Romance as a Subplot with Kendra E. Ardnek

I don't write romance novels. I write fantasy. With a romance subplot. I don't think I COULD write a book where the romance was the main focus, but I love to have it supporting my main plot. My Rizkalands are the closest I have to a "proper" romance series.

So I'm going to talk about the distinction between Romance as the main genre and romance as the supporting subplot, and how to handle it in the support role.


Kendra E. Ardnek
Christian/Fantasy/Retellings/Romance

Romance is when people fall in love and decide to spend their lives together. However, the romance genre has several rules of expectations, including:

1. The couple will be together at the end and all will be well
2. If there are sequels, they focus on different couples. Relationships don't fail. Happily Ever After is a truth we must maintain.

I don't like sticking to rules, and I don't like the romance to be the sole reason for my story. I'm more concerned with the grand plots of political intrigue and worldbuilding. So I keep my romance to the subplot.

But how do you keep romance to a subplot without either (a) having it take over your book or (b) it feeling tacked-on and unimportant? How do you strike that perfect balance? Well, I can't admit to be a perfect expert on this subject, but I have some tips.

1. Make sure that the romance supports the main plot. For instance, in The Worth of a King, my current WIP, the main plot is launched when Obsidia chooses Delaney instead of one of her official suitors. Later, several of his decisions are made with the aim of keeping her safe. The relationship is not the focus of the plot, nor is it inconsequential. Their relationship's lows and highs intertwine with the main plot's lows and highs.

2. The couple MUST have chemistry. I mean, a couple should have chemistry regardless, but, when it's not the focus, it's essential that your readers ship the couple before they become a couple. (Unless they start out a couple as in Worth). The story must rely harder on more subtle clues of attraction. Percy and Annabeth of Rick Riordan is a beautiful example of this. Though twelve and "just friends" in the first book, readers are already shipping them because their chemistry is brilliant. They play off of each other well and come to care for each other fiercely.

3. Don't shoehorn it in. Don't force romance into the story just because it's popular. Let the love interest be a person and there for more than just your main character's reward at the end.  Don't step away from the plot to tell the romance. The romance should be supporting the plot. G.A. Henty is a good example of both how to do this, and how not to. Several of this stories have beautiful romances that do much to further the plot - In Freedom's Cause, for instance, for Archie's marriage to the young lady helps him overcome a long-standing feud. In The Young Carthegenian ... the romance was so tacked on that I barely remember it. I think he saved her from drowning at some point. maybe?????

4. Less is more. If your couple has chemistry, you won't need to spend pages upon pages telling your reader that they care for each other. They will feel it in their conversation and see it in the way they worry about each other.

And ... hopefully, that helps. I'm going to go tie things down for today and plunge into setting up for tomorrow.

Comments

  1. Excellent tips. Fully agree. Nothing further to add here. :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. I find it mildly amusing that your Rizkalands are the closest you come to straight-up romance when they're basically the only things you've written (aside from the Ankulen and co.) that aren't fairy tale retellings. Just sayin'. That said, this post was super helpful, since I also tend to write romance as a subplot, not a main plot. I'll definitely keep these tips in mind, especially the bit about making sure that the romance actually supports the main plot!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "I don't think I COULD write a book where the romance was the main focus" <---- haha, don't hold on to that mentality forever! That's what I thought before I wrote a book largely centered around a romance ;D

    ~ Savannah
    I don't think I COULD write a book where the romance was the main focus

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean, Rizkaland comes close, but I like to distract myself wars and epic quests...

      Oh, and dragons.

      Delete
    2. One can never have too many dragons ;D

      ~ Savannah
      Inspiring Writes

      Delete
  4. Great post, Kendra! I love what you said about making sure the romance supports the main plot and isn't tacked on. The book I'm currently reading, Halayda by Sarah Delena White, is doing that really well so far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, I've been meaning to read Halayda for quite some time now! I really do need to nab a copy of it ;D

      ~ Savannah
      Inspiring Writes

      Delete
  5. My romance elements so far are so subtle they might very well go undetected, ha ha!

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