Monday, December 19, 2016

Romance Author Kelli A. Wilkins Shares 5 Fun Writing Tips!

Romance Author Kelli A. Wilkins Shares 5 Fun Writing Tips!

In my last guest blog, I shared six simple writing tips all authors can use. In this blog, I’m back with five fun writing tips that will help you bring your romances to life.

Writers will find them useful and readers will get an inside look at a few “secrets” that go in to plotting interesting romances and creating unique characters. These writing tips are based on advice I received in my writing classes and discoveries I made as I wrote. I included brief examples to illustrate a few points.

Let’s get started…

1. Lights, Camera, Action!: Always start your story with an interesting hook to capture the reader’s attention. Begin either 5 minutes before, during, or 5 minutes after “the big moment” that gives the character a problem and draws the reader into the character’s world. Keep the action going in the first few paragraphs. Don’t waste the first page describing the weather or how a character got dressed in the morning. Jump into the story and take your readers with you.

For example, in my historical/western, Lies, Love and Redemption, I started the story about 5 minutes before shot-and-left-for-dead Sam wanders into Cassie’s store and collapses into her arms. The reader is instantly pulled into Cassie’s situation and intrigued about Sam. Where did he come from? Who shot him? Why?

My historical/fantasy romance novel A Most Unfortunate Prince begins just after Prince Allan learns he’s been banished from the kingdom and must live as a pauper. It sets the stage for what’s to come and gives Allan a big problem from the outset of the book.

2. What’s Your Sign?: One of the keys to writing a good story is creating a believable cast of characters. As the author, it’s your job to know your characters better than anyone. (After all, they’re your inventions.) Before you write your story, spend some time with your characters and learn everything you can about them so they come off well-rounded and “real” to readers. Some of the details you should know are:

·        Hair and eye color, general build/body shape (We need to get a good mental image of everyone.)
·        Left- or right-handed (A great detail to know if there’s a gun involved in the story!)
·        Birthday and astrological sign. (You can develop character traits based on the sign. An astrology reference book is an excellent tool for this.)
·        Distinguishing marks (Any scars, missing limbs, tattoos? What are the stories behind each?)
·        Family life (Have brothers and sisters? Adopted? Parents together or divorced? Raised by uncle, etc.) Have children? Wants children? Never even considered it?
·        How much of a dark side does he/she have and how does it show?
·        Recreation (Likes sports on TV, hates all sports, plays hockey, hikes, surfs)
·        Fears and phobias (water, dolls, monkeys, wasps, falling, fire – and why!)
·        Wears glasses/contacts/braces or has any medical conditions?
·        Where and how did they live/grow up? Poor, middle class, member of royal family?
·        What secrets do your characters have? What would happen if people found out about them?
·        Dreams, aspirations, goals, and regrets. Are they happy with their lives or do they wish they had done things differently?
·        Sexual history (straight, gay, experiments, virgin, non-virgin with regrets, loose, never been in love, had heart broken, etc.) Knowing this is VERY important for romances!
The more you know about the characters in your story, the more you can make the reader (and other characters) identify with them through details. You can also build on these details and use them to move the plot along, add conflict, build dramatic tension, or liven up a love scene.

You don’t have to use everything in the story, but knowing that your character has to overcome her fear of water to save a child trapped during a flood will bring her to life.

3. Do Your Homework: I once tossed a book across the room because the author had tulips blooming in October. (Nope, sorry. Didn’t work for me. On my planet, they bloom in spring.) Maybe it’s a small detail that a non-gardener wouldn’t notice (or care about) but a little research could have fixed that problem.

Whatever you’re writing, it pays to do your homework and research a topic. This is especially true if you’re writing historical fiction, and it’s essential if you’re writing non-fiction. Research provides interesting details the reader might need to know for a part of the story, but in the very least, it lends itself to the believability of the setting, characters, and plot.

If you write historical fiction, learn about the time period where you’ve set your story. What did people eat, where did they work, and what did money look like? How did they live? What did they have around the house? (Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, butter churns, cast iron skillets?)

What was invented then? If you’re writing about a character living on the Nebraska prairie in 1877, you have to know everything about the time period and “live” through the character to show the reader what that person’s life was like. For example, don’t surround your Revolutionary War-era fort with barbed wire—it wasn’t invented until the late 1800s.

