Romance writing for men



This post could also be titled “Romance writing for beginners,” or even “Romance according to Disney”. But I’ve targeted you blokes (sorry if I’m being sexist) because I’m tutoring several men in the professional writing stream this year and some have asked me for advice on including a romance plot in their novels. It seems to me, in general, that men don’t read romance as much as women, so this is a fairly basic overview of the ingredients you need. Its applicable to anyone writing romance or including a romantic subplot in your work. Also, because I have a toddler and our house is an Elsa, Anna, Olaf shrine, I’ve used Frozen as an example (a good thing for those of you who have small children cos you can do your homework and look after them at the same time!) Frozen and Shrek the Third are both awesome examples of a romance subplot in action (warning: this post contains spoilers!)

For a romance, you need:

  1. A reason for the characters to be in each-other’s company
  2. Internal and external conflicts
  3. Chemistry between your characters
  • A reason to be together
  • Let’s look at number one – your characters could work in the same office or, say, on a military mission together. Anything that keeps them together for a good deal of the action of your story. In Frozen, Kristoff and Anna are in each other’s company because Anna needs help getting to the North Mountain to find her sister and Kristoff can help her. What reason do your characters have to remain in each other’s company?
  • External Conflict
  • Internal and external conflicts – yep, you need both. An external conflict preventing two characters from being together might be that they’re married to other people. In Frozen, the external conflict to Hans and Anna getting married is that Elsa won’t give their marriage her blessing. She then “goes all ice crazy” and freezes the kingdom. Anna has to find her to bring her back and unfreeze the kingdom. These are the forces outside of Anna and Hans that prevent them from being together. You’ll need at least one external force that keeps your characters apart for a good deal of the story. If Elsa had given Anna and Hans her blessing, they’d have gotten married and that would be the end of the story. We don’t want that!
  • Internal conflict
  • There can be a myriad of these and it’s best not to fall into cliché and say “they’re afraid of their feelings”. The internal conflict for Anna and Hans once they’re reunited is that Hans doesn’t really love Anna. (And Anna has fallen for another guy, anyway.) Hans has faked it because he wanted to marry into the royal family, and he’s actually a rotter who’d been planning Elsa’s death so he could rule the kingdom. Frozen then has the other romantic subplot— Kristoff and Anna, and this is the real romance of the story. They don’t like each other much as first, but Anna needs Kristoff to help her find her sister. Kristoff doesn’t want to help, but he has no money and Anna has bought him the supplies he needs. Then his sleigh is destroyed and if he doesn’t continue to help her, he won’t get his sleigh replaced. This covers both their “reason to be in each other’s company” and a relationship that goes from “don’t like you much” to “in love”. The internal conflict is the personality clash, and Kristoff’s loner outlook versus Anna’s extreme desire to be loved. The external conflict is that Anna is engaged to Hans and the whole kingdom is frozen.


  • Chemistry
  •  As Anna and Kristoff work together to find Elsa, they become closer and it’s apparent through their behaviour towards one another that they’re falling in love. This is the “chemistry” ingredient and is a “show don’t tell” thing. It can be the trickiest part to pull off and takes practice. Look at chemistry between your characters the same way you do all relationships — what makes this particular relationship work? In Frozen, it’s easy to see why everyone loves Anna. She’s cute, but not intimidating beautiful (like Elsa!), she’s a goof, she’s funny, she’s kind and strong. We like Anna. Kristoff, although a bit prickly to start with, is also likeable. He’s down to earth, has a quirky relationship with his reindeer, is the ‘voice of reason’, and does the right thing by Anna when Hans doesn’t. Their banter, their action scenes together, their support of one another all adds up to “chemistry”. As I said, it’s the trickiest bit, but if you focus on creating great characters, the chemistry will flow.
  • Resolution
  • Once all their obstacles are removed (found and saved Elsa, defrosted Anna’s frozen heart, and gotten rid of stinker Hans), Kristoff and Anna can be together. It’s no accident this romance is tied up in the last scene. Try watching Frozen with all this in mind you should be able to:
    • Identify the external and internal conflicts in the romance between Anna & Hans, and in the romance between Anna & Kristoff
    • See why Anna and Kristoff (and even Hans to start with) are such likeable characters. Think of how you can do this with your characters.

Another great one for this exercise is Shrek Forever After. It’s less “romancey” as it’s intended for both boys and girls, and the main plot involves Shrek being dissatisfied with his life and wishing for a simpler time before he was a married father of three (I can relate!) He gets his wish, but at a cost. He does a dodgy deal with Rumplestiltskin and alters reality. If he doesn’t get “love’s true kiss” before the end of the day, he’ll cease to exist. Problem is, in this reality Fiona, his wife, doesn’t know or love him. He has to make her fall in love with him all over again. A good one to watch to see how this is handled in a more “masculine” way.

Let me know if you have any questions and, as I said, this is a basic overview but hope it helps!

