If you write romance, you probably already know a general formula for crafting a story that will do the genre proud. And I mean a bit more than the “boy meets girl/boy loses girl/boy gets girl” trope.
Regardless of your setting, your plot devices, your obligatory happily-ever-after ending, there’s one thing you absolutely have to understand.
Romance readers are predominantly women. More specifically, middle-class/middle-aged women. Does that mean there aren’t teenage boys or silver foxes who love these stories? No. The demographics can include anyone. But the generalities hold true. Romance fans are women in their forties who are voracious readers.
That means two things for you.
- They have so much experience with the genre, they aren’t going to be satisfied with cliche characters and storylines. They want fresh stories, smartly written.
- They want characters, especially heroines, they can relate to.
You’ll hear a lot of writing experts tell you that it’s not enough to write for a general audience. You need to write for a specific reader. Not your fans, but for your super-special, totally-devoted, number one fan. One person. One specific reader, unique — yet one who fits solidly in your ideal demographic.
My ideal reader is named Gloria. She’s forty-nine (and has been for a few years now and probably will be for a few more). She married young and is still hopelessly in love with her devoted husband. She has two kids (a boy and a girl, in that order), both of whom are away at college. Now it’s just her and her husband (and their dogs) at home. They both work crazy long hours and can’t wait to retire so they can travel. Until then, in the few moments of downtime they get during the week, he watches sporting events and she reads. Weekends are spent catching up on the household to-do lists, but they make time for something special every Saturday night — a movie, a concert, a ballgame, a play (anything that’s just the two of them away from the house).
I need to know who Gloria is so I can write stories she’ll enjoy and market them to her. And one of the easiest ways to write for her is by making the heroines in my stories relatable to her.
Gloria was young(er) once, so she can relate to a twenty-something heroine just entering the workforce. But that isn’t who she is now. Now, she’s the head of the marketing department at a well-renown museum in the closest city (she lives in the suburbs). She might pick up a new adult dystopian romance and remember when she was young enough to wear spandex in public without being humiliated (not that she ever would have). It might entertain her to watch this young heroine wield a broadsword and behead zombie-alien hybrids. But Gloria isn’t going to gravitate to that story all the time. Once, maybe twice. Then that’s it.
Nor is she going to want to read about women in designer suits and five-inch heels and the family pearls drinking tea on a Tuesday afternoon. Gloria has studiously avoided foot-contorting shoes and all forms of pantyhose for a decade or more. Her idea of dressing up is pants rather than jeans and a sweater rather than a henley. Sure, she might read about the poor little rich girl stuck at Mother’s charity function, but that’s not the type of book she’ll seek out, either.
No, Gloria is more interested in the late-twenties/early-thirties professional heroine who has her career well in hand and doesn’t need rescuing — at least, not until it all hits the fan and the enemies are coming from all directions. Then, working in tandem with her hero, she helps slay her proverbial dragons and can go back to her wonderful professional life, only now she has an equally wonderful personal life to balance it out.
Why does Gloria like that heroine? Because she is that heroine. Or easily could be.
I know there are sub-genres and sub-sub-genres and storylines to appeal to everyone under the sun. Your ideal reader might be a twenty-four-year-old named Ginger who hangs out at rodeos. Or maybe her name is Jade and she’s the nineteen-year-old lead singer of a rock band.
I know her name isn’t Dorcas and she’s not a seamstress in Victorian Boston. But that might be the kind of story she likes.
The point is, it will be easiest for you to craft a story your ideal reader will love if you know precisely who she is and what kind of woman she relates to.
As for my ideal reader? Gloria has Italian roots and a deep love of family. She’s smart and loves to solve puzzles. And a steamy romantic thriller set in Italy (like Tortured Soul) is just the kind of story she scours book listings for. Lucky me, huh?
What about you? Who is your ideal reader? What does she most like to read? And how does your main character relate to her? Is she the same age? Have the same job? The same passion for shoes? Let’s talk about it.
Protection is safety. Until it stifles.
After months of clandestine battles, the Brothers of the Medici Protectorate finally know who is responsible for the assassination attempts on the Notaro family, the secret descendants of the Medici line. And they’ve never faced such a formidable foe.
Roberto Cozza—Coz—faces this new reality with surprising pragmatism. His powers may make the difference in winning their covert war—if only he can master them in time. It would just be so much easier if he could get his emotions under control, but neither his Brothers nor their charges are making things easy on him.
Toni Notaro appreciates the security provided by the Brothers, but she knows she has her own role to play—and it terrifies her. She is the missing link in Coz mastering his emerging abilities, yet she struggles to bridge the gap between what he needs and what she can offer.
As the Brotherhood hurtles inexorably toward the climactic final showdown, Coz and Toni must find the strength within themselves and each other to master the secrets of his powers, or risk death and defeat for all they hold dear.
Staci Troilo writes because she has hundreds of stories in her head. She publishes because people told her she should share them. She’s a multi-genre author whose love for writing is only surpassed by her love for family and friends, and that relationship-centric focus is featured in her work.
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