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  1. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Romance Romance plot arc

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Mckk, Dec 27, 2018.

    So I thought I was writing fantasy but now that the novel's done and I'm in the editing stage, I'm finding that what I've written is more akin to fantasy romance. Problem: I've never read fantasy romance before to my knowledge... Since I want a realistic chance of getting published, I wanted to find out what are the genre conventions of a fantasy romance novel on the market?

    What are some essential expectations that I must meet? For example, genre romance dictates that the two lovers should meet within the first chapter, I believe - does this apply to fantasy romance? Or that genre romance must have a happy ending - again, does this apply to me?

    What does a step-by-step typical plot arc look like in genre romance? Girl meets boy, will they won't they, they look like they're gonna get together, disaster ensues they're NEVER getting together, resolution - I guess I'm asking after the "will they won't they" section. I'm not too sure as I have no clue. And what does this mean for fantasy romance?

    Does anyone have good fantasy romance novels I should read to get a better sense for things?

    Tagging people I know who write romance - I know you guys don't write fantasy romance but any knowledge on genre romance will be appreciated regardless! @Laurin Kelly @Tenderiser @BayView

    I also have a love triangle going in the book...
     
  2. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Here's an interesting link that covers a lot of what you're asking about.

    https://www.sfwa.org/2017/05/recommended-reads-fantasy-romance/

    I found a couple of points particularly noteworthy. One ...that yes, the romance does have to end happily or 'happily for now,' if it's going to satisfy the Romance part of the genre.

    Another point is that the timing of the relationship's resolution makes a difference as well. If the romantic dilemmas that keep the couple apart are resolved too long before the ending of the story, then the other elements of the story seem to matter more than the romance. Which puts the story into a different category.

    Personally, I would prefer a love story to not have a predictibly happy ending. I'd hate for you to feel you need to rejig your ending to fulfil some arbitrary requirement. Just so you can market the story a certain way.

    I don't mean the story's central relationship dilemma can't end happily, but if I start out reading the story KNOWING, because of its genre, that the romance will end happily, that kind of spoils it for me. The story then is all about how the resolution comes about. Not knowing WHETHER they will resolve the situation happily is more engrossing for me to read.

    So many of the world's great 'true love' stories do not have 'happy endings.' It can be anything from one or both of the lovers dying prematurely, or the lovers being permanently separated by circumstances beyond their control, to separating themselves from each other voluntarily, because there is something bigger out there that requires that sacrifice.

    I find the will-they/won't they dilemma is more powerful if I don't know the answer till the end. But that's me. And I guess that's why I'm not a fan of Romance as a genre, although I am really gripped by love stories, as such. I don't want to know ahead of time that it's all going to be tickety-boo at the end.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
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  3. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @jannert - oh I don't think I'd change the entire romantic plot line regardless of genre conventions, but it may give me a sense of the sort of structure I need to follow or which elements to highlight. I'm currently shifting scenes and chapters and trying to make sure it all builds up properly :)

    I didn't know fantasy romance was female-centric - good then that I have 2 female POV characters and their relationship is a key element in the subplot. I do feel like I need to strengthen the love triangle in order to make this subplot worthwhile, however. At the same time I currently have a love triangle vs the ultimate romantic plot dilemma... If I strengthened the love triangle, then I'm not sure what I'd do with Will's characterisation in this respect. If I strengthen his characterisation (which seems to honestly be primarily about the romance right now), then I'm not sure the love triangle should really even exist.

    However, the two female character's relationship is, if anything, probably the strength of the novel. There's no way I'm gonna cut that. So how to give the subplot more purpose without strengthening the love triangle...? :superthink:
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure about this, and I'll probably need a writer from the Romance genre to answer it, but if there is a romantic triangle involved, I suspect it must be clear from the start which pairing is actually going to 'work.' Again, it's that idea that the reader knows ahead of time what to expect. A romantic 'triangle' in which the reader can't figure out which lover will 'win' may be a step too far for genre Romance readers to enjoy. Not sure about that one.

    To put the question slightly differently, in a Romance triangle, the triangle will be an obstacle to the central romance, but the reader will see it as an obstacle and expect it to be overcome, like other obstacles in a Romance? It won't be what happens, but how it happens? It should be obvious which of the two potential lovers the central character actually belongs with?

