Monday, October 21, 2013

Incorporating Romance into Any Genre

Romance is hard for me. It's never my intention or point of the story, and yet I'm a girl. That means I like relationships to be part of my characters lives. However, I've been told that sometimes I "skip" steps in logical romantic progression.

That's why I headed straight into Traci Abramson's class on "How to Weave Romantic Elements Through Any Genre" while at LDStorymakers Midwest Conference.

The first thing I learned is that there aren't really set "steps". At least that's the impression I got when my question was answered with a laugh. (However, I will try and create some from my notes at the end.) What I really took away from this class, was that romantic elements are going to be different for each situation. And since I'm a totally open person who will tell you my entire life story on the day I meet you, my logical progression may seem like I skipped steps. Although I'm okay with this, I'm still going to try and improve my romance writing skills.

Anyway, let's get into my notes...

Romance is a genre all on it's own, but it can also be used and blended with any other genre to "deepen and enhance your characters, add to their motivations, and tug on the heartstrings of your readers...[it can be used] as an undercurrent in your writing, come discover the possibilities that can come through the heart." ~Abramson

Blending genres is a great way to strengthen your work and deepen your characters while helping you reach new readers. BUT you have to follow all the rules for each genre you are blending. When blending romance with other genres, it doesn't have to include internal conflict. It could simply be an external conflict that could or does pull them apart.

Here are the "sound bites"

Romance as a tool--create strong characters, add tension through the attractions, add conflict and obstacles, let them overcome those obstacles, and if your only genre you need a happily ever after.

Characterization--you've got to dig deeper than you might in other genres. You need to know there hopes and fears, past and future.

Conflict--Some outside force or perceived challenge that must be overcome before they can be together. This can be as simple as a misunderstanding (see below). When combined with other genres this part can be small and worked through early in the novel.

Romance utilizes more internal conflict. Plot driven fiction uses more external conflict.

Pacing (Finding Balance)--Stepping back to reflect on the relationship can give your reader a moment to catch their breath. We have to be aware of pacing no matter what we are writing, but we can use romance to help us slow down some of our other genres.

Misunderstandings--use wisely. Lay a solid foundation for why it happens. Emotional entanglements must be in place for an emotional response. For example, the 1st dance that Mr. Darcy attends in Pride and Prejudice. We see Mr. Darcy snub Elizabeth and every other woman within her earshot. This sets up the deeper emotional response when he professes his love for her later.

The use of misunderstandings in YA drives me absolutely crazy! They use it over and over and sometimes there is no reason for it other than willfully choosing not to understand. Please don't overdo this!

Tolerance--this is for blending genres. You have to remember that not everyone likes romance. Traci suggested the 12 year old boy test. If he can handle it then anyone can. Just remember who your primary audience it. That's who you tailor the level of romance to.

Timing your happily ever after--this can come early in the novel if genre blending, but you need to have a conflict that threatens it at some point.

The wrap-up--The climax of each genre must be reached by the end of the story. The one at the end points to your main genre.

Okay, here is what I gathered to be the necessary steps or elements for a good romance thread.

  • The meeting or first encounter--with genre blending you can go beyond the simple 'boy meets girl'
  • Attraction/Situational bonding--they have to have time alone to learn to appreciate some aspect of each other.
  • Conflict that keeps them from being together
  • The first kiss (this could come before the conflict)
  • The Aha! moment where they realize they love/need each other and are willing to work through anything
  • The happily ever after
Did I leave anything out?

Traci Hunter Abramson was born in Arizona, where she lived until moving to Venezuela for a study-abroad program. After graduating from Brigham Young University, she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years, eventually resigning in order to raise her family. And though Traci found her passion in caring for her family, she couldn’t manage to forget the action of the CIA, so she turned to writing about it. She has gone on to write a number of bestselling suspense novels that have consistently been nominated as Whitney Award finalists. In 2013, she won her first Whitney award in the mystery/suspense category for Code Word. She enjoys reading, writing, and coaching high school swimming.

I've read and reviewed one of her books HERE.


  1. Twelve-year old boy test. That is a great measure! Because we are all twelve-year-olds at heart.
    Not a fan of misunderstandings. I always wonder if the characters can really be that short-sighted or stubborn.

    1. Me too! On the misunderstanding thing. Even the 14 year olds that I've worked with at church can work things out better than most of these characters.

  2. Misunderstandings can be so frustrating. If a nice long talk would resolve everything, you're conflict isn't big enough to support a romance novel.

    1. That's so true! And probably why genre blending is such a good idea. Or at least why I like it so much. I need other things to add conflict and tension.

  3. Like you said here, I've always assumed that romance novels always had to have a HEA.

    1. This is probably a stupid question, but what is HEA?

  4. Romance is easy for me. Probably because I'm so emotional. I think this is a good post though. I'm going to link to it.

  5. Good stuff here. I think my current WIP has romantic elements, with the focus on Paranormal Mystery, but the rules for romance still apply...

    1. Thanks Robin. I'm hoping these notes will help me too. :)

  6. I also have a hard time with romance! But I think my problem stems more from the fact that my idea of romance is so different than most people. So what some may consider as being rude or sarcastic, I would see as flirting. It's definitely been something that's stumped me, and that I'll have to figure out. Thanks for posting these steps!

    1. LOL, I had two friends that were always "fighting" and I thought they hated each other. Turns out that was their idea of flirting too.

  7. Great post. Romance is a struggle for me as well.

    1. Look at all of us action oriented women! So much for stereotypes. :)

  8. Some things to digest (when I have some time). Good pointers, though.

    (HEA=Happily ever after).


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