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Writing a B-Plot Romance

So, my question relates to writing a B-Plot Romance. The piece is largely a murder mystery but the secondary plot is about a couple who stumble on one another in the course of the story, and I'm actually a bit stuck on how to write a compelling romance as a B-Plot Line.

Does anyone have suggestions where to start?
 

Yora

Maester
I've recently looked at my favorite stories to see what makes them tick, and I found that the relationship subplots are actually where the real stakes lie. That the heroes survive, the villain is beaten, and the mystery solved is generally assumed to be a given. What actually makes main characters compelling and audiences engage with them is the uncertainty about how their complicated relationships between each other will play out.
In a poor story, there is absolutely no buildup and between the defeat of the villain and the credits the hero gets the girl. But in good stories there's a genuinely open question how their relationships will look like once they passed the ordeal of the seemingly main plot. The action serves primarily as an opportunity for the main characters to clash with each other and discover a common ground.
 

Chessie2

Staff
Article Team
Romance has its own set of plot rules. I suggest reading books with romance plot lines and also doing research on how a romance is structured. The most important parts are that the couple ends up together at the end happily ever after, there is no cheating, and the journey is emotionally fulfilling for the reader.
 
Romance has its own set of plot rules. I suggest reading books with romance plot lines and also doing research on how a romance is structured. The most important parts are that the couple ends up together at the end happily ever after, there is no cheating, and the journey is emotionally fulfilling for the reader.

Without trying to sound haughty, I have read plenty of romance, and I guess my issue is I don't like the structure of romance novels. If we know there is to be the happy ended then why do we repeatedly thrive on the same narrative form that has pretty much turned into 'same story, new faces'.
 

Chessie2

Staff
Article Team
Without trying to sound haughty, I have read plenty of romance, and I guess my issue is I don't like the structure of romance novels. If we know there is to be the happy ended then why do we repeatedly thrive on the same narrative form that has pretty much turned into 'same story, new faces'.
You asked how to write a B-plot romance. If you have read plenty of romance then it follows that you also know romance is a genre just like fantasy/sci fi, mystery, horror, etc with its own set of rules. If you don't like the structure of a romance and don't wish to follow the steps then it's not a romance plot you would be writing. If there is romance involved but no happily ever after it would be a love story instead. Not sure why you are asking for help writing a romance if that's not what you're writing...so I digress.
 
You asked how to write a B-plot romance. If you have read plenty of romance then it follows that you also know romance is a genre just like fantasy/sci fi, mystery, horror, etc with its own set of rules. If you don't like the structure of a romance and don't wish to follow the steps then it's not a romance plot you would be writing. If there is romance involved but no happily ever after it would be a love story instead. Not sure why you are asking for help writing a romance if that's not what you're writing...so I digress.

So basically, in your opinion, if I reject some of the elements of the Romance Genre, then it can't be romance, but just a love story?

So things like Romeo and Juliet - the great Romantic Tragedy, and novels such as Hold Back the Stars, which are lacking the Happily Ever After aren't romances but love stories then?

That seems inordinately rigid. A rigidness I usually get taught to largely ignore.
 

Chessie2

Staff
Article Team
So basically, in your opinion, if I reject some of the elements of the Romance Genre, then it can't be romance, but just a love story?

So things like Romeo and Juliet - the great Romantic Tragedy, and novels such as Hold Back the Stars, which are lacking the Happily Ever After aren't romances but love stories then?

That seems inordinately rigid. A rigidness I usually get taught to largely ignore.
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, not a romance.

Romance is a genre just like fantasy & science fiction.

Genre has its own set of rules defined by its audience, not my opinion.
 
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, not a romance.

Romance is a genre just like fantasy & science fiction.

Genre has its own set of rules defined by its audience, not my opinion.

Actually, that isn't true. The rules of a genre are not defined by its audience, oddly enough it's more defined by a publisher.

Also, technically, one does not write in one genre or another, but as writers, we actually contribute to a genre, thus we are able to alter a genre over time by taking old structures and moulding them into something new.

So I want to write a B-Plot Romance, a lot of the issues are connected to the Main Plot, but I want to avoid the cliches too. Romance Genre has the widest opening for massive cliche which is why I ask how to potentially write it as a B-Plot.
 

Chessie2

Staff
Article Team
Actually, that isn't true. The rules of a genre are not defined by its audience, oddly enough it's more defined by a publisher.

Also, technically, one does not write in one genre or another, but as writers, we actually contribute to a genre, thus we are able to alter a genre over time by taking old structures and moulding them into something new.

So I want to write a B-Plot Romance, a lot of the issues are connected to the Main Plot, but I want to avoid the cliches too. Romance Genre has the widest opening for massive cliche which is why I ask how to potentially write it as a B-Plot.
It sounds like you'll do just fine on your own then. Good luck.
 