    In a way, I'm a Romantic. I truly believe that when 'true love' is present, there is never a triangle. There may be a triangle of entanglements, but if the central character honestly doesn't know which of the two potential mates he or she prefers, the answer is probably 'neither.'
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
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  5. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    No idea what the conventions are in Romance in this regard I must say. Currently I'd say honestly it's pretty darn obvious which girl Will's gonna go with. If I were to "strengthen" the love triangle, I'd be aiming to make that a lot more ambiguous, so it would look like there's a real chance of Will going either way. However, writing this now has given me an idea (I tend to "think" aka write out loud, if that makes sense - just how I process ideas it seems) - if it's obvious Will is gonna get with A but the reader is convinced A isn't suitable for him, would that still be a "strength" in the arc of a love triangle? I don't mean it like "oh this author wrote the characters badly - they soo don't go together!" I mean to write in and highlight the lack of suitability quite deliberately. (it does make sense with Will's arc and the ending, actually)

    ETA: I believe my novel fits all the criteria listed for Fantasy Romance from the writer at SFWA. So at least I definitely know my genre now!
     
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  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think the key thing to remember when writing hyphenated romance (Fantasy romance, romantic suspense, etc.) is that the romance still needs to be the central plot of the story. If it isn't, then the story is actually an X-genre novel "with strong romantic elements". This can be a bit tricky, sometimes, because you certainly don't want the non-romance story (fantasy, suspense, or whatever) to be uninteresting, but if you were to make a plot graph of the story, it should be the romance elements that dominate the graph.

    Other than that? I think the will-they-won't-they can often be helped by modifying it to will-they-won't-they-last, rather than will-they-won't-they-get-together. Lots of authors have the characters together as a couple for the middle chunk of the book, and that's often where the other plot elements become dominant, and then have the "dark night of the soul" near the end of the book when the other plot is resolved (ring thrown into the volcano or whatever) but the reader still isn't happy because the characters are broken up.

    You can do it the other way, too, with the characters never getting together until the end, but it's not mandatory.

    For other advice? I'd read some fantasy romance! If you can handle m/m, KJ Charles has some great books set in historical England that are full of magic and intrigue - check out The Magpie Lord or Rag and Bone series. I don't think I've read many others that I can recommend (there are loads of urban fantasy books that have a lot of romance in them, but I don't think they'd follow the arc for a fantasy romance), but I'm sure there are lots out there. Yay! Reading!
     
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  7. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    It depends if you're writing a romance in a fantasy world or a fantasy with a romance. Since you set out to write a fantasy, I would assume it's the latter, in which case you don't have to follow the genre conventions of romance. Your primary audience will be fantasy fans.

    If you take out the romance, do you still have a plot?
     
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  8. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Lovers must meet in the first chapter is common in genre romance, but as far as I know it's not a deal-breaker depending on how the book is paced. I would think they would need to meet by the 2nd or 3rd chapter if your chapters are short though, or else your typical Romance reader is going to start wondering if you'll ever get to the point.

    Genre Romance must have an HEA or HFN no matter what the sub-genre or setting is. Full stop - if someone buys your book categorized as a Romance novel, they normally are specifically looking to purchase a book with a happy and positive ending for the central romantic couple. If you do not give them this, they will be quite upset and probably leave terrible reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Don't bait and switch your readers; you wouldn't want to order slippers and get socks, even though both technically keep your feet warm.

    I don't read Fantasy Romance, but Megan Derr of Less Than Three Press has some very highly regarded books in the genre if you're cool with LGBTQ content.

    I know it seems nitpicky, but this is a very important distinction on how you want to market your book. If you want to try to get it published by a genre Romance publisher, or self-publish but categorize as Romance on Amazon, your MS should follow the general rules as laid out by the RWA : it should have a a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. On top of that, certain publishers may have their own submission guidelines of what they do or do not consider eligible for their consideration no matter what the setting is (sexual content that includes a minor, non-consent/dubious consent, etc.).
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
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  9. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @BayView - I read your other reply before now and only realised now you're recommending KJ Charles again lol. Initially I'd set out with a fantasy plot as the core plot (there's a war and the rebels are trying to win it - they must defeat main antagonist). There was always a romance in the book even from the very beginning. But as the book progressed - well, I'm mapping out what each scene is about now actually - I'm noticing entire chapters devoted to things other than the fantasy war plot.

    I'm putting the plot in spoiler tags because Janet's going to be my beta reader and I don't want her to know the plot before she actually reads the book:

    There're currently 2 full chapters on Will and Arlia as the key love interests (the first one when they meet again after 8 years and reconnect, and the second one when they basically get together and have sex - I follow this immediately with Arlia showing she has doubts while it's clear Will doesn't). There's then another full chapter purely on the friendship between Arlia and Hayley (second love interest), which ultimately, esp in this editing stage, is going to drive the tension in the romance plot a bit more. There's at least one more full chapter coming up that's devoted to the girls, I think - I just haven't analysed my WIP far enough yet. I'm currently analysing Chapter 9 (out of 22). My chapters average between 4500-5500 words. Total WIP word count right now is around 120k.

