Writing Great Romance Characters by Romance Writer Helen Pollard

Helen Pollard Writing Great Romance Characters

Let’s face it, so many plot devices in romances are no longer unique – that would be impossible! – and so it is often the characters that will make the book. As a reader, I want to get to know them, find out what makes them tick, learn about their past and how it affects the way they behave in the present, their motivations. Are their problems and emotions believable? Is the interaction between them, and the way their relationship develops, realistic? I need to believe in them and empathize with them before I can even begin to care about their romance. Only then will I find myself rooting for them.

When I’m writing romance characters, I’m always conscious that dialogue plays such a huge part in this. It’s what makes the characters real, allowing their true personality to shine through. The way they interact with each other in a conversation (or argument!) shows exactly where they’re at in their relationship. And it’s not only how the dialogue is used – it’s how it’s written. The writer must develop a good ear. When I’m reading a book, unrealistic-sounding dialogue is the one single thing guaranteed to put me off.

The nature of romance characters has changed enormously over the past few decades. When I first started to read romances in the Eighties, the hero was invariably swoon worthy but dictatorial, bossing the heroine around and then swooping in and rescuing her from whatever mess the poor, pathetic dear had got herself into.

You can’t get away with that nowadays! Your heroine is expected to be smart and independent, feisty yet flexible enough to fall in love. Your reader must be able to empathize with her.

Your hero, of course, must also be fanciable – although not every reader is turned on by a muscled hunk. Since you can’t cater for everyone in the way of looks, your reader should also fall for his personality. Personally, I struggle to get invested in the alpha male type. Yes, I like a hero to be strong enough to be relied upon in a crisis, an emotional rock. He’s allowed an outburst of temper and he can be flawed – but I like him to be considerate, to know when he’s in the wrong, to know how to treat the heroine without robbing her of her self-esteem.

So, as a writer, I like to give my romance characters plenty of layers – they can be both grumpy and sensitive, both caring and annoying. After all, their faults are what make them interesting and lovably human!

I’ve seen a lot of writing advice along the lines of knowing your character inside out before you even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) – making lists of their looks, their personality traits etc., even if you never use those facts in the book itself. I’m sure that is perfectly sound advice and will work for some – but unfortunately, I can’t work that way.

I prefer to start a book with a vague idea in my head about the kind of people my characters are and certainly about the dilemmas and demons they face, but I find that once I start writing, they will generally ‘speak’ to me and tell me how they want to be. It’s more interesting to write that way, allowing the element of surprise as my characters sometimes refuse to be written the way I had intended and start to do their own thing . . . although that can bring its own problems, as I try to corral them back into the story I originally had in mind!


Helen Pollard The Little French GuesthouseThe Little French Guesthouse: The perfect feel good summer read

Sun, croissants and fine wine. Nothing can spoil the perfect holiday. Or can it?

When Emmy Jamieson arrives at La Cour des Roses, a beautiful guesthouse in the French countryside, she can’t wait to spend two weeks relaxing with boyfriend Nathan. Their relationship needs a little TLC and Emmy is certain this holiday will do the trick. But they’ve barely unpacked before he scarpers with Gloria, the guesthouse owner’s cougar wife.

Rupert, the ailing guesthouse owner, is shell-shocked. Feeling somewhat responsible, and rather generous after a bottle (or so) of wine, heartbroken Emmy offers to help. Changing sheets in the gîteswill help keep her mind off her misery.

Thrust into the heart of the local community, Emmy suddenly finds herself surrounded by new friends. And with sizzling hot gardener Ryan and the infuriating (if gorgeous) accountant Alain providing welcome distractions, Nathan is fast becoming a distant memory.

Fresh coffee and croissants for breakfast, feeding the hens in the warm evening light; Emmy starts to feel quite at home. But it would be madness to walk away from her friends, family, and everything she’s ever worked for, to take a chance on a place she fell for on holiday – wouldn’t it?

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About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.