Just to nitpick for the fun of it... Romance is not a genre just like fantasy and romance, which are broad classifications. Romance is a narrow plot genre/classification, but is wide open setting wise. SFF are more “setting” genre classifications while Romance is more a “plot” genre... love interests must meet early and end together. I also have the feeling in romances I know that there isn’t really a “B-plot” (big R) Romance, there is B-plot (small r) romance. IMO, not an expert one on Romance, no matter what the setting and other plots, in Romance the romance rules the roost.

Intersting thinking... plot genres... Romance, Tragedies, Mystery, Thriller, and other sub-genres. Setting genres... SFF, Western, Steampunk... huh, something else for my brain to waste time on, LOL.
 
I don’t typically like romantic side plots. They often come off as seperate from the story and feel like filler. My thought processes during these thing are usually something like this: “oh okay yeah so they gave each other a passing glance...oh okay yeah they’re gonna fall in love with each other...oh its a dramatic first kiss scene...can we get back to what’s happening with the saving the world thing now?”

I think romance tends to be treated like part of the proven formula in the fantasy genre. You gotta have those two characters fall in love! So it means character ends up being created just to be a love interest and/or it means the romance is forced down our throats. You can feel the predestined decision that the characters are gonna get together and over the course of the story we watch it happen because it has to happen (this is, of course, different than sexual tension, which would be the audience actually excited to watch the romance slowly form)

I think it needs to be treated like a natural character arc for both characters. That is a given. I also feel it needs to be relevant to the rest of the story by either entangling it with the more greater drama or by connecting it thematically. That’s honestly pretty simple, but so many just don’t do it.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
Does anyone have suggestions where to start?

Not an expert at romance, but when I delve into this realm, I find plenty of compelling reasons why the two people shouldn't be together, but through interaction find one compelling reason that they should be together.

If we know there is to be the happy ended then why do we repeatedly thrive on the same narrative form that has pretty much turned into 'same story, new faces'.

It's not about the ending, it's about the journey. It's kind of like riding a roller coaster. You start and end at the same spot, and really don't go anywhere, but in between there are twists and turns that make it worth while.

Now, with a plot where two character's relationship changes, they start not together and they end with being together. The important part isn't the end point, it's what happens in between that matters. Most stories end with the protagonist defeating the antagonist. We all know the hero is going to win, but the reason we read is because if author is doing their job, we're in the moment. We're not thinking of how we know the ending. We're in the moment thinking about how great the ride is.

So I want to write a B-Plot Romance, a lot of the issues are connected to the Main Plot, but I want to avoid the cliches too. Romance Genre has the widest opening for massive cliche which is why I ask how to potentially write it as a B-Plot.

I'd worry less about cliche. Cliche is only a bad thing when executed poorly. Write a cliche well, and people will just call it a compelling, fresh take on an old idea. For me, I don't think about if a plot is cliche. I think about if it's being executed well.

A lot of people say they want to see something new, but what they really mean is they want the same thing but different. Different characters. Different setting. Different set up. But underneath it all, it's just the same basic structure. Hollywood is built on this. In rom-coms boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy eventually ends up with girl.

People don't tire of it. IMHO.
 

Peat

Sage
Once again, I feel the need for the writing vocabulary to have a clearly defined difference between Romance, the genre with some fairly hefty expectations in terms of structure and form, and romance, where people fall in love as part of the plot. Romance and love stories maybe. It would cut down on so much confusion.

Anyway. Small r romances/love stories as subplots.

My standard advice for this is to think of a few books where you really love what they did with the love story subplot and copy it. Or copy with twist. And maybe think of a few where you don't like what they did, work out why, and don't do that.

I know a few people who complain about how female characters go from being really cool to being simpering emotional wrecks. It seems to be a common pitfall.

One of my favourite love story subplots is between that of Rek and Virae in David Gemmell's Legend. Its not particularly complicated, but it is sweet, and it is very relevant to the plot, and the two make each other stronger.

Another good one - not sure it even a subplot really - and non-fantasy is the Falco novels by Lindsey Davies. 20 Ancient Roman detective stories (with some tongue in cheek noir), all built round the romance of the two main characters. I'd be curious to hear from a Romance veteran some day just how much of the early "will they won't they" books follow Romance structure - I guess its more than I'd notice.

Hmm. I'm rambling to no good end here.

Other than female characters becoming "weaker", I think the most common complaint I see about love story subplots is the whole "Two characters meet and bang! They're in love" thing. Which I find odd, as that does happen (or at least people report it happening to themselves) in real life. Next most common I guess would be using the love interest as leverage against the MC (which is fine and sensible but heavily overused and therefore a difficult thing to use in a story sometimes), or being 2D and pretty and just there to be a "Whoo! You beat the Dragon!" prize.

A lot of this is avoided if the love interest is a complete interesting character in their own right, with their own motivations and agency, and who becomes no less in them for their love. Which, if you do that and avoid too much "Will they won't they" based around appalling stupidity, is probably enough to make it work.
 
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