    This is not including all the other scenes and casual mentions of Will thinking of Arlia or Hayley, or one of the girls thinking of Will etc. I also contrast the two women constantly - not in a "this one is better than the other" way but in the sense that they're completely different and one may be more suitable for Will than the other.

    The fall out between Will and Arlia is actually the inciting incident to the final climax (Will feels betrayed by Arlia due to different priorities and this pushes Will to go on a mission alone rather than with her help, sending him into antagonist's territory - at this point Arlia finally realises she actually could lose Will).

    Throughout the whole thing is Will clearly still smitten with Arlia and Arlia basically not sure if she actually loves Will and willing to give up everything for him. Hayley has her own sub plot training as a mage to fight in the war, so she doesn't honestly think of Will all that much, but there's huge emphasis put to her friendship with Arlia.

    The climax - again, you could argue it's driven by the romance plot. Arlia, though not the MC, is actually the one who saves Will (the actual MC) and she does so because well, she loves him. Only now Will isn't sure. The ending goes that they have to get to know each other again because it turns out Will was in love with the idea of her from 8 years ago - it ends on an ambiguous note here. I never say whether they actually get together. But essentially Arlia comes after Will and they start to chat, and it's clear that they probably get together. Here, these are the final lines in the current draft:

    She was still as beautiful as the Arlia he fell in love with, but he knew they weren’t the same, really. Neither of them was quite so innocent anymore.

    But maybe that made for a better beginning.​

    Does that count as a "happy for now" ending? ^@Tenderiser @Laurin Kelly

    However, Arlia is only mentioned for the first time in Chapter 3, and enters the book in Chapter 4 as a character, and gets her own POV scenes from Chapter 5. Hayley appears from Chapter 1 but it isn't until Chapter 5 that she also gets her own POV scenes. From this point on though, both women occupy a significant chunk of the book before POVs shift back to Will and the antag Shadow Walker towards the end. (I have 4 primary POVs in this book in total - didn't realise the girls' POVs happen in the same chapter till now)

    Will this be a problem?

    And what are genre romance's conventions regarding a love triangle? I'm in the process of editing the love triangle plot.

    Anyway to answer your question @Tenderiser - if I took out the romance, then the subplot re the ladies' friendship would become purposeless, and the inciting incident for the climax would, I guess, still work if Will and Arlia were at least friends, but honestly, without the romance it'd lose much of the tension that's driving the book I think. The war plot itself isn't terribly interesting - the thing driving the book is honestly all the relationships. I think I'd lose about half the book.

    If any of you is still convinced this is fantasy rather than fantasy romance, let me know. It's important I get my book's genre right! :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
  10. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    Hmm. I don't know without reading it, but from what you've said and what I've read before (I know we spoke about this in private messages ages ago, but can't remember if you just described the book or I actually read excerpts) I don't think it's a genre romance. I haven't read much fantasy, but all the ones I have read involve a romance thread - sometimes a really powerful one (the end of The Amber Spyglass makes me bawl like a baby). They aren't romances, though. Plenty of books in all genres have romances. Even my thing, horror, usually has a romance!

    If I were you, I would get beta feedback (preferably from both fantasy and genre romance fans) before I did any rewriting to bend the novel to genre romance conventions.
     
  11. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Might you wanna be a beta reader? :p I had in mind to ask all of you three in fact...
     
  12. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I feel like it barely squeaks by, if at all. The thing about the HEA or HFN is that it's the reader's payoff for investing in your couple for how many hundreds of pages have come before it. I think most genre romance readers want more than just a suggestion that the couple is going to wind up together, and in my experience it's no time to be subtle. Imagine if you were expecting the most delicious, decadent dessert and then you were served a sugar free tofu cheesecake. It it dessert? Yes. Is it what I was expecting and/or wanted? I would have to say no. I feel like you have to give Romance readers as chance to savor the HEA or HFN or they'll feel cheated, like they'd have to get a sequel to experience what they've been waiting all this time for.

    I will defer to others on this one, as it's not a trope in Romance that choose to write or read. Funnily enough I don't have a problem if a Romance starts with one or both characters in a relationship with someone else (which many readers do not like), as long as it's clear the other relationship is over once the courting starts between my two MCs.

    My first book was very similar; the center Romance and the cooking competition in Under the Knife were so inextricably entwined I would have lost half the book had I cut one or the other. But in the end, the main story I wanted to tell was Zachary and Nate falling in love with each other, and the competition was the tool I used to get them together and keep them apart when needed. All the food porn was absolutely gratuitous, but luckily for me there were a lot of Romance readers out there who are major foodies that seemed to like that part.

