Writing Tip: Glossaries for Romance Writers by MC Hana

Glossaries for Romance Writers
by MC Hana

Those of us who write erotic romance with hefty helpings of fantasy and science fiction know we’re often being pulled in two directions.

Our romance readers may want a strong, concise, easy-to-follow story. Our crossover science fiction and fantasy readers may want a little extra depth in the settings and backstory. Often, formatting pressures keep both ebooks and print books to certain lengths, so expansion there may be impractical.

We can borrow from a fixture of epic fantasy from J.R.R. Tolkien onward, throw in some digital convenience, and use online glossaries/appendices linked to our own blogs and online pages. All we’re out is the effort and hosting cost, and we get an amazing promo & interface tool.

My example:

Silly me, I thought I was starting to write a fairly simple erotic romance space opera romp back in 2011: Moro’s Price, my debut novel from Loose Id. To save on new world-building, I used some background character notes and a setting from one of the future time periods of a much larger science fantasy setting.


Moro’s story instantly became linked to a huge setting and history. I don’t regret it, since my pattern-matching little brain came up with so many logical reasons for Moro to be part of that larger story arc.

However, many of my readers expressed confusion over the number of names, titles, tribes, and concepts mentioned. To help make up for that, I wrote a barely alphabetized, hastily edited, awkwardly illustrated, and probably faulty glossary/appendix for readers who actually cared about such things. The ebook version of Moro’s Price, already huge, didn’t get bigger. And I got to leak bits of information from my story bibles.

You can see it at this link to my Blue Night blog: http://www.cranehanabooks.com/blog/my-worlds/moroverse-glossary/

The big picture:

Step 1. Identify your main and side characters, places, things, and concepts. I did this by scanning through the published version of Moro’s Price and taking notes in a Word file. That became my list.

Step 2. Who are these people? I put each name into boldface text, and gave each named entry an expanded article, with simple pronunciation guides and background. Some were short sentences, some were several paragraphs. I tried not to reveal spoilers for future stories, but I did weave in some hints for fun. To protect your publisher’s investment in metadata, don’t use their blurbs, jacket copy, or word-for-word descriptions from your cover-art info sheets. You wrote this, so you should be able to spin it.

Step 3. Put it in order. If you use advanced features in Word or other writing programs, you can automatically alphabetize your list of names. I did it by hand, since it wasn’t that long.

Step 4. Bells and whistles. I had a small advantage, since I’m a digital artist. I snuck in personal illustrations into my glossary here and there. Other authors might use free clip art or Creative Commons licenses, or contract with illustrators to give them some added zing to the glossary.

Step 5. Host it. This is the perfect excuse and expansion for your author or book page, and it provides in-depth, valuable content for readers who might want more information.

Step 6. Promote it. Let readers know you have this feature on your blog, and link back to it whenever you participate in promo snippets, blog hops, and contests. Handled with respect for both your world and your readers, your glossary can be a powerful promotional tool.

Step 7. Keep it updated. As you write more, or draw in other stories, add bits of information to your basic framework.

Step 8. Make it interactive – at least as far as having a contact page for the glossary itself. I didn’t do this for the longest time, and I think it frustrated some of my readers.

Solidly created and well-maintained, your glossary can be answering and entertaining your readers for years.

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