Happy writing. 🙂

Grant news- new anthology

If you write, you’ll know it’s not glamorous (many hours alone at a keyboard in isolation while your friends and family are having fun or, better yet, sleeping!) and it’s the little wins that keep you going. You need to be your own biggest cheerleader because, let’s face it, no-one cares more about your work than you do.

So, it’s great to celebrate the “little wins”. Those bits of validation that tell you you’re doing a good job, and to just keep going. This is one of those happy dance,” woot-woot”, moments, so apologies for being self-indulgent, but who else is going to indulge me? I mean, you can if you like…

My virtual writers group, Seasoned with Romance, has been awarded grant funding for our next anthology. We’ve put out two free anthologies of our short stories so far, and now one of Australia’s biggest and best writers’ organisations, Romance Writers of Australia, has recognised the quality of our work with a grant. The money will pay for those professionals who, to date, have donated their services, to get paid. That includes our extremely talented book cover designer, Daniella Caruso (, and payment for editing and promo services.

The new anthology, Winter Heat, will still be free for readers and I hope you’ll take this stamp of approval as a sign that it’s worth reading and get yourself a copy when it comes out in June.

Contributors to Summer Daze which is free to download here ( are all wonderful Australian writers and you can learn more about them through their websites:


I’ll keep you updated as the release of Winter Heat nears!

Women’s fiction anthologies

I have two stories in these anthologies that feature some of Australia’s best chick lit writers.

In Autumn Leaves, sometimes the end is just the beginning… What if leaving one life behind meant the best was yet to come?

Six of Australia’s leading chick lit authors present a moving and hilarious collection of autumnal stories that show the seasons may change, but true love is perennial.
Get your free copy here:
autumn leaves cover
And are you missing summer yet? Summer… when hot days, steamy nights, surf, sand and sizzle make that first flush of new love feel dreamlike.
Download free here:
Summer Daze cover

Body battles as a new mum and The Birth of Venus

A week and 3 days ago, I gave birth to my second child. My son’s birth-weight was slightly above average (7p 8oz or 3.42kg) and much heavier than my daughter who weighed in at a slight 6p 4oz or 2.9kg when she graced the world with her presence. The first time around, my preggie-belly snapped back to almost pre-pregnancy shape within 24 hours. Nursing staff and my OB were astounded and made jokes about me never having been pregnant at all. This time, it was a different story. Instead of shrinking back, I’ve been left with a pouch-like protrusion with the consistency of sponge-cake.

I feel ashamed admitting that my appearance was/is even a concern so close to giving birth to my son. After all, he’s healthy, gorgeous and I love him to bits despite the cracked, bleeding nipples, lack of pelvic floor control and constant sleep interruptions. But the sad reality is, I don’t like looking or feeling like a squishy, bloated version of my former self. I could hardly eat anything during third trimester due to my stomach residing somewhere up in my chest cavity, and it seems unfair that I look like I’ve been on a nine month binge now that my son has evacuated the premises.

While in this state of mind, I was idling googling to stay awake during a 4am breast feeding session, and came across this article: Botticelli Painted Modern Beauties – in 1400s The article discusses an upcoming exhibition of the 15th century artist’s work and proposes that “Botticelli in a way set the 20th-century ideal of beauty.”

The exhibition will showcase Pallas and the Centaur but not the quintessential Birth of Venus. Venus is considered by Mark Evans, senior curator as the “definitive, ideal woman”. With this in mind, I had to Google her so see what I’m supposed to look like as an “ideal woman”. This is Venus:



I was pleasantly surprised to find I’m not that far off. Like me, Venus has legs that don’t look like they’ve seen a Pump class in a while, and (gasp) no thigh gap! While she’s slim, she’s got padding and her tummy also looks a little pouchy. She’s round and soft and motherly, just like I am right now.

It got me thinking about the pressure we put on ourselves to fit an ideal image. It’s always been there, but today there’s the extra pressure of social media, celebrities who can afford all the hired help in the world to get back their pre-pregnancy bods, Instagram with its multitude of flattering filters – it goes on. We’re bombarded with unrealistic images and expectations of how our bodies should look, even after something as monumental as childbirth. Sad, and yet so easy to buy into.

For more discussion on the celebrity pressure factor, see

I guess, for me, it comes down to this: I’m a sensible woman, I know that if I eat well and get some exercise, eventually the weight will come off. Maybe I’ll never be quite what I was before I had children, but look at what I have got: two incredible, beautiful little miracles whom I wouldn’t trade for all the abs in Hollywood.

And besides, if anyone wants to tell me I’m unattractive, I’ll point them in the direction of Botticelli’s Venus.

*Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The “top (Australian) books that impacted you the most” challenge

There’s this thing that’s been happening on Facebook lately, the’ tag and annoy your mates’ type of challenge that usually dissipates overnight. But this one has hung around, and I’m glad. The “ten books that impacted you the most” challenge has given me insight into the reading habits of friends and acquaintances and spurred me to seek out some books I’d never heard of. I thought about participating, but then changed my mind. I mean, how many more times do the virtues of Salinger, Hemmingway and Fitzgerald need to be sung? Everyone already know they’re immortal word gods. So, instead, I decided to list some top AUSTRALIAN books that have impacted me (note I said “some” ‘cos my list is way over 10 and I had to cull in the first 2 minutes of jotting notes. There may be, like, 15 or so…).

