- Take a Classic Fantasy Villain and Give Them Some Lovin’
- Battle Buddies to Lovers?
- Stick With the Tried and True: Enemies to Lovers
- Magical Power Imbalance: What Happens When a Character Isn’t as Powerful as Their Partner?
I’m a sucker for a good fantasy romance. Hit me with it. Inject it straight into my veins.
But how exactly do you write fantasy romance? What are the stakes? Is romance always the biggest focus? What obstacles are preventing the happy couple from actually staying, well, happy?
I’m here to provide you four fantasy romance ideas to get the juices flowing. And in exchange, all you have to do is finish that book and send it to me expeditiously so I can get my quick fix.
You’re welcome. Let’s begin.
(Also, I figured out article anchors. It’s been over two years since I started this website, and I never knew how to use them or what to do with them. Ain’t that about a bitch!)
(Please note: These are, as you might have guessed, super raw ideas, intended to give you something to work with or help you make a breakthrough. Feel free to take them any direction you like!)
1. Take a Classic Fantasy Villain and Give Them Some Lovin’
Villains. No matter how evil they may be, we all crave love and acceptance from someone, and these dastardly devils are no exception.
This fantasy romance theme typically comes in the form of a retelling, either from a classic fairytale, a Disney classic, or both (Disney is known for co-opting fairytales quite a bit).
Usually, the wicked witch or the scary monster plots to destroy or rule the world with little nuance, or at most a tragic backstory that nonetheless does not justify their shenanigans. But lately, pop culture has leaned towards giving us their side of the story a little more, which has resulted in a hot trend of classic story retellings told from the perspective of the evil queen herself.
The fact is: there’s two sides to every story. And it’s very easy to paint yourself as the hero when you see yourself that way, and are now free to tell the tale however you choose because your adversary has been defeated and can’t exactly dispute your claims.
What if you wrote about a fantasy “villain” who isn’t a heartless and cruel as the world has painted them to be? Who is just looking for someone to spend time with? Someone who is feared and hated by everyone around them, but all they ever wanted was to be accepted and loved?
If you decide you want to write a fantasy romance involving a villain—especially the retelling of a classic villain, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the villain really such a villain? If so, why? If not, why are they treated as such?
- What does their partner(s) see in them? What makes them love them despite everything that’s been said about them?
- What kind of obstacles do they face? Are the “good guys” really not such good guys after all? Are others trying to pull them apart? Is the villain being framed for something they didn’t do?
- Do the couple have to grapple with the villain’s behavior, reputation, and/or dark powers? Is it a point of contention between them?
- Mortals fear nothing more than the God of Death, who takes their loved ones and serves as the very incarnation of the one question no one has ever been able to answer: what happens when you die? Jaded and apathetic, the God of Death is as surprised as anyone when they encounter a mortal who doesn’t fear them at all. In fact, they seem to love them.
- The local village avoids the cave high atop the mountain for good reason: there is a monster lurking there, which only comes out at night to devour the occasional clueless traveler. But one such traveler is a frickin’ badass and wanders up the mountain on her own, determined to slay this mysterious monster. But instead of a fanged, fire-breathing beast, she finds…
- The evil queen has ruled the realm for centuries. Ruthless, pragmatic, and cold, she rarely leaves her palace. And the few who claim to have seen her say that she is the most beastly thing they have ever seen. Little do they know, she stays holed up in her lair every day trying and failing to use her magic to create a living being. Someone who will finally love her.
2. Write Some Battle Buddy Lovers
I’m of the belief that the cutest trope in any romance is the “friends to lovers” trope. A friendship established on trust and affection that organically blossoms into a loving and fulfilling relationship? *chef’s kiss*
So, hey, take it a step further, add a little fantasy romance twist, and make them battle buddies!
Write a story centered around lifelong friends and allies. They have each other’s backs, they know the other’s next move without ever needing to communicate it, and they trust their partner with their life—literally.
When writing a fantasy centered on adventuring partners, mercenaries, or warriors fighting side by side, some questions to consider include:
- What is the world like, and why does it necessitate your characters dedicating their lives to battle?
- Do both partners enjoy being on the battlefield, or do either (or both) of them do it purely out of necessity?
- Trust on the battlefield doesn’t necessarily mean trust in a relationship. What kind of obstacles do the partners deal with that makes it hard for them to open up to each other? Does one see the other purely as a “battle buddy,” and nothing more? Do they both grapple with their feelings for each other? Does the danger of their line of work make either (or both) of them feel that a relationship is just not for them?
- How can you (as the evil, conniving writer you are, muahahahaha!) complicate their relationship further through their journey and the “big bad” they’re facing? What if you gave one of them some kind of connection to the villain that makes things a little more complex than just, “Find the bad guy and kill him to save the realm”?