    My gut based on what you've posted is that it's a Fantasy with strong romantic elements. But again, I'm not well versed in the sub-genre of Romance novels with fantasy settings, so I could be totally wrong.
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm outta this thread! I don't want the plot revealed too soon, before I get to beta read ... :)
     
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  14. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Laurin Kelly - I've been meaning to read your book to be honest. I love describing food and love romance, so it sounds like a book I'd quite enjoy :) I'd consider changing the ending if my book really does otherwise fall in the fantasy romance category - but I'm not too sure how I can ascertain this... Your example of the tofu cheesecake got me chuckling - yes, that would be rather a disappointment. I don't read genre romance much and chick lits are often too formulaic, not to mention downright badly written, that I don't read much of that either. I do want a happy ending. So anyway, I wouldn't be too adverse to giving my characters an openly happy ending. Currently I'm not 100% on whether my ending is satisfying in the first place, if I've paired my characters up wrong... Again, basically in need of betas. (you interested? :D )
     
  15. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Not to toot my own horn, but my publisher is having a 20% off sale on all books through the end of December. ;)

    Unfortunately, I don't think I'd be able to give a fair critique - I'm a straight-up contemporary genre Romance reader, and I wouldn't want my disinterest in the genre/subgenre to color any feedback I might have. I'm really flattered by the offer though!
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
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  16. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    I'd be in like a shot if it were a different genre but I'm a terrible critiquer for fantasy (even romance-subgenre-fantasy!)
     
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  17. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What makes you terrible?

    @Laurin Kelly - I actually don't mind because I would keep your interests in mind when you comment. But I understand that perhaps it's just not a genre you're into :)

    To be honest it's mostly because I'm damn picky about whose opinion I trust and you guys are all published - so there's experience there I wanna tap :D
     
  18. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    I don't enjoy fantasy, as a rule, so my feedback would probably be, "Take out all the fantasy elements and this would be much more enjoyable!" Not very helpful, hey? :D
     
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  19. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, mine would be "This would work better for me if it was set in upstate New York in 2019, where Will is a barista, Arlia is a lawyer and Hayley is a grad student."

    Sooooooo not helpful.
     
  20. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Tenderiser @Laurin Kelly :supergrin: You know, I've rewritten this thing like 6 times at a minimum and one of the ideas I had was actually to make it a straight-up contemporary romance novel, where Arlia was the daughter of a wealthy businessman and Will really was a barista :superagree:That idea never truly took off - it started veering into domestic abuse and servants and blah. Oh well. If you may know of other published writers who are into fantasy romance, send them my way? :supersmile:And any other essential elements on a romance I should be on a lookout for? Is it ok that my two girls appear when they do in the book by genre standards?

    I'm gonna assume either I described my story really well or perhaps I've unwittingly used very typical romantic tropes - I hadn't mentioned the characters' statuses and Laurin you got all three to a T! Arlia's upper-class and powerful, Will's lowly and poor and Hayley really is mage-in-training (so, student) lol.
     
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  21. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    I wouldn't get too hung on on beta readers being on published or not. In fact I wouldn't take it into consideration at all - I don't think being published, or even being a writer, makes you a better reader.
     
  22. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. Some of the most helpful feedback I got was from non-writing betas. They were just very perceptive (and articulate) readers.
     
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  23. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I have to third @Tenderiser and @jannert - I think it's best to have betas who like to read the type of book you're writing, whether they are writers themselves or not. In the end, your best feedback is from someone who's looking for their next book to buy, and they can give you direction on what would make your story more appealing for them.
     
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  24. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In my experience, the non-writers either didn't finish the book due to other commitments, and can't even tell me when they stopped or why (seriously, that's like my one condition - you don't have to read the whole thing but if you stop, tell me where that was and why!) or they did read the whole thing, but then apart from "I liked it" couldn't tell me anything else :bigmeh: Writers I've asked so far have always finished reading and were able to give me detailed opinions on what they thought. Currently, my biggest learning curve is actually structure - I'm good on the writing front, really, I'd like to think - but pacing, climax and such - I'd love someone else's insightful analysis. Maybe I just need more astute readers? Most of my friends aren't even readers :bigfrown: or may not have the level of English required to understand my writing... (I hang out in international circles mainly)
     
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  25. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I'd say that's definitely an issue - it doesn't sound like your friends are the audience you're writing for.

    I know we talked a bit about Twitter in the other thread, but honestly it can be good for finding betas, especially once you've built up a decent follower list. I see lots of tweets for the folks in Romancelandia that I follow asking for betas, and even if I don't personally want to beta that book due to lack of time or interest, I'll re-tweet it in the hopes that one of my followers (or one of their followers if they in turn re-tweet it as well) would.
     
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