Fantasy romance would be a romance story that includes supernatural or magical elements or takes place in an entirely made-up world. Lots of fantasy stories have romance in them, but that does not make their romantic fantasies. Again, genres and subgenres are all about reader expectations and people hoping to get specific things out of the books that they are reading.
If fantasy is part of a series, it must be a standalone series. A romantic fantasy would be a story that features a significant romance subplot. If part of a series, it must be a sequence series. Before writing a fantasy romance, you must balance the fantasy with a romance plot and understand some key elements I want to share with you. Stay with me!
How to write fantasy romance? (With Example)
Fantasy romance is one of my favorite multi-genres, and I’m a big fan of Sarah J. Mass. Sarah is fantastic for the fantasy love story. Do you want to write like Sarah? I have so many tips to share with you. Now, I am breaking down my ten tips for writing fantasy romance. Let’s go!
1. Make a combination
Before you start writing a fantasy romance, you must understand the genres you’re working with. Fantasy romance refers to a multi-genre book, which means that your central plot is half fantasy, half romance. Fantasy is a broad genre of speculative fiction involving magic, adventure, or both. It’s usually set in a world different from our own, but if it is set in our world, it’s modified with fantastical or magical elements.
Romance is a genre where the main plot revolves around the romantic relationship between your main characters. Not the supporting cast, the MCs. What separates romance from other plots around romantic relationships is that a romance has to end in a happily ever after or happy for now. It means that by the end of the story, the lovebirds need to be together, and they need to be happy.
Your central plot must combine these elements if you’re writing a fantasy romance. Your story is about your main characters falling in love and living happily ever after while existing in a fantasy world, dealing with adventure, or dealing with magic.
2. Add a romantic subplot
Fantasy romance is not the same thing as fantasy with a romantic subplot. Imagine the book with the romance removed. Can the story still be told? If yes, it’s a romantic subplot. Let’s look at my favorite read of Ashes by Iona Wayland. Ashes is a dark fantasy novel that revolves around Angela, a woman whose brother has died tragically. Angela learns that her brother’s soul is in turmoil.
To bring it to rest, she needs to travel through the magical and deadly hollow forest and sprinkle his ashes in the appropriate place. Along the way, Angela develops a romantic bond with her guide through the hollow forest. If I were to remove the romance from Ashes, it might be less entertaining, but the plot could still 100% work because it’s about Angela’s quest to free her brother’s soul. That’s how we know that Ashes is a fantasy with a romantic subplot.
3. Focus on your romantic storyline
A fantasy romance can’t exist without romance. Unlike a story with a romantic subplot, if you remove the romance from a fantasy romance, it ultimately falls apart. Let’s look at a novel, The Savior’s Champion, which follows Tobias as he enters a magical and deadly tournament. If Tobias survives the game, he will be married off to a woman he doesn’t love, which is extra because he’s falling deeply in love with someone else.
Is Tobias doomed to die in the tournament or marry someone he doesn’t love? Or can you find a way to survive the tournament and be with a woman he truly adores? As you can see, if we were to remove the romance from the story, it wouldn’t work. The story is about Tobias’ romantic relationship. Without it, it becomes an entirely different plot. It’s how you can tell The Savior’s Champion is a fantasy romance. If the romantic storyline is central to your main plot, congratulations, you’ve also written a fantasy romance.
4. Your endings should be satisfying
Romance is not the only genre that features a romantic relationship as its central plot. A romantic relationship can be the main plot of many genres, including dramas, tragedies, and love stories. What separates romance from these genres is they’re designed to be uplifting at the end. Which means you have to have a happily ever after.
- If your character’s romantic relationship ends tragically, you’ve likely written a drama, a tragedy, or maybe even a thriller.
- If it ends with one of the characters dying, or they grow apart but gosh darn it, they learned some valuable lessons along the way.
It’s not gatekeeping or thought policing. It’s the definition of the genre. A romance without a happily ever after makes about as much sense as sci-fi without science or a ghost story without ghosts. It applies to fantasy romance as well. Just because it’s multi-genre doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.
5. Know the difference
As we already covered, fantasy is a broad genre with a zillion subgenres like epic fantasy, urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and dark fantasy. Each sub-genre has its expectations, and multi-genres are the same deal. Because of this, you can’t write a fantasy romance the same way you’d write straight fantasy or straight romance. Let’s start with how it differs from fantasy.
