Romance. Ya know, when I started writing I told myself I'd never write romance. I love to read it but to me all the books I've read sort of blur together. I don't remember most of them that I have read because they all seem to follow the same pattern and have a similar enough style that I don't remember each individual book. Romance writers out there, please don't take offense to this! It's just me and my head, not your writing skills.
I prefer books that have elements of something else going on in the plot, not just straight romance. I don't know why this helps me remember the book or the plot better. Perhaps because of the extra tension added or element of mystery. Who knows really.
Anyway, even with my promise that I never would write romance, everytime I write a book, a romance blooms along side the plot! It happens beyond my control.
So, how do I keep myself from becoming just another romance novel among the masses? Well, since I love books that are more than straight romance, I write my books the same way. The romance element in my books is a sideplot, not the main plot. It's more of a "on top of everything else, the characters realize they love each other" sort of set up.
So - what are some things I've learned about writing fantasy with a romantic element? Well, for one thing, the romance and the plot have to work together. I hate random scenes of kissing or sex. They must make sense to the characters and to the plot. It bothers me when characters kiss at the wrong place and time. I think the only time I've seen a kiss in the middle of a battle scene that didn't irritate me was in Pirates of the Carribean when William and Elizabeth get married. That's an example of a perfectly timed kiss in a not necessarily good situation. And they waited until the third section of the series to do a scene like this so that might be why I was more forgiving. It was more like "About time!"
In the movie Prince of Persia, Dastan kisses the Princess right after she saves him from an Assanssin. But I thought it was so cliche of him to do so. I mean, he had to go stop his uncle and every second counted and he's going to stop to kiss her? And not just a quick peck or anything -- he laid it on her good. (As a note, I really do LOVE this movie!)
So make sure your kisses (and even the full steamy sex scenes) make sense.
Up the tension! Yes. I've said this before in posts. Sexual tension is important. I'm all for love at first site and things like that, but tension is just awesome when reading a story. So even if they do fall in love at first site, throw in some tension to keep them apart for a little while before their love explodes in some scene of passion.
With writing a genre with a hint of romance, this can be hard to do somethimes. You are upping the tension and conflict of the main plot in the first place! Adding sexual tension here needs careful placement. I do it with looks or heated touches. I have one scene in Cleanse Fire where Kie is injured and Derac and putting a bandage on her. But he's thinking about how soft her skin is under his touch as he does so. So, there is abit of tension, but the main plot is still moving forward as now she's injured and unsure how they can continue fighting.
Another thing I consider is the characters. I've said this before also. The romance has to make sense. If your character isn't the type to just jump into bed with a guy - don't let her do it. If your hero is trying to avoid a relationship of any kind, don't let him jump in too soon. And of course, if you hero is like Derac, then he's more thinking of the taboo of him being with Kie. I mean, he is her superior officer!
The fourth and final tip is to remember to wrap up the romance at the end of the book too. Sure, you can have this be a carry over to the next book in the series. But you need to at least find some closure to their romance to end the book. Don't just leave it hanging open and unfinished. Get them together at the end or if they aren't together, make sure to leave it set up that they might be in book 2. Leave the reader satisfied but make them itch for book 2 as well!
Do your books have a romantic element in them? How do you add sexual tension?