What to Do When Your Characters Fall in Love: Writing Romance in Any Genre

with Briana Una McGuckin

writing romance outside romance genre course

Writing romance: It’s not just for writing Romance.

Falling in and out of love is a natural part of the human experience, so don’t be surprised when your characters start making eyes at one another. But how do you write romance when you’re not writing a Romance?

In this course, we’ll explore how to write romance subplots into any kind of story—from mystery to thriller, sci-fi to fantasy, comedy to tragedy. Together, we’ll examine the conventions of the Romance genre, and set our own intentions for the kinds of romantic stories each of us wants to tell outside of those guidelines.

We’ll craft romance arcs that advance a larger plot, and write pivotal scenes that serve both the romance and the major plot arcs. I’ll even share a few tips to avoid some common romance pitfalls—including flat physical descriptions of a love interest, and awkward or wooden-sounding sex scenes.

You’ll get a lot of writing done on a short story, novel, memoir, screenplay—anything that involves romance.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the fifth week, students will:

  • Learn the tropes and genre conventions of capital-R Romance.
  • Explore opportunities to twist, bend, and subvert those tropes and genre conventions in romance writing within other genres (such as suspense, horror, speculative fiction, etc.).
  • Learn to beware two of the big pitfalls of writing romance, and practice writing 1) intriguing physical descriptions of love interests, and 2) flirtation/sex scenes that serve the story.
  • Construct a romance arc that will advance plot and/or character development in a larger plot.
  • Draft four narrative passages that flesh out key scenes (or “beats”) in a story’s romance arc.

Course/Zoom Schedule

Each Wednesday I will provide a written lecture to get you thinking, and a plotting or writing assignment so you can apply the lecture to your craft. Plus, I’ll hold an open office hour on Zoom once a week (3pm EST, every Friday), for anyone who wants to drop in to ask questions or chat about the weekly lecture, the assignment, or the direction of their writing.

Weekly Syllabus

Week One: What Makes a Romance Novel? Learning (and Breaking!) the Rules

First, we’ll explore the essential parts of a Romance novel, from necessary plot beats to common tropes (like “forced proximity” romance, or “fake dating”). Then, we’ll explore some of the ways that romances written outside of the Romance genre could cover new ground, and pick our individual focuses for the stories we want to write—shifting our sense of ourselves from imposters to innovators.

Assignment: Write a post introducing yourself and a plot sketch of the romantic subplot you would like to focus on in the course.

Week Two: You’re So Needy! Building a Premise for Your Lovesick Protagonist

We want to ensure that a romance arc amplifies, rather than distracts from, our larger story. This week we’ll figure out how to set up both the main plot and the romance sub-plot in relationship to a single need—which will also give us some guidance about the kind of story we are telling.

Assignment: Write a 1000+ word “meet-cute” scene between the main character and the love interest.

Week Three: Skip Heart Beats, Not Plot Beats

This week we’ll take a closer look at the beats of a romance arc, which we will have only touched on in week one, and use our freedom to subvert convention to mold those beats to fit our stories.

Assignment: Write a 1000+ word scene focusing on a “private ritual” between the main character and the love interest.

Week Four: Helpers and Haters

Adding a romance subplot to your story gives your secondary characters second jobs. In addition to whatever parts they may play in the larger plot, they must also choose sides: some will want the romance to work, and some won’t!

Assignment: Write a 1000+ word scene in which supporting characters either help or hurt the chances for romance.

Week Five: Well, This is Awkward: Writing Attraction and Sex

The Bad Sex Award is a thing that exists for fiction (really). To close out the course, we’ll examine what could go wrong as you write attraction and sex, and take a first stab at avoiding those craft pitfalls.

Assignment: Write a 1000+ word scene featuring seduction or sex (heat level is up to the writer).

Why Take a Romance Writing Course through Writers.com?

  • We welcome writers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and we are here for one reason: to support you on your writing journey.
  • Small groups keep our online writing classes lively and intimate.
  • Work through your weekly written lectures, course materials, and writing assignments at your own pace.
  • Share and discuss your work with classmates in a supportive class environment.
  • Instructor Briana McGuckin will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.
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briana una mcguckin


Briana Una McGuckin writes Gothic Romance/Romantic Suspense. Her debut novel, On Good Authority, is a Victorian Gothic/Romantic Suspense. Among other places, her short fiction appears in the Stoker-nominated Not All Monsters anthology (Rooster Republic Press), as well as IN SOMNIO (Tenebrous Press) and A Quaint and Curious Volume of Gothic Tales (Brigids Gate Press). Briana has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, a perhaps concerningly large collection of perfume oils, and a fascination with all things Victorian.