Construction Zone: Genre Mixing

What makes a romantic suspense novel both “romantic” and “suspenseful”? I’m sure some would argue that there are hardcore “rules” for this, but I’ve read a lot of romantic suspense, and some are heavy on the romance, some are heavy on the suspense, some are balanced, and some sort of flip back and forth throughout. In other words, “romantic suspense” can mean a lot of things, from what I’ve read.

To me, romantic suspense is focused on romance budding/growing either because of or in spite of (sometimes both) a suspenseful event going on at the time. I tend to prefer novels where both pieces of the plot – the romance and the suspense – get fairly equal billing, and that’s how I try to write mine as well.

With that in mind, you can imagine my dismay as I was going through the Tempest hard copy, and came upon a point in the middle that is integral to the suspense of the story, but dropped the romantic tension as a result. Romantic tension is fairly easy to keep going as long as the characters are in close proximity to each other, but when the characters are separated for any length of time (say, through a kidnapping), it’s really easy to lose that tension, and with it, the momentum that drives the relationship forward. Or it is for me, anyway.

Figuring out how it happened is easy – I got wrapped up in the suspense for awhile, and just wrote through it. I read a lot of straight suspense/thriller novels as well, and that tends to bleed into my romance writing a lot.

Figuring out how to fix it is a little more difficult. The kidnapping and time spent apart is integral to the plot, so I won’t take that out. I’ll have to add something that keeps them connected even though they’re apart. Introspective thoughts, internal arguments, a dream or daydream, perhaps. Anything that keeps the attraction between them strong and growing to pull the romantic thread through the section.

Why not just let it drop for that little bit and pick it back up again? Because my endings are always happily ever afters. And you can’t have characters fall in love with no warning – there has to be something there, an attraction that grows and continues to grow naturally and logically throughout in order for a happily ever after to be believable. Or I need that in my own stories, at least.

Do you mix genres in your writing? Which ones? How do you keep the storyline balanced between two styles of writing?

7 comments on “Construction Zone: Genre Mixing

  1. Adam

    Great post! 🙂

    In my Reaper and Gumshoe stuff, I mix fantasy and comedy, and noir and comedy, respectively.

    I find that comedy is more of a complementary genre in most cases, so it’s usually not too difficult to blend it into another. It can be tricky when something calls for anger/fear/sadness, though. 🙂

    Then again, you need lows to emphasise the funnies. 😉


  2. Carol

    I agree with Adam, great post Jamie!

    I mix romance with science fiction or fantasy (mostly). When I first started writing I focused on science fiction, but my stories always wandered off down a romantic road and back then you didn’t cross genres.

    Now it’s pretty much anything goes, which is great. I generally keep the balance by making both the science and the romance integral to the story.

  3. Jamie DeBree

    Thanks guys. 🙂

    Adam, I agree – comedy compliments most things. Probably a little more easily than the romance/horror mashup I’ve been considering (not too heavily). LOL

    See Carol, that’s my issue too. I can write in other genres, but romance always creeps back into it, without fail. I can’t seem to write without a strong romantic element.

    I am in complete awe of people who can write “just romance” or “just sci-fi” or “just anything”, really. I like to read them, just need more variety in my own writing. 😉

  4. Cindy R. Wilson

    I like to mix genres some but when it’s romantic suspense or a romantic thriller, whatever it is with the word romance coming first, it’s important that the romance stands out. At least from my perspective. I used to write a lot of other genres and say my genre was suspense with a romantic thread or literary with a romantic thread. It worked okay for the books that didn’t depend heavily on the romance as a catalyst for the MC’s growth throughout the book but when I realized that romance was such a common thread I decided to switch to writing contemporary romance. Now when I mix genres, it’s always romance along with whatever secondary genre it fits into.

  5. Jamie DeBree

    The thing is, in the cases you cite – grammatically “romantic” is a descriptor (adjective). It describes the noun, which in this case is the main genre. So a “romantic” suspense would be suspense with a romantic element…just as “paranormal” romance would be romance with a paranormal element. A romance novel with a suspense element would have to be “suspenseful romance” or something of the sort (like inspirational romance, contemporary romance, etc). The main genre always comes last when describing a genre, in my experience. 🙂

  6. Jamie DeBree

    Of course I realize this seems contrary to my post…but many of my posts are me, trying to work things out in my own brain. So basically, I just answered my own question… LOL

  7. Magnetic Sponsoring

    Wow!, this was a real quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I keep putting it off and never seem to get something done.