How Much Romance is needed to make a story a romance novel?

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Rojack79

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So my current WIP is mostly a Fantasy Story but it has quite a lot of romance in it as well. As the title suggests I was wondering just how much romance is needed to shift a stories genre from pure fantasy to romance or paranormal romance now that I think about it?
 

lizmonster

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The most important requirement for the Romance[tm] genre is a HEA ending (or, now and then, a HFN).

More than that, though, the main story should be about the romantic relationship itself.

Romantic elements are common in every single fiction genre out there, so having romance - even a lot of romance - doesn't make a story a Romance[tm].
 

KBooks

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Lots of books have romantic elements, or strong romantic elements. A romance has a HEA or HFN and also the romance is the main focus of the story.

JR Ward writes paranormal romance. The romance and the couple getting together is the main focus of the book, even though there's also other paranormal stuff going on in her books. Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series is UF even though it has steamy romantic elements. The main focus of the series isn't romance. Same thing for Patty Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, which has romantic elements, but is mainly UF.
 
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Rojack79

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Ok I know this will sound weird but what do HEA and HFN stand for? I've been around a few forums but have never heard of these terms before.
 

Roxxsmom

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So my current WIP is mostly a Fantasy Story but it has quite a lot of romance in it as well. As the title suggests I was wondering just how much romance is needed to shift a stories genre from pure fantasy to romance or paranormal romance now that I think about it?

Romantic side plots, even even heavily romantic subplots, are common in many genres. I can think of a large number of fantasy writers who are marketed and sold as fantasies where the romantic elements are so central to the story they should qualify as fantasy romances. Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters and her 10,000 kingdoms series come to mind. They are generally shelved with fantasy, probably because of the author's past associations with that genre.

However, there are also plenty of fantasy novels with strong romantic subplots that are just that--fantasy novels first and foremost, but with important romantic elements. Some sort of fall in between, like Maria V Snyder's Poison Study, which reads very like a romance set in a fantasy world in some ways, but it segues into two more novels that are sequels that focus on other elements besides the romance between the main character and her love. These books were published by Harlequin Romance's fantasy imprint, if I remember correctly, but shelved with fantasy in bookstores.

To determine whether a novel is truly a romance (in the modern genre sense), it should be able to answer the following questions in the affirmative.

Is the romance between the two main characters and is the romance central to the story? By central, I mean does the romance drive the most important elements of the overall plot and character arcs? Would the novel not work without the romance between the two main characters (say if they were just good friends instead of lovers).

Also, does the story end with the lovers together with optimism that they will be happy and together into the foreseeable future?

These elements are needed for a story to qualify a romance genre/subgenre (in terms of marketing and target readers).

Ok I know this will sound weird but what do HEA and HFN stand for? I've been around a few forums but have never heard of these terms before.

They mean "Happily Ever After" or "Happily For Now," which are the most non-negotiable elements of a genre romance. The love affair can't end tragically, with the death of one of the partners, on a romantic cliffhanger, or with them shaking hands and agreeing they're better off apart etc. etc.

Of course, there can (and should) be other elements within the story--intrigue, danger, adventure, politics, dastardly plots etc.--and the characters can have important goals besides the romance. But that happy ending should entail one or both discovering that those other goals matter less than the romance, if in conflict, or that there's a way to satisfy those goals without sacrificing the romance after all.
 
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CJSimone

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Hi Rojack. Just agreeing with the others that the romance would need to be the main focus (along with the HEA/HFN). My stories tend to have some romance in them, but I never consider them romance or present them that way b/c that's never the main focus. But you can always play up the romance aspects in pitches, blurbs and such if you think that will draw the right kind of audience for your book.

Best with it!

CJ
 

CJSimone

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Ok I know this will sound weird but what do HEA and HFN stand for? I've been around a few forums but have never heard of these terms before.

