In romance fiction, we typically first introduce readers to our characters and the world in which they live. If our characters have some idiosyncrasies (and who doesn’t) we get them out and onto the table. We tell our readers about the problems of our characters, any predicaments they find themselves in. In other words, we try to bring our readers in and make them care about the characters.
Romance writers are not hacks who simply throw together the same story told over and over and over again. No, we build worlds, we develop characters, we plot story lines. We take our characters, our readers, and ourselves on adventures. Our mission is to keep the readers reading, to make them want to turn the next page to see what happens next, to make them anxious to turn the page and keep reading to find out what happens.
There has been a lot of debate about whether romance writing means that the story absolutely must have a “happily ever after” (HEA) ending. While there are more and more stories appearing that do not have the HEA, in my mind, a true classic romance novel should end on a good note. It’s fiction. If we can’t give our characters a happy ending and our readers some diversion from their own problems, then we’re not doing our jobs very well. Some authors stop with a HFN ending (“happy for now”).
Sometimes people confuse romance with erotica and even with porn. But the three things are quite different. In erotica, the reader is introduced to the characters and their world, the story has a plot, and there is sex. Porn is a story that typically takes the reader quickly into sex. Porn stories usually have a bit of a plot but the plot is secondary to the smoking hot sex. Characters are usually thinly developed if at all in porn stories. Picture a walking, talking penis and you’ve got character development in porn stories. Porn stories are the stories guys read with one hand while using the other hand to jerk off.