Friday, November 5, 2010

Romance Recipe for Success

One of the reader discussion groups at this year's RomantiCon convention was "Recipe for Success", hosted by authors Fran Lee and Amber Skyze. They solicited reader opinions on "the most important ingredients for a breathtaking, satisfying romance" (with emphasis on erotic romance).

As always, there was wide diversity of opinions, but consistency in basic areas.

The five most important elements in a good romance:
  • HEA
  • Hot, delicious sex
  • Strong romance
  • Believable plot/conflict
  • Strong, engaging (and enjoyable) characters
Almost all agreed that a relationship was of the utmost importance in a romance. They wanted to see the characters develop strong emotional connections.

Humor was appreciated.

About half stated that sweetly poignant moments were essential to their enjoyment of a novel.

Plots were expected to be unique, not simply makeovers of overused situations and reworked “same-old, same-old”, and have believable world building.

Many stated that the author's voice was important.

Sensual content: Two-thirds of the participants stated that they liked to see a delicious, hot buildup of tension between the H/H. About half stated that instant hot sex was good, but most of these also liked “slow buildup”. The general consensus was that the sex must be hot and intense when it did occur, but that slow and seductive was appreciated as well. Most participants made it clear that the sex must fit the story. No one wanted gratuitous sex just tossed in. The sex had to be part and parcel of the plot, and be steamy. One said “must be breathtaking and memorable”.

Heroes: The overwhelming majority wanted alpha heroes who were strong and tough. Roughly half added “flawed” and “bad boy”. A few added “tortured” or “smart”.

Heroines: Saucy and sexy. About half liked heroines who exhibited tomboy tendencies, were wicked, strong, and/or flawed. About one-fourth liked their heroines to be ultra-feminine. A few participants added “smart”, “smart and independent”, “witty…keeps hero on his toes” and “tortured”.

Genres: When presented with a list and asked to indicate all their preferences, almost all marked Contemporary. Over half also chose Paranormal, Vampire, Shifter, historical, BDSM, Erotic, GLBT, Cougar, Ménage, or “all of the above”. Erotic, Cougar, and Ménage were most notably chosen. Sci-fi/fantasy was included in about one-third of the responses.

Book length: A majority of participants preferred novellas or short novels, but about half said they also enjoyed full length novels.

When asked what made the participant re-read the same book over, most responded that they liked to go back and re-read the good parts, memorable sex scenes, or the hilariously funny parts. They liked to re-read the places where the characters began to build their relationships, and a good percentage liked to go back to the scenes that really “touched” them.

One person stated that she found that each new reading revealed even more than she had found in the prior reading. One person stated that she almost never re-read a book, but that she does search for more by the same author if she liked the book.

As Fran said afterwards, "The responses were gratifying in that every single participant reinforced our impression of the deep sense of individuality in our readers. We found that our readers (and the participating reviewers and authors) are discerning and share a taste for high-quality books that leave them emotionally moved. Not willing to sit back and simply accept what is offered out there, they were most willing to step up and tell us what they wanted."


Katalina Leon said...

Thank you for sharing this useful post with those of us who badly wanted to attend Romanticon but couldn't. Fran Lee and Amber Skyze are terrific, I so wanted to attend their workshop. Maybe next year...

Unknown said...

The readers were awesome. Everyone wanted to share their opinions. It was a lot of fun and I'd like to do another workshop next year.

Fran Lee was great!

Debra Glass said...

Great information!

Regina Carlysle said...

This is sooo helpful. I like that readers like stories that pack an emotional punch and can also be funny.

Jan Springer said...

Very cool info. Thanks so much! I really appreciate it. :-)


Lia Slater said...

Wonderful information! Thanks for sharing.

Scarlett Knight said...

Thanks! I'm definitely going to keep this in the front of my mind when I brainstorm for the next story!

Anonymous said...

How many words are the novellas? I was looking for that answer on the site and couldn't find it.

Fran Lee said...

I agree, Amber...this was loads of fun, and wonderfully informative! For the person who wants to know how many words are in a novella, Ellora's Cave's guidelines are: 15k to 29,999 is novella length. 30k to 44,999 is short novel length. 45k to 69,999 is full novel length.

To all of our readers and authors and reviewers who joined us in this workshop, we extend a great big thanks. It was wonderful meeting all of you, and hearing your opinions and desires.

Kathy Kulig said...

Great information and very helpful. Readers of erotic fiction don't just want hot sex they want emotion, characters they can connect with and a great story. Good to know about the shorter lengths. Sounded like an awesome workshop.

Juliette Dupree said...

As an aspiring author, this information is very helpful. Everyone says "write what you like". But if you like several genres, lengths (book lengths!) etc., then it makes sense to choose something you AND a majority of readers enjoy.

I had so hoped to attend RomantiCon this year. Oh well, maybe next year!

Cora Zane said...

Interesting information! I'm definitely taking notes.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating information and well presented. Very valuable info. Nice job.