HEA - happily ever after
HFN - happy for now
 

lizmonster

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I see others have covered the acronyms. Sorry about that. :)

While there are some supernatural or futuristic romances that are marketed in the romance genre, it's been my experience that for whatever reason such books don't do well marketed as romance. So unless it really is a solid capital-R Romance, you're better off using fantasy as your genre.
 

Rojack79

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Ok thanks for all of the advice and help in understanding just what makes a romance novel a romance novel. Now that I have a cleaner picture to work with now I'm even more unsure as strange as that sounds.

The main story is centered around several characters two of which end up falling in love with a third character trying to butt in. At the same time all of these characters are going on an adventure to save the world from a power mad dictator who seeks to rule the world!

There's way more to it than that but if I choose to give equal focus on both the action/adventure side and the romantic side then just how do i classify this story?

P.S. i do apologize if this is in the wrong forum.

P.S.S. If it does matter then the ending to this story may be a HFN ending or it may be a cliffhanger mostly because this is supposed to be the first book in a series so just keep that in mind.
 
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Tocotin

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It sounds like fantasy, not romance. The adventure seems to be the main focus, not the romantic relationship.

Would you have the story if you took out the plot about saving the world from the dictator?

Would you have the story if you skipped the romantic relationship? It sounds to me like the answer could be yes. You have several characters at the centre of the story, not the pair of lovers only, and the resolving of the romantic subplot is not your main focus. Romance readers want to see the story about the relationship. Everything else is a bonus (or an annoyance).
 

Marian Perera

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How much Romance is needed to make a story a romance novel?

All of it.

On a more serious note, if you're wondering whether to label your story a romance, read romances in that sub-genre (fantasy romance) and compare them to your work.

P.S.S. If it does matter then the ending to this story may be a HFN ending or it may be a cliffhanger mostly because this is supposed to be the first book in a series so just keep that in mind.

In general, there are no cliffhangers in romance - at least, not cliffhangers where a relationship is concerned, though other subplots may be unresolved. I would be disappointed and annoyed if I picked up a romance and found that the hero and heroine were not together and happy at the end, though I'd be fine with them being in a committed relationship while a new hero and heroine set off in search of the villain, story to be continued in Book 2.
 

Sonya Heaney

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If you can remove the romance and the story still works it's not a genre romance.

Romances can (and hopefully DO) have a lot more going on than just the romantic relationship, but the romance is the heart (ugh - cliché there!) of the book.

Edited to say: If you write romances, HEA and HFN are the first two acronyms you'll have to memorise. Romance writers and readers use them nonstop.
 
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cool pop

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That's like asking how much crust makes up a pizza. In other words, no crust than it's not a pizza.

For a book to be a romance then it means you can't take the romance out and still have a story. For example if you are writing about space aliens falling in love while they are battling demons on Mars, then if you take the romance out and STILL have a story, it's not a romance. The romance has to be the central part of the story to the point where your story doesn't exist if that romance is not there. You have other things going on but they can't outshine the romance for it to be a romance.

Other than that, there are many books with romantic subplots or romantic elements but that does not make it a romance. A romance has to not only be the central part of the book but you also have to have either an HEA or HFN (Happy For Now) ending. Anything besides that, it's not a romance. It might be a love story which is what Nicolas Sparks writes (though people often confused his books with romance) but if you can take that romance out and it doesn't shatter the story completely then the book has romantic elements but it's not a romance.

It's just like a mystery book. Without the crime or murder, it's not a mystery book. It's just a story.
 
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SnugglePuggle

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I've read books where one only had a kiss or two throughout the whole book, and it was still a nice read. And then I came upon Elizabeth Moss's "Bride" series and holy moly my eyes needed washing out from all the sex scenes, so there can be ANY variation of romance in a book, let me tell you. As long as it ends in HEA or HFN, then it's romance.
 

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I've read books where one only had a kiss or two throughout the whole book, and it was still a nice read. And then I came upon Elizabeth Moss's "Bride" series and holy moly my eyes needed washing out from all the sex scenes, so there can be ANY variation of romance in a book, let me tell you. As long as it ends in HEA or HFN, then it's romance.

