Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to Write a NON-Romance

I am really enjoying Leah Michael's On Writing Romance. I might blog about other gems as I discover them in her book.

Today, I read her list of how to ruin a romantic plot between your hero and heroine. So, if you are writing a novel and want to be sure it is not a romance, just use these simple guidelines:

1. Develop a complex plot or background.
2. Overload the story with too many technical details.
3. Separate your hero and heroine for at least ten pages.
4. Have the hero and heroine talk about each other instead of to each other.
5. Bring in lots of characters.
6. Let everybody think a lot.

I had wondered for a while if my novel fell into a romance sub-genre. I've read my share of romances, and recognized romantic elements in my plot. It starts and ends with romantic scenes. Now, thanks to this little list, I can safely say it's not a romance.

1. I love my complex plot. It trumps the romantic elements of my story, and I like it that way.
2. I love my technical details. The driving force of the story to me is the conceptual metaphors and themes, and they are not about true love or romantic commitment.
3. My hero and heroine are only together for the middle third of the book.
4. They talk about each other much more than to each other. It's a side effect of not being together for most of the story.
5. Lots of characters! Okay, not lots, but the ones I do have get almost as much air time as the hero. My story is more about a small group dynamic than a single relationship.
6. Lots of thinking! Hopefully not too much, but I can safely say my characters think about their romantic potential (or think about not thinking about it in classic neurotic fashion) more than they show it. Another side effect of being separated for so long.

Does this list align with your boundaries of the Romance genre? When a story falls in a gray area, how do you draw the line?


  1. While I would never consider my current manuscript a romance much of the story rotates around the various relationships of my characters. At the outset of writing it I had no idea that it would happen that way.

    Had a laugh at the guidelines, it confirms my belief that the majority of romance novels are bits of fluff.

  2. Well, well, guess I write romance. At least according to that list. Bit of fluff? Maybe. Best-selling genre in the world, though, so I'm comfortable with that.

    - Liz

  3. Fluff? It depends. A couple other blogs recently mention some famous writers trying to disown the romance genre. Maybe they think it's exclusively associated with bodice-ripping pulp fiction. I certainly don't think so. Romance novels and I go waaay back, and I respect them if they're good. (And Liz, you know I think yours are the best)