Not Amish? You Can Still Write An Amish Romance Novel!

Believe it or not, most of the authors who write Amish romance novels are not themselves Amish. Keep in mind that the vast majority of the audience for Amish fiction and other “bonnet books” is also overwhelmingly evangelical Christian women, not Amish readers. Essentially, it’s non-Amish writers writing for non-Amish readers. If you’ve given some thought to writing Amish fiction, don’t let the fact that you’re not Amish stop you – in fact, you’re in good company!

Getting Started

If you’re not all that familiar with the genre, read several Amish romance novels by the “big three” of Amish fiction, Wanda Brunstetter, Beverly Lewis or Cindy Woodsmall. Read carefully – you’re not just reading for your own enjoyment, you’re taking a closer look at the author’s creative process. Read like a writer (or better yet, an editor). Take notes about interesting turns of phrase, how the authors integrate the Pennsylvania German dialect into their work and definitely take notes about Amish lifestyles and customs.

What you’re doing here is treating these Amish romance novels like textbooks in a course on Amish fiction writing. Naturally, don’t copy anything from the authors you study. The goal is to learn the tricks of the trade, find some inspiration in the work of other authors and create something of your own.

Should You Use Pennsylvania German Words and Phrases?

In a word, yes. Sprinkling a little of the Pennsylvania German dialect into your work gives readers a sense of being there in an Amish community and your readers will likely expect it – editors and publishers will also appreciate your having made the effort to give your work an air of authenticity.

It’s not that difficult to do. There are plenty of glossaries of Pennsylvania German (aka Pennsylvania Dutch) words and phrases both in print and online. It’s a small effort, but many readers will expect, say, an Amish child in your stories to say “denki,” not “thank you.”

Characters

The usual formula for a successful Amish romance novel involves a young woman (our heroine) who falls for a non-Amish man (an Englisher, in Amish parlance). The conflict is baked right into the characters, but you will need to give your main characters names. Generally speaking, you should stick with Biblical names for your Amish characters: Rebecca, Sarah, Hannah, Mary, Miriam, etc. for women, Eli, Aaron, Jacob, Levi, Dan, etc. for men. As for last names, Miller is very common in Indiana and Ohio Amish communities and Stolzfus is a frequently heard surname in Pennsylvania. You’ll also find a lot of Yoders, Hershbergers, Troyers and Shrocks in Amish settlements nationwide.

Whatever you name your characters, you need to make them real and get to know them yourself, then introduce them to your readers. If you don’t care about your characters, neither will readers. Your heroine will be torn between her Amish community and the “Englisher” she loves. She can either walk away from him, from her community or he can convert. Obviously, she has to agonize over this decision or you have no story – explore her deep secrets and hidden motivations. No matter what decision she makes, she’ll emerge a changed person.

Respect

When you are writing an Amish romance novel, you are choosing to step into another culture and share it with the world. To do this, you must do your research and have a great respect for the Amish culture. Consider visiting a local Amish community, taking a tour, and purchasing any books or papers available for purchase at these locations. A lot of Amish resources are not available online, so you will do well to take the extra step to get to know your Amish neighbors.

Start Writing!

You don’t need to be Amish to write Amish romance novels. Just do your research and then write your story just as you would any other. Make your characters real and your story compelling and it doesn’t matter whether your characters are in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania or on another planet – whatever your story is, bring it to life!

  1. Not Amish? You Can Still Write An Amish Romance…, 07 December, 2015

    […] Believe it or not, most of the authors who write an Amish romance novel are not themselves Amish.  […]

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