Writing dark romance does not mean there is something wrong with you. As an author of dark fiction, you put yourself into the characters for a bit, but in this genre alone, you tell a story. You convey why the characters are doing what they’re doing and what is happening. So that does not make you a wrong person.
Darker romance allows for more discussion about spirituality, love, and morals. You can express whatever views or statements or beliefs you want about the world around you regarding spirituality and morals. You can have somebody who is maybe doing something morally wrong, and you can have that character maybe at their heart they realize that it’s wrong. Or you have other characters that are pointing out that it’s wrong.
All of that goes with character development. Either way, you can explore different aspects of spirituality and morality that you want to address to your readers that you may not be able to do in other genres.
How to write dark romance?
Dark romance contains horrific elements. It usually means fear, dread, evil, love, and death. Also, it often exposes some of the more harmful or ominous aspects of humanity. Lots of genres and subgenres qualify as dark fictional romance. Typically, horror novels are considered the darkest of dark fiction, but some paranormal novels can be considered dark fiction.
Dark romance is particularly popular among writers because content qualifying as dark is enticing to write stories that require conflict and what’s more high stakes than evil or death. I want to share my top 10 tips to write dark romance perfectly as a writer. Let’s go!
1. Set a purpose
Make sure that everything that you write, even the descriptive details of what you’re conveying in this darker fiction, that it has a purpose. There is a meaning to the story, and you’re not doing it to make people’s jaws drop. So what that means is to take the opportunity that you have when you’re writing a novel and make it that you are focusing more on the internalization of characters.
You want your readers to be reading the story, and the whole time you’re questioning, why are they doing this? What is the motivation behind it? That is going to make the reader want to read more. If you instead focus on describing gross things for some people, you focus on that and try to again go with that shock value. You’re going to find that people will get bored, they’re going to get grossed out, and they’ll stop reading.
- So, focus on what is going on in your mind.
- Try to grab the reader on a psychological level versus being that shock value.
- Keep some mystery.
There has to be the underlying mystery that’s happening in your story. So you’re going to withhold some information from your readers, but not enough that they’re going to be confused about it. You need to have your story moving along in the right direction. But you want again to make that reader question the motivation and what is going on behind the scenes.
2. Add some light
The entire book cannot be all about dark things, or you’re going to find that there’s no purpose to the book other than it being an out spilling of dark romance things. You need to have some lightness, a little bit of humor, or periods in the story where there is at least some point going to make the reader want to smile.
So it could be your main character or a side character. But either way, you want to include periods where it’s not going to be all dark because you’re not going to understand and appreciate the dark without an aspect of light.
3. Think like a reader
Make sure that you are reading authors of dark fiction this way. As a writer reading the book, you can see what elements are considered dark love and how the author conveys what is going on.
- Take notes. They describe something very well or use this point of view very well.
- Try to frame your mind again about how they’re doing this craft?
4. Add fearing elements
Dark romance is a broad concept. It covers many genres within speculative fiction, and it can be linked to subgenres within fantasy and sci-fi. You’ve also got horror thrillers and paranormal fiction. But you don’t need a ton of death and destruction. The dark qualifier relies heavily on tone. Is there a sinister feeling to your story?
Think of the literal idea of darkness. It’s easy to be frightened in the middle of the night because you can’t see what’s around you. You have no idea what’s lurking in the shadows. It’s the fear of the unknown, the dread of what could potentially be hiding. Yes, you can murder a crap ton of characters in your dark romance, but remember that tone is the qualifier, and you can achieve that tone in various ways.
5. Establish a plot
Darkness isn’t entertaining! It’s gimmicky that it is common for newbies to boast of how dark their fiction is. They kill characters left and right. Death is commonplace in fiction. Killing off many characters isn’t going to make your writing impactful. It might do the opposite if you’re murdering your cast. There needs to be a plot to it.
Every death and scare needs to affect your plot in some way. Death and scare tactics can establish the villain, the conflict, or the threat. They can motivate, discourage or break the main character. Moreover, they can hinder, obscure, or completely change the plot’s direction. Pay attention to the plot and darker elements that serve in the story. If they don’t get a purpose, delete them.
