Romance is a tricky genre that has become polluted with a shallow focus on the relationship and not the people nor the bond. What I mean by this is that the idea of romance has become a forced performance within a story, where values are simply aesthetic. The love is just a show of raw lust, forbidden attractions, gorgeous faces, and outside problems. Where is the actual love? The personal problems and tribulations? There is just face-value emotions covering a void.
Now, do not get me wrong. I love guilty-pleasures and unrealistic romances like the next stereotyped girl. Give me a dark haired, sharp eye, possessive bad boy who has a heart and I am entertained. I do not, however, enjoy the fact we as readers are drowning in pretty much the same romantic formula in most every (tween+) book that's out there. Romance has been shadowed by one style and now people can assume romance as equalling older woman porn or shallow tween vampire fantasy.
There is so much more depth and interest and opportunities romance can cover than given credit for.
But with the fog of the romantic formula hiding potential, what on earth can writers who are interested in the genre do? I have compiled what I think are ten possible ideas to do when creating romance and how they will help make the genre more enjoyable for the writer and reader.
1) Start with what you like and what you're attracted to. If you're writing about your dream girl/boy it's easier for you as the writer to have emotion in the story, which reaches the audience better. If you have a thing for blonds with glasses, you write it. Don't let what is supposedly "popular" dictate how you write your story and create your characters. If there is a guilty-pleasure concept you are drawn to, work with it in your story. Make sure you feel something as you write about these emotions.
2) Bringing up the concept of guilty-pleasures, don't be afraid of them! Just because you get a joy from something that is unrealistic doesn't mean that it is shallow, worthless, or brings a bad name to females, males, or relationship in general. Many love them and understand they're for fun and a sense of escape, and they really can be good books if written well. If you are inspired to write one or discover the project you're writing is becoming one, don't believe your story has become shallow or lacking in "novel nobility". Just work with it and see what you can do with the emotions and the plot.
3) Keep open to realistic character flaws. Don't create flaws that are still, somehow, really attractive. Everyone does something that can bother others to some degree. No one is perfect and everyone can be gross. As nasty and dampening to a figure it might be, when you're writing you should always remind yourself that "everyone goes to the bathroom" and reel yourself back into reality. Your characters don't need to have something super negative or gross, but it should be something more than an attractive sense of stubbornness. Don't let the need to create a dream-character make someone so unrealistic and untouchable it hurts the story.
4) Humor is allowed in romance! You're more than willing to laugh and grin during a relationship. It's not all about the cuddles or drama. The characters can be goofy or be in a funny scenario. They're allowed to laugh just like the audience is allowed to too. There is so much exhausting drama, tragedy, strain, and sadness in so many romance books it feels like the idea of humor would no longer make it romance. This is not the case. Romance can very well be happy, exciting, funny, and something to create a smile.
5) Open up other possibilities of connections and attractions besides a person's physical appearance. Characters are allowed to be hot, but do more than making them a pretty face and a romance based on looks. Have an action, a talent, a random fact, or even their personality be something as an attractive focal point. There is nothing wrong with creating a good looking character. But don't make it all that the character has besides the ability to fight in some sort of supernatural war. Give them more credit than that.
6) Always have work in the relationship. It doesn't have to be the typical romance drama, but the couple (like every couple) has to work for their relationship. However, this doesn't mean you have to follow the exact same type of drama that has been stereotyped in romance books.Every romance doesn't need the triangle, the paranormal, the war, etc. There can be other forms of drama introduced to the couple. An unexpected pregnancy, losing a treasured possession, intense fear of people, etc. There are other ideas out there.
7) Relationship growth is like character growth, it needs to happen. It needs to be rough, awkward, tense, painful, real, and enjoyable. If a character doesn't develop, the book can be boring. If a relationship remains pretty much the same (love to love to love to love = love). Allow for breakups, make ups, new people, and history. Give the romance a little bit of realism to it.
8) Allow tension to grow from within the relationship. So often, books focus on drama coming from outside the couple. Going back to number 3, bring in character flaws that might damage a relationship. Don't make it that they would have en easy time if certain forces were removed (like a demonic war, family loathing each other, etc.).
9) Romance can start as something more than enemies. People can start a romantic relationship through friendship, as acquaintances, with romance as a goal (like a blind date), or barely even talking to each other. Think of different ways people could meet, even something mundane could be written interestingly.
10) A big thing to be said about romance is never be afraid to try something new. Be willing to experiment with different ideas and concepts and plot twists. Just because one type is popular at the moment does not mean you have to follow what previous authors did to succeed. Do other things and start your own trend. When you follow the mold that is how the genre gets stuck in a boring loop.
Just keep writing fellow romance fanatics. And just keep trying out new ideas with everything you do!