???

amount of kissing and sex =/= amount or romance in a book

And as others have mentioned, the romance definitely needs to be a central part of the store for it to be a Romance. A book can have a romantic subplot that ends happily without being a Romance.
 

Roxxsmom

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I've read books where one only had a kiss or two throughout the whole book, and it was still a nice read. And then I came upon Elizabeth Moss's "Bride" series and holy moly my eyes needed washing out from all the sex scenes, so there can be ANY variation of romance in a book, let me tell you. As long as it ends in HEA or HFN, then it's romance.

Not every story with a HEA is a romance. The romance has to be central to the story and character arcs as well--the major driving force of the story. I've read plenty of fantasy novels, SF novels, mystery, historical fiction and mainstream fiction stories with a romantic arc that ends happily, but the story still wasn't a romance.

You are correct that heat level does not determine whether or not it is a romance. Christian or inspirational romance and sweet romance have no sex in them at all. At the other end of the spectrum are romances with very high heat levels with characters who think about sex and with sex scenes that are quite explicit.

Heat level is one of those things romance writers tend to get across to readers via cover design, blurbs, and marketing, since readers come to the genre with specific expectations and tastes.

Note that a spicy romance is not the same thing as erotica either, as in erotica stories the sex is not only explicit but a major driving force in the story.
 
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Rojack79

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So my story can have little tidbits of romance, Erotica, excetra but at the core of the story it will still be X genre instead of romance? Ok I can see that. I will say that the romantic subplot will take up a bulk of the story and sure my story could survive with the romance ripped out but for me I think it's to ingrained at this point to take it out and tell a good story. It is one of the main driving forces in the book but it will be a slow burn told over several books. But I thank all of you for letting me know just how to tell a pure romance story from a romantic subplot story. I shall take all of this advice to heart when I begin my writing and see just were my story will go as I write it.
 

Roxxsmom

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So my story can have little tidbits of romance, Erotica, excetra but at the core of the story it will still be X genre instead of romance? Ok I can see that. I will say that the romantic subplot will take up a bulk of the story and sure my story could survive with the romance ripped out but for me I think it's to ingrained at this point to take it out and tell a good story. It is one of the main driving forces in the book but it will be a slow burn told over several books. But I thank all of you for letting me know just how to tell a pure romance story from a romantic subplot story. I shall take all of this advice to heart when I begin my writing and see just were my story will go as I write it.

Romantic (and erotic) subplots can certainly be hefty and important, even expected, elements in genres other than romance. It's a matter of whether the romantic elements are the main focus of the story or whether they are a part of the story.

An example would be Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart Trilogy. The book is filled with (pretty explicit) sex and romance, and the story wouldn't be at all the same without these elements. The protagonist's sexual nature is very central to her character, and there is (spoiler) a happily ever after for the protagonist and her main love, who overcome countless obstacles to be and stay together.

BUT, the story is centered on a lot more than the erotic and romantic elements. It's a work of fantasy set in an alternative historical timeline, and there are numerous supernatural and sociopolitical plot elements. The protagonist's important romance develops as these other elements are occurring, possibly even in spite of them, rather than being the reason these other elements are occurring. The romantic relationship has an arc of its own, and it's interwoven with the larger plot, but I wouldn't say it's the main driver of the larger plot.
 

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This is something I've been pondering a lot as I get ready to launch a fantasy trilogy that has a significant (but not complete) focus on the evolving relationship between the two main characters. Fantasy romance? Romantic fantasy? This blog post by author AJ Lancaster (https://ajlancaster.com/2019/01/03/...s-there-a-difference-between-these-subgenres/) made me realize I'm in the latter category.

(Also, loved this part of the blog post: "There are slightly more sexy man-chest covers under Romance>Fantasy and slightly more women-with-glowy-magic-hands covers under Fantasy-Romantic.")
 

veinglory

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IMHO to be a romance it has to be "about" the romance as much as it is about anything else (or more)
 

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