What makes a great Fantasy Romance?

While planning my next book, I’ve been doing some research about what others like, or don’t like, about the Fantasy Romances they read and review on Goodreads.

Of course, there are many types of Fantasy Romance – including paranormal, steampunk and dystopian – but since I’m blending epic fantasy with romance, I looked at some popular novels in the genre, and compiled a list of what people thought of them on Goodreads.

If you’re in the planning stages of a novel (like me) this step is a ‘must’. Before putting all the work in, you want to ensure you are writing to an audience that actually exists!

After reading lots of reviews of my favourite Fantasy Romances, I came up with quite a list about what a fan of this genre expects… and here they are:

  • Great action-packed sequences with some high adventure
  • An epic romance with tear-jerking emotion
  • A bit of humour
  • Realistic, believable relationships – for example, friendships that build – rather than stereotypical romance tropes
  • Strong world building, with deep descriptions of the world: journeys, surroundings, settings
  • Classic fantasy elements since warring kingdoms, magic etc.
  • Intelligent story
  • Witty, alive dialogue
  • Great lead characters and strong character-building
  • Natural writing voice
  • Creativity
  • A strong underlying theme that brings the whole story together

I’ve written quite a few historical romances, and I can see immediately how this list differs from what readers of historical romance expect. There’s a far greater emphasis on realism, world-building and adventure in Fantasy Romance. Many lovers of this genre also read mainstream fantasy, so they expect all the fantasy tropes, even if it’s romance.

Hmm, this may be why my historical romances – which are realistic love stories set in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England – have never appeal to those who go for the classic ‘bodice ripper’ or ‘swooning heroine’ type of historical romance. There’s too much action and world-building in my stories for them to appeal to readers who like their historical romance traditional.

What’s the purpose of this exercise?

It’s about doing your homework first. I’m by nature an impatient person – but experience has taught me it’s much harder to go back and change things after you’ve written a manuscript. It’s wiser to take a bit of extra time in the planning stage.

I’m all for writing what you love – and in fact that’s how I’ve managed to write and self-publish ten of them – but it really pays to think about who you’re writing to before you throw yourself in. Is there actually a market for what you’re about to invest hundreds of hours in?

I also run a copy writing business, so I thought it was time I started applying some of the principles I use every day to my creative writing.

One of the most important rules of copy writing is: write for your target audience. 

So, this time around… that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

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