1. Everything the heroine wants is falling into her lap.
The key to a successful plot is to show your readers that the heroine wants something desperately—but then keep moving the object of desire further from her reach. Every victory should be countered by a new complication. So overall, things get worse and worse for the heroine. By the time the climax arrives, the situation looks hopeless. Nathan Bransford describes this very well:
- The premise is what happens to knock the door ajar.
- The climax is when the door closes.
- The plot is what keeps the door open.
At any point before the climax, if the reader feels confident that things will work out okay for the heroine, then you as the author aren’t keeping the door open. Make the readers worry. Show them all the things that could go wrong. Even though romance readers expect a Happily Ever After, they should spend the entire novel wondering how this couple will ever manage to stay together.
2. The author keeps reminding me how beautiful the heroine is.
It’s sweet when the hero thinks the heroine is the most beautiful girl in the world. But I don’t want to hear how the heroine has
- a tiny waist
- ample breasts
- long legs that look great in heels
- silky auburn hair
- sparkling green eyes
- pearly teeth
- creamy skin that smells like apricots all day long
Why would I believe that this character would struggle to find and keep a man? The main characters in a novel must be flawed, outwardly as well as inwardly, if you want readers to relate to them. That doesn’t mean your heroine can’t be pretty or your hero dashing. But give your hero a scar over his eyebrow that serves as a reminder of a childhood trauma. Show your heroine wanting to loose five pounds but treating herself to a slice of birthday cake anyway. Make them real.
3. The attraction between the characters feels superficial
Sexual attraction is a weird, mysterious thing. Too often in erotic romance, it seems to be based simply on physical appearance and proximity. Real life isn’t like that. What’s the connection between the characters? What emotional need does each have that the other fulfills? (If you’re writing a BDSM story, the Dominance/submission dynamic is a given. You have to go deeper. What attracts this Dom to this sub, and vice versa?)
As a reader, I need to know that the heroine’s life will be diminished in some way if the relationship with the hero doesn’t work out. It’s not enough that she won’t have his hot body to keep her bed warm. There are plenty of other hot bodies out there. Show me how the h/h fit together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. How they’ll never fit quite as well with anyone else. That will keep me rooting for them right up until the last page.