6. Focus on the horrific nature
There is a place for blood in dark fiction. Hallow dark fiction is about death. But the bloodshed and violence should never overshadow the emotional impact. The point of dangerous elements like torture, fighting, and suffering evoke emotion in the characters and thus in the readers. Your character may be scared for their life, and your reader is anxious to figure out whether or not they’re going to survive.
It is where your focus needs to be on the emotion you’re evoking through the scene. For example, you’ve killed a character horrifically. If the character is a stranger to the emcee, you can potentially focus on the horrific nature of their death, blood, and entrails. How does this loss feel for them? They should be experiencing despair. Remember what emotion you’re going for and lean into it on a similar note.
7. Find the right balance
Finding the right balance relies on three key points.
First is quantity. If you’ve got maggot-covered corpses on every other page, it loses its effect too much. Gore numbs the reader. They become conditioned to expect it and utilize gore sparingly and only in moments when it can pack a punch.
The second is believability. The gore needs to make sense of the world you’ve created. If a masked murderer is pulling out every type of weapon imaginable from their backpack, readers will roll their eyes. So make sure the gore fits the story and capabilities of your character.
The third is emotion. Be honest about whether or not gore will enhance the scene’s emotional impact. It’s not about what you want to write. It’s about how your point of view character should be feeling in that scene. If gore enhances the main character’s emotional point of view, have at it.
8. Live a little
If the moment requires some twisted writing, don’t hold back. A lot of writers say they’re nervous about writing a scene. It’s necessary, but they’re afraid it’ll be too much. If someone picked up a horror novel, they knew what they were getting themselves into.
Sometimes a torture scene is required. Sometimes you have to describe a slow agony of a dull blade sawing through flesh. It’s like choosing to write erotica but then holding off on the sex.
9. Understand the psychology
One of the biggest elements of a dark romance is exploring the more ominous elements of the human experience. It is where understanding the human mind comes into play. Pay close attention to the human experience, to nature versus nurture.
- Be realistic about how your characters would react to the specific situations you have created.
Say you’ve created a morally gray character with a troubled past who does what they need to survive. In that case, when faced with a life or death situation, they’re probably going to resort to sinister tactics to stay alive. But if you’ve created another character with a higher moral code, they won’t resort to sinister tactics.
- Dive deep into your character’s minds.
You are probably going to be putting them in bad situations. So you need to have a good idea of how they would respond and react to them.
10. Diversify your character
Dark fiction is where the morally grey comes out to play a morally great character. More or less is a character who behaves in good and bad ways and has good and bad motivations. They thrive in dark fiction. Think about it. If you’re trying to create a sinister tone, it will not land if all of your characters are do-gooders with the most wholesome intentions.
Likewise, if your characters are evil for its sake, that doesn’t have the most depth or believability. That’s not to say that none of your characters can be inherently good or evil. But putting them in situations that test their morality or wickedness makes for a compelling read.
- Don’t be afraid to let the good guy be a little bad so long as you stay true to the character and the situations presented.
Moral ambiguity will keep the readers on their toes.
Dark romance has elements of darkness alongside aspects of magic. It allows you to play with more than the evil and unknown. You can’t rely on fear alone throughout the entire book.
- Think of your story as a roller coaster with highs and lows, points of tension, and fun or calm, fast-paced scenes interspersed with slow-paced scenes.
That helps keep readers on their toes and makes the shocking scenes more unexpected.
- Tap into your fears.
I don’t encourage you to use your book to self-diagnose. If you want to evoke fear, what frightens you? What would be a horrible, worst-case scenario, in your opinion? It is a great way to establish darker elements because you know that someone is scared of them.
- If you’re struggling to evoke emotion, tapping into your fears can be a great source of inspiration.
You should be writing your passion project. There’s a difference between writing what you love and being completely self-indulgent. A hobby is all about self-indulgence. Be honest with yourself.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of writing dark romance, and you have a better understanding of how you can apply it to your writing. If there are any questions regarding this article, leave them in the comment section below. Also, if there’s a topic that you would like to see featured in one of my blogs, let me know about it.
Do you have a book, TV show, or movie that treads on darker themes that you think are underrated? Please leave it in the comment section below because I’m always open to suggestions. Have a wonderful day.
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