors and nurses work.

Knowing the details gives you the confidence to write with authority. And it allows you to include just enough telling details to create a credible and solid world.

If the world in which you’ve chosen to set your story is not familiar to you, then you’ve set yourself a considerable task: you’re going to have to research it.

The internet, naturally, makes research into places – towns, villages, countries even - a much easier proposition than it used to be. In your research, look for not just the broad vista, but the specific detail. Here, as in almost every other area of writing, it’s the telling detail that convinces more than the generalisation.

But if you’re setting your romance in the world of nuclear physics, medicine, astronomy, or even a legal practice or newsroom, you’re going to have to do your research on the ground. Visit the locations, take photographs, and talk to the people.


A little thought experiment this time. What setting springs to mind when you think of romance? It could be as familiar as your own office or town. It could be the more exotic location of your favourite holiday.
Perhaps it’s the office where you worked as a temp, or the volunteer work you did in your gap year.
Consider how much additional research you may need to do to fill in the blanks. Do you know the details of other people’s jobs? Could you describe the walk to the beach? What trees grow beside the pond?


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