Here at the SFR Station, we strive to only feature science fiction romance, and not science fiction that has romantic elements. It’s come up a few times, with a few rejection letters having to be sent, that some authors may be uncertain if their book classifies as a romance. Here are some basic rules, and a few questions you can ask yourself about your book to determine if it is actually a romance.
For the sake of simplicity, we are going to stick to a M/F monogamous pairing in our examples.
1. It’s all for one, and all for love
In a romance, everything about the book revolves around the love story. From the action to the drama to the character’s thoughts and ideals; it all spins around the central axis that is the romance. In a romance book, if you took that axis away, everything else would spin out of control and fly apart.
For example, you have a ‘zombie apocalypse’. Both characters can be fighting zombies and trying to survive – but that’s all background noise to their relationship that is forming in the middle of the chaos. Whether they are fighting zombies side-by-side or to save one another, the book itself (the plot, scenes, descriptions) are done from the point of view of the romance.
Question to ask yourself: Is the romance the axis of my book’s story?
2. Romance has a point of view
Romance can almost be treated like a third character in a romance novel. It should get at least a third of the screen-time, with your two main characters each getting the other two-thirds. This doesn’t mean ‘sex’. This means love and relationship development.
Attraction. Flirting. Basing choices and decisions (often times, dumb ones) based on their feelings for the other person. Drawing conclusions. Angst. Heart-drama. Etc.
Why are your characters doing what they are doing? For twue wuv, of course!
Question to ask yourself: Is my romance as strong a character as my two main characters?
3. It takes two to tango
Romances center around the actions of two main characters, such as a man and a woman. Both of these characters should get close to equal screen time. You don’t have to use both points of view, although this is a common romance style. But, if you’re reading the story from one p.o.v., he/she should be spending just as much time with, thinking about, lusting over or tripping over the other person as they are thinking about themselves, their problems, their tasks, situations, etc.
Question to ask yourself: Does my book feature two main characters that have been given equal weight in the story, alongside the romance?
4. A romance book is about romance
This is to re-emphasis the ‘romance as an axis’ point, because it is the key thing that confuses / trips up most authors.
Yes, you can have a mystery, or action, or fighting or zombies or destruction or politics or… But, these should all be minimal / background/scenery when compared to the time spent on the romance.
If you take half of your book talking about one character, how they are fighting zombies, or flying through space, or alone on a planet studying plants… then you toss in a guy, and he’s just a dude also studying plants…. and there is a little bit of flirting, and hey, they kinda fall in love?…. Then no, that is not romance. That is a science fiction story with romantic elements/subplot.
In a romance book, the romance is the plot. It’s why the reader is reading your book: to learn about the romance, not what plants they are studying! Yes, in a sci-fi romance, the reader will enjoy learning about the zombies, or the space voyage or the alien plants – but those are all background to the character/relationship/romance development.
Question to ask yourself: Is my romance the main plot of the story?
5. Because it’s all about that blurb
Your blurb should talk about the romance. It should make mention of at least both main characters, their conflicts, and often how their relationship could cause problems or save them. Remember, your story is about the romance, so your blurb should be, too
Question to ask yourself: Is my blurb focusing on the romance?
6. All’s well that ends well
Romances should have a happily for now, a happily ever after, or at minimum a romantic settlement (common for cliffhangers).
- Happily ever after: the romance is concluded, all is well, and the couple rides off into the sunset
- Happy for now: the couple has reached a stable point in their relationship, but trouble looms in the background.
- Romantic settlement: the couple has reached a stable point in their relationship, but trouble shows up at the last second with a too be continued…
A romance novel does not end in death. That would be a bittersweet lovestory. Now, we at the SFR Station do feature Love Stories, and we have accepted one Bittersweet (with proper labeling). But, be warned: Romance readers can get quite upset if they pick up a bittersweet to read that hasn’t been properly labeled, and most won’t read a bittersweet at all.
Even with romantic settlement, there should be a feeling of resolution and hope for the future. Not all readers like cliffhangers, but sometimes the story calls for one. This is most common in Space Opera or the ‘your princess is in another castle’ trope.
Question to ask yourself: Does your story include a romantic conclusion, HFN, HEA, or settlement?
So, did you write a romance?
If you answered NO to any of the above questions, then you did not write a romance. You have most likely written a science fiction novel with romantic elements, however strong those romantic elements may be.
If you answered YES to all the above questions, then congratulations – you wrote a science fiction romance. Please feel free to submit your book to the SFR Station.
If you have no idea how to answer those questions, then I highly recommend you have your book peer-reviewed. I recommend the SFR Brigade. They are a wonderful group of SFR writers who can help you figure out what genre you’re really writing in.
And you can always email us directly for further clarification: firstname.lastname@example.org