I opted for the Australian book theme because I’m an Australian writer, I love what Aussies write, and we don’t often get much space in the world literary spotlight. So, in no particular order of importance (they’re all fab!) here’s mine – some of which you’ll probably have heard about, others maybe not.

  1. Space Demons by Gillian Rubinstein – this is a YA novel I read in year 9. It was the first time I saw my world (Australian and characters my age) reflected back at me in a book. I’ve included it because the English assignments I wrote for this novel convinced me that not only did I want to be a writer, but I could do it. It spurred me to write a short story that was published a year later in a national magazine. Gillian Rubinstein has gone on to great literary success as Lean Hearn.
  2. Kindling Does For Firewood by Richard King – this beautiful modern adaption of the Peter Pan story won the Vogel Literary Award in 1995. It was adapted as a play for the Fringe Festival sometime afterwards.
  3. The Vodka Dialogue (and all the Cassidy Blair series) by Kirsty Brooks – this hilarious chic-lit crime gives Janet Evanovich a run for her money. Not only Australian, but set in my home town of Adelaide, this series is a riot.
  4. Praise by Andrew Mcgahan – anyone remember the literary grunge of the 1990’s? This one epitomised that trend for me. Both brutal and beautiful.
  5. Orpheus Lost / Due Preparations for the Plague both by Janette Turner-Hospital – this woman’s writing is quite simply stunning. I couldn’t choose between these two novels, they’re both as astounding and accomplished as each other. I wept after reading Orpheus Lost because I will never poses her talents or abilities, and after borrowing a copy of Due Preparations for the Plague from the library, had to go and buy my own copy to live on my bookshelf.
  6. Nights in the Asylum by Carol Lefevre – this novel about characters seeking asylum for different reasons and from different, but equally as abhorrent, problems shone a sympathetic light on one of our biggest social issues – refugees arriving in Australia as boat people. This is not only an incredible book, it also made me look at the issue in an entirely new light. I had the pleasure of participating in a six week writer’s workshop run by Carol Lefevre, and her insights into the craft of writing are amazing.

7.    The Old School by PM Newton – I read this book earlier this year and immediately messaged the author on Facebook to tell her how much I loved it. It      is      gritty, literary crime that nails the police culture impeccably ( I worked for them, so have some insight) and the character of Eurasian “Ned” Kelly is genius.

  1. How it feels by Brendan Cowell – a kind of updated version of the 90’s grunge, this novel depicts the bonds of male friendship, and the very real love that mates share. Wonderful to have some insight into that relationship that women generally observe from a distance.
  2. The Rose Grower by Michelle DeKrester – better known for her later work, this early novel is set in the French revolution. I went through a period of fascination with the revolution and read quite a few novels about it. This one stuck with me for its literary style, beauty and the fact a contemporary Aussie could write as well as any French historian.
  3. Frantic by Katherine Howell – an internationally published crime writer, this is the first of Ms Howell’s books. She wrote her PHD on literary suspense, and this novel is an awesome example of an accelerating story that doesn’t take it’s foot off the pedal until the final scene.
  4. The Broken Shore by Peter Temple – I like well written crime fiction, something that lifts the genre from the pulp pile. This one did it, and his follow up ‘Truth‘ won the Miles Franklin proving crime fiction has a place on the world literary stage, not just the sensationalist stand.
  5. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta – this novel basically created a the genre of ‘new adult’. It’s not quite innocent enough to be classified as YA, instead featuring characters on the brink between child and adulthood. It’s a multi-generational, multi-cultural masterpiece, just like her other brilliant books including “Looking for Alibrandi“.
  6. All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield – this is a short, raw and gut wrenching YA novel that I could not put down. If you don’t own a teenager, borrow one so you can read this!
  7. Rohypnol by Andrew Hutchinson – my husband says the most interesting characters in a story are the baddies, and we never get to see things from their point of view. In this one, you do. Despite the evil actions of a group of teen date-rapers, this book is phenomenal.
  8. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas – last, but certainly not least, is Christos’s amazing, accomplished, eight chapter novel about a child who is slapped at a family BBQ by someone other than his parent. The social commentary this provoked was unheard of in terms of Aussie books – both about the issue itself, and the author’s use of profane language. Despite the wide-held claim that none of the characters in this book are particularly likeable, they’re all imminently relatable and this is commercial literary fiction at its best.

I’ve capped it at 15, but I could easily go on. And no, I’ve not mentioned Tim Winton or Tom Keneally. Like Fitzgerald and Hemmingway, everyone already knows they’re great! Go read one of these awesome, amazing, un-put-downable books.

Happy reading!