AF Henley – On Writing Romance

It will be no surprise to anyone that I start this journal off with the following disclaimer – I am a romantic. Yet in the past several days I’ve found myself teetering on the edge of anxiety as to what that says about a person. What does romance mean? What is the basis of romanticism and how does it affect my writing and my characters? Is romantic synonymous with weak? Foolish?

I start my musing research, as I always do, with Google.

Merriam-Webster classifies romance as a variety of concepts that ranges from a type of literature, to something that lacks basis in fact, an emotional attraction, to a love affair. It’s a language, an instrumental, a literary form, and an action – inclusive of noun, verb and adjective.

That’s a huge scope of categorization and pondering that span I think I understand why. Every one of us, every single person, sees romance differently from the next. (And wouldn’t the world be mundane if we didn’t?) What is believable for one will be laughable for the next. What is idealistic over here could be viewed as repulsive over there.

It’s that diversity that suggests to me the need for a broad character approach. Not every romantic narrative is accomplished through the depiction of wide-eyed, soul-gazing, insta-love or with charming, perfect characters. Realistic portrayals of confusion, bad choices, and questionable judgement lead to two very powerful aspects of fiction:  credibility and relevance.

While every writer seeks to write an adored character, not every character needs to be adorable. Enter the imperfect protagonist—the conceited or the arrogant, the spoiled and the petulant, with the sarcasm that’s a touch too sharp and the brooding that’s a bit too dark—for these are traits that offer far more character development and realisation than the standard model. It’s a rugged journey that begins with regret – but it is a rewarding one to write. For regret leads to guilt, guilt points towards a need for pardon, and pardon is the first trembling step towards recuperation.

Flawed is real; we’re all flawed. We are not, however, all weak. This is the difference, be it in life or fiction, that defines how successful one will be in overcoming said faults.

In writing, triumphing against trauma is conceptual. The use of retaliation is an easy and familiar one. Human beings respond no differently than animals when presented with trouble. There is a natural instinct; the “flight or fight” shove. If that difficulty is further complicated by the removal of choice (i.e. flight option is not available), then the feral reaction of aggression tends to rush forefront, lifting both fists or, for the sake of fictional reference, the brandishing of one’s sword. “I’d kill him,” is not an uncommon sentiment to suffering, be it physically, mentally or emotionally.

So the act of stepping past that outlook is a writing tactic that can prove taxing, even unsettling. Vengeance, however, is a primitive instinct that fans the flames of war, results in rash and irreversible decisions, and turns good people into beasts. Therein lies the difference between humanity and creature – conscience. We have the ability to act better, do better, to be better. So why stop at giving your character mere reprisal when you can shove that angst-ridden bugger into purgatory, force his or her heart to concede and offer up a broken soul some forgiveness?

That’s romance for me. The completion of a union that’s not just physical but heartfelt. The “not only did you fulfill my need but you made me a better person” moment. That kind of love is what transforms a simple character into a hero. And that is a concept that is neither weak nor foolish.

Peace, love and honour,

AF Henley <3


Honour CoverHonour

by A.F. Henley

M/M Historical Romance

Recently docked after a voyage abroad, Emmett wants only to find a warm bed and good food, for himself and the cabin boy he’s taken into his care. Those plans are impeded, however, by an altercation in the streets—with a man he realizes too late is England’s heir to the throne, Prince Andrewe.

When the encounter unexpectedly leads to a position in the royal household attending the prince, Emmett is not certain what to think. On one hand, it’s a reliable income and ensures the safety of his charge. On the other, it’s neither the life Emmett knows, nor an environment that he’s comfortable in. Left to learn his lessons the hard way, Emmett spends his days contending with a spoiled, infuriating prince who leaves him in a constant tangle of emotions.

Then he begins to hear whispers of treason and must make a choice: defend Prince Andrewe, or betray him.

Word count: 45,500

Purchase your copy at Less Than Three Press, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble

Excerpt, bio, and cover artist information available here


  1. Thank you for hosting me, Charlie. It was a pleasure and an honour to visit with you. 😀

    • Thank you for being a guest! And I completely agree about the imperfect characters. I would rather have a character that makes me feel something, whether it be frustration or annoyance than nothing at all. I love characters who have real flaws. Great post!

  2. I absolutely loved Honour, Inflori as well. Thanks for your beautiful and flawed characters and for sharing their stories. 🙂


  3. Beautiful post… it really rings true. Romance is a lot more complex when you think of it this way!!! And I do really enjoy reading your diverse varieties of fascinating and flawed and beautiful characters finding their own happy endings…

  4. That is why romance in your novels and stories always is so perfect. You create your characters with all their good and bad traits, all their imperfections and you don’t step out of those boundaries. That keeps romance so well balanced in your writing and never let it appear cheesy or ridiculous. That is what makes it so believable and enjoyable to read. 🙂

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