Some folks always know what they want to write–they’re drawn to a genre, or even to one specific book. It just happens. A few of the very lucky ones even sell that book–or sell right off into that genre. For me, it’s always been a struggle to stick to one of anything.
I read across a lot of genres–westerns, mysteries, romances, SF, fantasy, and even a few mainstream books make it onto the reading list. And lots of non-fiction. So advice such as “write what you read” or “write what you love” didn’t help narrow the field. Eventually, I did an inventory of my bookshelf and went with what held the largest space of the “keepers”. That turned out being romances. I’m not sorry for the choice, because the great thing about a romance is that it can have other stuff, too.
There are romances with mystery elements, romances with ghosts and vampires and other paranormal elements, romances set in the west, and romances set on space ships (I adore CJ Barry). Romance has its own sub-genres, but it gives you a lot of room to explore other interests. But, at the core of any romance, there has to be a relationship. And I’ve seen folks struggle with this.
The thing is, if you get too caught up in the external action–the plot if you will–the characters can suffer. And that means the romance gets neglected. The romance has to be at the core of the main plot–that means the problems between two people have to matter more than anything else. Everything else has to fit into sub-plots, or into settings. Ideally, your main characters would have relationship troubles if you locked them into an empty room–it should be problems between them (their personalities and approaches to the world) that cause the plot complications, not just external issues.
And I think that’s what keeps me coming back to romance–you see, what I really like are character stories.
That’s why I read so widely–I’m reading for the characters, for the stories about people, and the situations surrounding those people are secondary to me. This is why some mysteries leave me cold–puzzle books that rely more on a crafty, complicated plot are okay, but won’t really hold me for long. And I’ll take a flawed plot over wooden characters any day.
Which is probably what led me to writing what I do love–character stories. That’s what I read. So of course that’s what I’ll write. It just took me a long time to figure it out. But it is something I can stick to.