Many fantasy subgenres, incredibly epic and high fantasy, are very plot focused with a heavy reliance on world-building. All fantasy will focus on the plot as we deal with magic and adventure. Still, fantasy romance also needs to rely heavily on being character-driven since we are following the romantic bond between two or more people.
Additionally, most fantasy is going to require world-building. But if you spend hundreds of pages describing the trees, the economy, and the politics in your fantasy romance, readers will get pissed.
Note: If you’re writing a contemporary setting with contemporary resources and contemporary problems, that’s fine, but it’s not a fantasy. You have to weave the fantastical elements into the romance. Otherwise, readers will feel bamboozled.
6. Balance of both romance with fantasy
It’s not a fantasy romance unless you have an equal balance of both. Fantasy presents itself in at least four ways: a fantasy world, fantasy characters, magic, or adventure. The way to weave fantasy with your romance is to combine one or more of these elements into your romance.
Let’s start with a fantasy world: this could be as easy as a prince and a princess from dueling kingdoms being forced into an arranged marriage. They don’t like each other at first, but eventually, sparks fly. Next, there are fantasy characters: it could be as simple as one of your characters being an elf and the other being a wizard.
Next, we have magic: maybe one character has magic, and the other doesn’t. It creates a rift between them that they have to battle together. Lastly, we have an adventure: A hero battling grave dangers to save their love, or it could be two or more lovers escaping grave danger so they can be together. These are a few simple examples of combining these genres into a cohesive unit.
7. Add various tropes in your chapters
Look at your story on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Was one chapter focused on adventure, magic, or a fantasy world? In that case, we’ll label it a fantasy chapter. Was another chapter mostly focused on blossoming love?
If that’s the case, we’ll label it a romance chapter. Was it an equal helping of both? Then we’ll say it’s half and half. Go through all your chapters and see how many cumulatively are fantasy and how many are romance. While the results don’t have to be 50/50, they should be close enough.
Some popular Fantasy romance tropes:
- Love triangle.
- Forced proximity.
- Second chance.
- Woman in charge.
- Forced/Arranged marriage.
- Redemption arc.
8. Show the progression of the character
Intimacy is a progression. If you’re not used to adding romance to fantasy, think of it as a step-by-step progression. Show how intimacy progresses between your characters. It does not have to be sexual. It could be handed brushing against one another, which evolves into hand holding, an embrace, and a first kiss.
Readers read romance for this progression, so don’t go straight to the big bang. Give readers every step of the evolution. It will draw out the suspense and get them asking will they or won’t they? Additionally, be sure to tease the intimacy. It can be done through the characters, maybe-sorta about to hold hands, but then someone walks into the room, and they dart away. We’ve all read the kiss fake out: you think the characters will finally lock lips, but then something happens, and no dice.
9. Study the tropes
Romance features some of the most popular tropes in fiction. Lucky for you, many of them fit seamlessly into fantasy. The most obvious one is enemies to lovers.
- Enemies-to-lovers fits so well into fantasy because your characters could be from rivaling kingdoms or rivaling fantasy races. You could also utilize the opposites attract trope or the wrong side of the tracks trope similarly.
The next obvious choice is the royal marriage trope, particularly the arranged marriage or the marriage of convenience.
- Arranged marriage relationships are widespread among royalty. So it’s easy to fit this into your fantasy setting if you have royal characters.
Lastly, we have my favorite trope, the forbidden romance.
- A forbidden romance is when characters are deeply in love, but they’re not allowed to be together for whatever reason. It’s so easy to fit into your fantasy setting for the same reason as the enemies-to-lovers trope. The characters could be from rivaling kingdoms or races. Thus they are not expected to be together.
Going back to the arranged marriage trope, one character could be promised to someone, but they are in love with someone else. There are way more tropes you can utilize. It is certainly not an exhaustive list, so do your research and make sure you’re utilizing the tropes that work best for you.
10. Don’t overdo
The first trend to avoid is the unhealthy power imbalance. That’s not to say you can’t write a character with much power. That’s common in fantasy. Maybe they’re magical or royal, and that’s fine. But things get problematic when one character has much power over their love interest. For example, they use magic to control or own their partner as an enslaved person. Please don’t do this. It eliminates the concept of consent.
The most obvious problematic trend in fantasy romance is romanticized abuse, particularly romanticized sexual abuse. One character forces themselves on another and threatens to hurt. It’s portrayed as sexy and desirable. You can write powerful characters without making them sex offenders, without resorting to physical abuse.
You are a competent, creative writer, and I am confident you can tell a fantastic story without all that crap. Happy fantasy writing!
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