Thursday, March 30, 2023

Plotting a Short Love Story

By Rayne Hall, @RayneHall

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: Short fiction is a great way to satisfy readers between novels. Rayne Hall shares tips on how to write a compelling romance short.

Readers enjoy short Love Stories in collections, anthologies, magazines, websites. But Love Stories are among the most challenging tales to write. 

The Challenge: A Relationship in a Short Space

The challenge is the length. A Romance novel follows the couple as they form a relationship to the level of commitment. How can you do that in the limited space of a short story?
A short story is typically 1,000-10,000 words long. This lends itself to plots which unfold within a few hours or a few days. But relationships—at least the kind of relationship worthy of commitment—take weeks, months or years to develop, as the partners get to know and trust each other and work out compromises. Falling in love may happen fast, but building a relationship takes time. 

The solution: the couple already know each other well before the story starts.

How They Know Each Other

Skip the Meet-Cute type beginnings where they bump into each other in a funny way and get to know each other over misunderstandings.

If they already know each other, this will save you several hundred (or several thousand) words, and you can get right to the big conflict and the relationship building. 

Here are some ideas:
  • They know each other from childhood—neighbors, step-siblings, friends
  • They are work colleagues
  • They used to attend school or college together
  • They belong to the same group, club, charity, church, campaign, sports team, citizens’ initiative, neighborhood
  • They used to be lovers and have split up. They may even have been married and divorced
Important: they need to know each other well, and trust each other. They don’t necessarily have to like each other at this stage, nor do they have to agree on key issues.

Get Straight to the Conflict

The short story pitches the two characters against each other in some kind of external conflict. The relationship conflict plays out within this external conflict. For example, she is the Head of Tourism and seek to boost the region’s prosperity by introducing motor boats for river cruises. He, on the other hand, belongs to the nature organization and wants to preserve the river for wildlife. 

Introduce this external conflict early on, within the first 100 words. 

How To Create a Satisfying Ending

The external conflict needs to be solved at the end of the story, either with a satisfying compromise or with an arrangement which benefits everyone. Taking the above example: the tourism woman and the environmentalist may join forces and create a wildlife sanctuary as a tourist attraction. 

In the short story, the couple may or may not make a lifetime commitment. Perhaps they merely resolve to get to know each other better, because they sense that their relationship has potential. This is often more realistic than painting a ‘Happily-Ever-After’ ending.

Novice Mistakes to Avoid

Beginners often spend three quarters of the short story writing a Meet-Cute—and then they run out of words and quickly tack on a marriage proposal. This doesn’t satisfy readers who know that meeting someone and falling in love is the easy part, while making the relationship work is what matters. 

Professional Tip

You can make a Meet-Cute work if your story has a strong external plot which is as important as the relationship. End the story not with commitment, but with the potential for commitment in the future.  

If a short story is too short and a novel too long for the tale you want to tell, consider writing a novella. Novellas have become popular in the Romance genre, and are often published in bundles of three novellas per book. 

Do you write Romance fiction?  Have you tried short stories? If yes, how do you go about fitting the Romance plot into the short story format? 

Rayne Hall lives in Bulgaria where she has created an eco-project for organic gardening. She has adopted several rescued pets and trains cats. Yes, cats can be trained – if they want.

She is the author of over seventy books, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Her books have been published by several publishers in several countries, and translated into several languages.  A trained publishing manager with more than thirty years’ experience in the industry, she also publishes her own books and champions indie-publishing for authors. 

She edits and publishes short story anthologies, mostly in the Horror, Gothic and Fantasy genres. Her bestselling Writer’s Craft series (the ‘blue guides’) teaches writers advanced and professional skills. 

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Do you enjoy spinning tales of love? Do you like guiding characters past obstacles to meaningful relationships?

Do you want to become an author of Romance novels, enchanting readers in the biggest-selling genre? Or do you write in a different category, looking to infuse your plots with powerful love stories?

In this book, you’ll get insider knowledge from two experts. Cara Crescent and Rayne Hall are both experienced fiction authors with different specialisms. Cara specializes in writing for Genre Romance – especially in the sub-genres Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance – while Rayne pens fiction in other genres, mostly Gothic and Dark Fantasy, and weaves love stories into them.

Step by step, they’ll show you how to entice readers, grab their hearts and excite their passions. You’ll learn how to:
  • write witty, bantering dialogue
  • create a female lead who steps off the page, and a male lead with whom readers will fall in love
  • structure a Romance novel from a sparkling beginning to a meaningful happy ending
  • handle heat levels – from sweet and chaste to sexy and sizzling
  • submit your book to agents and publishers, or publish your own

The book covers:
  • The most popular plot tropes from ‘Pretend Relationship’ and ‘Friends to Lovers’ to ‘Secret Baby’
  • The specific needs of Gay, Menage and Harem Romance
  • The bestselling sub-genres, including Medical Romance and Paranormal Romance
  • Believable happy endings for Romance Novels and heart-wrenching endings for tragic tales
  • …and much more.

The authors guide you to keep your characters and readers chaste for Sweet Romance, how to write steamy action scenes for Erotic Romance, and how to build intense erotic tension without graphic details – and which of them is right for your book.

You can use this guide as a self-study course. Each chapter contains information, professional tips and cautions about novice mistakes to avoid, and concludes with an assignment, so you can put what you’ve learnt into practice.

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