Might have mentioned this before but I’m not a woman, (despite the breasts) and the world of chick lit or romantic comedy seems to be the sole domain of women. But this is the modern world and if women can write strong male characters, I’m gonna write some girly stuff dammit!
So here we have my guide to the five top tips for writing chick-lit.
1. Have a Strong Female Lead
Now this doesn’t mean you have to have a kick-ass, gun toting, man destroying, world saving uber-babe. What it does mean is you have to have a well rounded, realistic protagonist. She might have flaws – spots or wiry hair – she might not be the sharpest tool in the box and she might make all the wrong choices but at the end of the day, or book, your female lead has to be someone your readers can relate to.
In Poppy’s Proposal (click here to read an excerpt) I made sure Poppy had the fault of putting herself down a lot, even though she was plenty capable enough.
2. Know What Your Readers Want
This might seem like an obvious thing to point out but you need to have a reasonable idea of what your readers expect from your writing. There’s no point in writing something that is contrary to all expectations. Run a Google search for romantic comedy or chick-lit books and you’ll see most of the covers are similar in style and design, clip-art images with pastel colours and quirky fonts. It’s the same for most genres of fiction, the cover art gives people a good idea of what the reader can expect when they flip open your book.
And you need to deliver.
No point in giving a quirky, pastel-toned cover if your heroine is a machine-gun toting man hater that eats live rats. So grab a few books by bestselling authors of chick-lit and read them, get a handle on their style and humour then adapt your writing to match.
3. Be Funny
But I don’t know how…
Then you need to figure it out if you want to write chick-lit because it’s supposed to be funny. Luckily you’ve got all the time in the world to hone your character’s acid tongued wit. I’ll let you into a little secret – fiction’s not real. Wow! I know right? But what that means for you is that you can spend as much time plotting and re-writing and researching as you need to. As long as the comedy looks spontaneous on the page it doesn’t matter if it took you six months to write.
It’s the same with writing characters that are more intelligent than you, I’m hardly a genius by any stretch of the imagination but I expect, given enough time and research I could create a character with a massive IQ. (Sherlock Holmes anybody?) As long as it works on the page, no-one’s going to complain you had to complete a doctorate in psychology to write a sub-plot.
People are all different and have different ideas of what’s funny so how do you make everyone laugh? You don’t. Simply put, if you can make yourself laugh you’ll have a good start. My wife (yes, I’m a man, get over it already) thinks I’m nuts when I sit and laugh at what I’ve written but I think you should have some kind of emotional response to your writing.
4. The Best Friend
In Poppy’s Proposal Poppy lives with her best friend Rhea. While she and Rhea don’t always get on, they are strong enough to get through the trials and tribulations I put them through. Although Poppy’s the main character and the book’s about her, I’ve added some things about Rhea and her life that make her interesting to readers.
Rhea is an extension of Poppy’s conscience in essence, even though she’s a separate character. I suggest you make your ‘best friend’ character (it could be a parent) an almost exact opposite of your main character. If your protagonist is a brash, outspoken drunk then your ‘best friend’ should be a much more moderate, conservative voice of reason and vice-versa.
5. Set The Scene
Whether your take takes place in London, New York or Little Wetbag you need to make sure it’s consistently presented. If you know the area and it’s hangouts well you can base a story in a real location. Doing so can lend an air of realism to your story and draw your readers in. If you don’t know the area well, you’ll either have to research it – I spend ages on Google Street View looking for settings – or create an imaginary town/city for your characters to live in.
Street View is great to get a snapshot of a place at the time the car was there taking photos but it can’t tell you what it smells like, what it’s like in other seasons or what it sounds like. I’ve ghostwritten stories in New York, Las Vegas, Texas and Louisiana to mention a few but I’ve never been to any of them outside of my computer.
Creating a place might seem like a lot of work but you can pinch bits of the real world and use them in your town. Poppy’s Proposal is based in the Cornish town of Old Hampton which is loosely based on Nequay (somewhere else I’ve never been) but the roads and buildings Poppy travels down and works in don’t exist outside of my warped mind.
You know my top tips for writing chick-lit, go and complete your masterpiece with my blessing.
Don’t forget to send this to someone you think will like it and drop me a message if you’ve got something to say.
For more about Poppy, Rhea and Old Hampton, click here to read the first couple of chapters free.