Today we’ll explore element #3 of the eight essential elements to writing the romance novel: the barrier to the relationship.
The purpose of the barrier is to establish “the reasons that this heroine and hero cannot marry.” (Pamela Regis, A Natural History of the Romance Novel, p. 32). As Regis goes on to explain: “The romance novel’s conflict often consists entirely of this barrier between the heroine and hero” (Ibid.).
The barrier can be an external one or an internal one. In Pride and Prejudice, for example, Lizzy’s barrier to marrying Darcy is internal, until she recognizes her prejudice and her own pride and readjusts her perception to the truth.
An example of an external barrier would be the society in which the heroine and hero live. The society could frown upon a marriage between two different social classes, for instance.
Regis notes that “the barrier drives the romance novel.” Virtually anything can be used as the barrier between the heroine and the hero. Moreover, there can be more than one barrier.
The removal of the barrier signals the heroine’s freedom or release from that which prevented her from marrying the hero. As Regis points out, “This release is an important source of the happiness in the romance novel’s happy ending.” (Ibid., p. 33).
As you write your own romance novel, be sure to include this very important element. Without it, you may not have a story to tell. With it, you may have a very good one that will have your reader turning pages.
Next week, we’ll look at the next element of writing a romance novel: the Attraction.
Source cited: Regis, Pamela. A Natural History of the Romance Novel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.