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Monday, July 30, 2012

Romance According to Rachell: Guest Blog with Mary DeSantis

Hello everyone! I’m so happy to announce that we have a special guest here with us today. A good friend and fellow SHUer, Mary DeSantis is a fantasy writer who is here today to talk about writing romance when you’re not a romance writer. You can find Mary on the web at www.outofthelockbox.blogspot.com. And now I’ll let her take it away…

I’m a fantasy writer—urban, young adult, epic—you name it. However, I also grew up watching Disney movies. If there’s one thing that’s unavoidable in most of those movies, it’s the romance. Prince+Princess=happily ever after. Needless to say, that influenced me quite a bit.

Despite all that, though, I don’t write romance. I’m actually terrible at straight-up romance. I have a fundamental problem bringing two characters together as a main storyline in a believable way. This doesn’t change the influence of the Disney romance, though.

One thing I did notice in all of the Disney Princess movies was the magical intervention. As I got older, I wondered if I could keep the romance true but still incorporate the magic. Then, I got older, started reading real fantasy books, and answered my question—yes, people do it all the time. And, I fell in love with “romance-on-the-side.” Think of it as the other woman/genre…never mind.

So, when I’m writing something where there is a hero and heroine whom I want to end up together, they do. It’s not that simple, though. It’s never the main plotline, and, more importantly, there’s always a long and sometimes bloody battle before they get there. Eye on the prize, I tell myself because there are those times where I find myself wanting to stay in those romantic moments and expand on them until they’re my story. All those years of Disney movies, I guess.

I keep on task, though. I’ve worked out three steps to take to make sure I don’t turn my fantasy novel into a romance one—mainly because I have very little confidence in my ability to write romance novels. So, before I list my three steps, I want to tip my hat to all romance writers. There’s a stigma that romance is “so easy—anyone can write that.” No, no, no—I’ve tried. I fail. It’s not easy, and anyone who agrees with the stigma has obviously never tried.

But, back on that track I was so proud of not straying from. Three ways to write romance into fantasy but keep the book fantasy.

-Interrupt the romance
When I find myself pulled into one of those moments, I ruin the moment. (I know. I’m sorry, characters.) They’re about to kiss or spill their hearts and they are attacked. Or, someone screams. Heck—or the heroin’s ancient ability that she can’t control yet turns her into a chimera. That puts a damper on the romance. It also creates a beautiful segue into an epic battle or adventure scene.

-Make the romance contingent on the fantastic elements
Maybe that heroin with the chimera problem is forced into an alliance with the handsome hero. And, maybe he thinks she’s a freak because she turns into a giant, three-headed monster. And, maybe she wants to bite his head off while she’s a giant, three-headed monster. And then—there’s the battle or the adventure. I know it’s been done and done again, but the following is true. Having characters save/protect one another brings them together. The epic journey and battles breech the gap. But, she still turns into a giant three-headed monster. Romance could be a problem. So, the clearly fantasy-genre problem needs to be fixed before the romance can happen.

-Spread out the romance
Fantasy novels, particularly epic fantasy novels, tend to run longer than romance, mystery, young adult, or most other genres. So, that leaves a lot more time for the hero and heroine to get to know one another. They may start out hating each other, or they might start out as friends who grow together. Or, they might start out in love, break apart, and the heroin might fall for a chimera (unlikely, unless she turns into a chimera, but hey). The key thing here is time. Spread out the romantic moments. Put the battles, the adventures, the serious conversations about the deteriorated state of the world between them. Make it so that, with everything else going on, there isn’t a lot of time for romance. I even sometimes make it so that the romantic moments are—literally—on the fly. Example: a kiss for luck. Small but can be built on later between the army of dragons and the bottomless pit.

There it is. At least, that’s how I do it. It works for me, but, as I say whenever I prescribe a method for anything, it’s not universal. If it works for you, great. If not, pass it along, it may help someone else.

Thank you, Rachell, for letting me guest post. It’s been a pleasure, and I had a lot of fun writing this.


  1. Anytime, Mary. This was a great post. I write a lot of romances with a bunch of other stuff going on - suspense, paranormal elements, a murder trial, danger, peril, and all of that jazz. And I've always known it's because I couldn't just write "straight romance". I need the external plot elements to keep me focused on the story and to help me rip my characters apart. It's so funny some of the stuff you've said about romance is very intuitive and detailed about a genre you don't really write... except of course you do!

    We're all romance writers at heart, I always like to say. And I'm glad you've found out that you love to blend fantasy with romance. Marketing-wise that's great, because it can fit into two genres and appeal to even more readers.

    Thanks so much for stopping by. It was great to have you.

  2. Thanks so much for posting. It's given me a few thoughts for my own WIP.



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