Sometimes you have to do research for contemporary stories. If you live in the Northeast and set your story in the springtime in Arizona, you should find out what the weather is like during that time of year, what flowers are blooming, etc. (It’ll be different from where you are.) Ditto if you’ve set a story in another country—find out all you can about the food, culture, housing, what time the sun sets, what kind of trees, flowers, they have, etc.

When I wrote my historical romance, Dangerous Indenture, I researched what life was like in Colonial times. I needed to know what chores my indentured servant heroine would perform each day, how servants were treated, and why anyone would sign up for indenture. These details deepened Shauna’s character and added to the overall story.

4. Gotta Have a Goal: No matter how grand or simple, everyone has a goal. When you’re writing a story, you have to know what your characters want most—at least for right now. Different characters should have different goals, and along the course of your story, goals will change and characters will develop secondary goals.

Goals vary depending on the type of story you’re writing, but they generally fall into two categories: emotional, or internal goals, and physical, or external goals. An internal goal is something the character needs or wants. (This can be meeting a soul mate and falling in love or healing grief after the loss of a loved one.)

An external goal is something the main character physically must do, such as climb down into a cave to rescue his beloved. Sometimes goals start out simple (like getting to a wedding on time), and your job as a writer is to make it hard for your character to achieve his/her goal by throwing in conflicts and obstacles that force your heroine or hero to work harder.

Vinnie Valentine’s goal in my wrestling romance, A Deceptive Match, was pretty simple: hide his knee injury from everyone and make it through the most grueling wrestling match of his career. He had a lot at stake both personally and professionally, and needed to stay focused despite all the distractions around him. When he learns that Danni (the heroine) is involved in his match, his secondary goal of protecting her adds to his burden. Remember, the worse you make things for your characters, the more they have to grow and that adds drama and tension to your story.

But writers don’t just give their characters goals; they also have to motivate them to reach those goals. Ask yourself “what’s at stake?” for the character. What if he/she doesn’t reach the goal, then what happens? If the answer is “nothing, he just moves on” then you need to up the stakes and get your character motivated. It will increase the action and keep the plot moving.

In the opening scene of my paranormal-historical romance, The Viking’s Witch, the heroine, Odaria, is about to be burned at the stake. Her goal (obviously) is to avoid that by any means necessary. Once she does, she realizes that the village has been overtaken by violent Norsemen. Now she has a new goal—to avoid being captured. Over the course of the book the stakes get higher for all the characters. This builds tension and keeps the reader hooked.

5. Sex is personalfor your characters!: Readers always ask me love scene-related questions. Some people want to know how to keep the sex fresh from story to story, wonder how much graphic detail is the “right” amount, and others want to know how hard it is to write a love scene.

My romances run the gamut from mild to scorching hot. I let the characters in each story determine the sexual content, graphic details, and overall heat level. Every story is different, and so are the sexual lives of the characters. Some characters are wild and experienced and like to spice things up, while others may be hesitant about taking a lover for the first time. Writing for the different characters and their individual situations helps keep things interesting and fresh.

When I write love scenes, I stand back and let the characters do what comes natural. I generally know how far the scene will go ahead of time, but I let the characters take over and enjoy themselves. (After all, it’s their story, they deserve to have fun!)

As for “how much to show” within a book or a scene, I think it depends on the book and the characters. Sometimes it’s nice to give the characters some privacy and imply what goes on; and yet, other times, readers want to see the passionate side of the relationship. I blend a little of each into my books.

I hope you enjoyed these writing tips and find them useful. If you’re interested in learning about the writing process and getting more tips and writing advice, check out my non-fiction writing guide, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction. The book is designed for writers who need a boost of motivation and simple instructions on how to get started. It’s packed with writing tips, advice, and fun exercises.

If you’re ready to write, order your copy here:

I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media.
Happy Reading & Writing!
Kelli A. Wilkins

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.
In 2016 Kelli began re-releasing her romances previously published by Amber Quill Press. Visit her website and blog for a full title list, book summaries, and other information. Kelli’s third Medallion Press historical romance, Lies, Love & Redemption, was released in September 2016.

Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative non-fiction guide based on her 17 years of experience as a writer. It’s filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.

If you like to be scared, check out Kelli’s horror ebooks: Dead Til Dawn and Kropsy’s Curse.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: and Twitter: She also writes a weekly blog:
Visit her website, to learn more about all of her writings, read book excerpts, reviews, and more. Readers can sign up for her newsletter here:


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