top of page

All Together Now - All We Need is Love

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Okay, it's time to discuss historical romance – the do's and don'ts of crafting believable romance characters without turning them into stereotypical bodice-ripper, muscle-rippling facades without much depth. While this might be your forte in writing romance, historical romance tends to be a bit different... and rightly so. For the most part, we are dealing with real events and real historical figures, so in order to craft a well-developed character that deserves the time and effort, you must put into it so your reader will appreciate the “love story” echoing from the past. Think about Victoria and Albert – truly not a surface romance here, but one worthy of being told and people who deserve to be fleshed out in a believable way. Yes, you can still give your readers the passion and the 'warm fuzzies' but as with our previous articles about characterization, you need to do your homework and research when telling an authentic historical romance. If you are more into writing traditional romance, this may not be the article for you since we are talking more 'Darcy and Elizabeth' rather than 'Christian and Anastasia' (Fifty Shades).

When you tell a love story well, when your characters are well-developed, you have the potential of creating a fan base of your dreams since 'love makes the world go round'. 'All we need is love', right? Actually, in writing in this genre, we need more than love, we need authentic and believable characters.

One great example from last year's HFC Book of the Year contest is the book by Sepehr Haddad - “A Hundred Sweet Promises”. The author had a challenge in that the characters were his own family, his grandfather, who was a Persian pianist and composer who fell in love with a Romanov Princess while in the Tsar's employment in Russia. While the base was there to create this romantic story, if he had not developed the characters to the degree necessary, the storyline might have fallen flat. However, he managed to bring to life his grandfather and to help us see the Romanov family in a whole different light... from a different perspective... and the entire story developed in a quite stunning way. So much so, that he won five stars and an award from The Historical Fiction Company!

There are different models in writing historical romance, and aside from probably knowing the actual history which will guide your story in many ways, these models are a template from which you can develop your characters.

1. Friends to Lovers

2. Enemies to Lovers

3. The Infamous Triangle

4. Opposites Attract

5. Second Chances

6. Rags-to-Riches

7. Romeo and Juliet

8. Love at First Sight

9. Destiny

10. Fake Romance

11. Royal, Arranged, or Political

12. Time Travel

Romance readers are very specific in their likes and dislikes. Oftentimes, what one person likes, another dislike. In historical fiction, you can develop your characters based on the above templates, but don't fall into stereotypes unless that is part of your theme. Even stereotypes can be developed into deep and meaningful characters.

Again, with previous articles, make your love interest have a life outside of the protagonist, one that helps the reader have a connection to them, and ultimately, makes the reader want the main character to fall in love with this character. What if we knew nothing about Mr. Darcy? If he was a flat, uninteresting, cardboard cutout... a mere stereotypical 'gentleman' with a large fortune, not only could he not foster the kinds of reactions from Elizabeth Bennet that Miss Austen intended, he would not have created such a huge following which extends down to our day. Think of writing a love interest like Mr. Darcy! If you were to sit down and write down everything you know about him, then give Miss Austen a round of applause for developing his character in a way that resonates through the centuries. This is what you want as a writer. Again, purpose and intention. Make the romance exciting without relying on the obvious emotional and physical tropes in order to bring feeling and connection to your reader. We are not writing 'Fifty Shades' here... this is an article for deep and meaningful historical romance.

Ask yourself very specific questions when it comes to your protagonist's possible love interest. Is there chemistry? What kind of chemistry do I want them to have? Do they have similar interests or experiences? Do they help each other's character arcs and development? Are they 'oil and water' or 'soul mates'? Think of the magnetism of real-life love... we've all experienced that, and after truly thinking about that, you are on your way to crafting a historic love interest in your novel and giving your story a sound foundation.

More questions you can ask yourself: what does your protagonist need in this relationship? Sometimes they may think they need something or they want something, but you as the author must bring to life what love means to them and if this relationship will actually fulfill all they need in relation to the storyline. Don't put a love interest in the story just for love's sake. Make it serve a purpose and be very intentional. And keep in mind that we are talking about the love interest and not a possible 'infatuation' character thrown in as a 'block' or as a possible 'antagonist' to keep the lovers apart. See what I mean? Taking the time to craft this character can open up your story in ways you might have never imagined, and again, means you must know your protagonist very intimately... literally. Once that happens, then you can develop a love interest around your protagonist; someone who challenges, boosts, irritates, or inspires them in a way no one else can.

Now that you've answered these questions, you can now move on to developing the conflict for the two characters – what their role is in the story and how will love develop in relation to the story arc, their own transformation, and their goal. Remember how much Darcy and Elizabeth developed and transformed all based on their relationship? This is what you want for your characters. You can also use these same kinds of questions even if your goal is heartbreak in the end.

If you know your protagonist really well, then you will know the answers he/she will say when you ask the following?

1. What do I find attractive?

2. What will bring me happiness?

3. Am I blind to true love? What are my issues? Prejudices?

4. Why am I alone?

5. What are my fears or regrets?

6. Will the love interest challenge these fears or regrets?

7. What romantic trope do I embody as a character? Or do I embody one at all? Why or why not?

When you answer these, then you are well on your way to recognizing what kind of love interest your protagonist needs to fulfill the goal of the storyline. Another good book to think about when determining this is “Sense and Sensibility”. The goals of both Marianne and Eleanor, as well as their love interests are very clear, and there is a stark contrast between what they think they need and what they ultimately do need in regard to the goals of the storyline. This shows Miss Austen's brilliance in writing classic historical romance. When you break down your story, when you craft your characters in such a way, then you are well on your way to bringing the heat and connection to your readers... and giving them characters they will never forget.


Thank you for visiting and subscribing!

To have your manuscript evaluated by HFC, please GO HERE

Dee Marley



bottom of page