Romance adds emotional depth. It can allow Fantasy writers to make their books more character-driven. It can make the central conflict more intense, raise the stakes, and allow the readers to see your main characters as fully rounded characters.
Romance can also add a lighter element to your story – for although you might make your characters suffer for love and put them through the emotional wringer, you will need to give them a HEA (Happy Ever After) or at the very least a HFN (Happy for Now) ending. If you don’t, it isn’t a romance but a love story. Love stories often end tragically – thank Gone with the Wind and Titanic.
Do you actually need romance?
Some stories just don’t need luuve. 😉
If your novel features a really young protagonist who comes of age during the story, then the focus is more likely to be on their maturation and development. Romance would only muddy the waters. Seriously flawed protagonists can also make romance a challenge. If ‘love’ is part of their redemption then it can work, but if it isn’t then once again adding romance might just confuse or irritate your readers.
Of course, my personal opinion is that just about any story can be improved with a touch of romance. Before I started writing romance I noticed that the Epic Fantasy and Historical Adventure stories I liked to read all had a strong romantic element that enriched the plot for me. My first attempts at writing Epic Fantasy were very traditional, but somehow romance still crept it there.
My path to Epic Fantasy Romance
I’ve made my name as an author if Historical Romance set back in the mists of time. As a self-published author I was able to set my books in a non-traditional time period for Historical Romance: 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England, and 4th Century Scotland. Although I used what historical evidence I could find for my novels, writing this far back (especially for the Pictish novels) allows me to enter the realms of fantasy.
These books, especially The Warrior Brothers of Skye series, have done well for me, but my heart always returns to Epic Fantasy Romance. In my opinion, Fantasy is more difficult to right than Historical. You have to build an entirely new world rather than research an existing one, and the plot tends to be more complex.
The two novels I’ve published so far in the Light and Darkness series are both romances, although I approached each one differently. In the first, Ruled by Shadows, romance is a strong subplot, integral to the story but slightly overshadowed by the main action. In my second novel, The Lost Swallow, the romance holds equal weight to the action. Both are high-octane stories, but I handle the romance differently in each. I’m now 30% into Book #3 in the series and am letting the romance drive this story as well.
Final thoughts: confidence, respect, and a little knowledge
Handling romance well in a story requires confidence, respect for the genre – and a little knowledge. People who don’t read romance often think it’s formulaic and cheesy. If you believe this, you might find it hard to incorporate a successful romantic subplot into your story.
You can’t fake romance. You either feel it or you don’t.
I’ve been writing romance for the past seven years and with each passing year I love it more. I was never a ‘romance’ reader in the past but I love how romance allows a writer to add emotional depth and conflict to a story. Sure a good romance has to have certain elements to work properly but that doesn’t make it formulaic – and if you write from the heart your romantic subplot won’t be cheesy.
In the coming posts I’ll be covering how to set up your romantic subplot, how to approach emotion and sex scenes, how to structure the romance arc in your story, and how to achieve a satisfying emotional confusion to your romantic subplot.
Any questions or comment about this post? Please feel free to comment below!