- A pair of monster hunters have been cleaning up the streets of New York since they were kids. But when faced with a cunning wizard with magic that manipulates emotions, the partners are forced to reconcile with the feelings they’ve hid from each other for years…if they want to save the city.
- A couple who also happen to be legendary wizards do what wizards do best: slaying dragons, starting tavern brawls, and accepting whatever quest tickles their fancy. But their relationship is put to the test when the latest quest on their radar involves slaying the monster that destroyed one of their villages long ago. And to complicate things further, they learn that the monster happens to be their partner’s estranged parent. Awkward.
- A prince/princess abandoned their country several years ago, instead answering the call of battle to fight the eldritch creatures spreading across the land. They’ve been traveling and fighting alongside a young warrior born to local farmers and serving to save up for medicine for their ailing mother ever since. The warrior has loathed royalty their whole life, believing them greedy and selfish for taxing peasants heavily and refusing to provide proper medical care. Things get a little uncomfortable when the prince/princess encounters somewhere from their past, and their long-time partner learns the truth of their identity. Whoops.
3. Stick With the Tried and True: Enemies to Lovers
Ahhh, the enemies to lovers. A trope that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, but…it does.
It’s not easy as a writer to make your characters do a complete pivot, going from absolutely loathing each other to being madly in love. It takes skill, it takes time, it takes being able to create a dynamic that evolves naturally and authentically, and it takes throwing a lot of obstacles in your characters’ way to force them closer together.
I love books that involve this trope because we’ve all encountered that one person we have to deal with that we absolutely despise. It’s kinda nice to imagine that it’s possible to grow to like someone you initially hated with all your heart and soul. And hey, hate f*cking is a thing, so it’s not exactly impossible.
If you want to use this as an idea, centering your fantasy romance book around characters who start off on opposite sides of the battlefield (whether metaphorical or literal), some questions to consider include:
- How extreme do you want to make their hate for each other? What’s their deal? What do each of them want that put them at odds with one another?
- For example, maybe one is a pirate and captures the other for ransom. One wants that ransom money, the other wants to not be tied up next to some barrels of rotting fish in the bilge of a ship. Obviously, not the best first impression being made here.
- If the main focus is the characters’ hate-to-love relationship, what kind of obstacles can you throw in their way to force them closer together?
- What are the consequences of them finally getting together? There have to be some, even if it’s purely emotional or social like self-doubt, an instinctive mistrust for the other person, backlash from other people in their lives, etc.
- Is the initial hate the characters feel towards each other justified? If not, what kinds of outside forces might have influenced that hate? And if so, how do they overcome it?
Note: If the characters are starting out as enemies, I’d advise not to make their hate for each other too strong or too justifiable. For example, SA is a no-no for me (and probably for many readers). Murder of a loved one is also a tough one to contend with as the writer, although there may be ways to work around it if everything was just a big misunderstanding. In most cases, though, there’s no coming back from something like that.
Basically, some things are just unforgivable. It’s subjective, of course, but keep that in mind since you’re trying to make the relationship’s growth feel natural.
- Romeo & Juliet, but with monsters! What happens when two vampires from opposing clans (or two monster species that have been at war for centuries) are forced to work together to take on a greater threat. Maybe it’s monster hunters, or angry villagers with stakes and pitchforks, or some dark force stronger than both their clans combined.
- The Holy Order of Preventing Evil Shenanigans (H.O.P.E.S) tasks one of their youngest members with assassinating the woman prophesized to destroy the world. But when he hunts her down, he’s surprised to find that his evil, dangerous target is just a friendly, bubbly librarian’s assistant who reads books to kids on Fridays and really likes cake pops.
- Two spirits protecting opposing kingdoms have plotted to destroy each other for millennia. It’s not until a local from neither kingdom who can commune with spirits arrives on the scene that they’re forced to reconcile with the fact that the kingdoms’ hate for each other—the force that has driven them for thousands of years—is kind of pointless and petty. Shenanigans ensue.
4. Magical Power Imbalance: What Happens When a Character Isn’t as Powerful as Their Partner?
A partnership is supposed to be equal. So write a fantasy romance wherein magic or some kind of special ability is either highly revered, or, hell, maybe even the norm in this world, and take it away from one of your lovebirds. How does that affect the relationship dynamic?
I love this one because of how dependent it is on the worldbuilding. And I love me some worldbuilding. This one can also make for a great sci-fi plot, or any plot in a world involving the delightful Everyone Is a Super trope.
One of your partners is gifted with magic. The other…not so much. Maybe one is a magical protégé, destined for greatness, while the other hears the whispers all around them, questioning how the powerless nobody managed to snag such a catch. Maybe magic is the norm, and our magic-less protagonist is shunned by everyone around them until they meet the one person who treats them like a person…who also happens to be an insanely powerful magician.
Or hey, maybe one is just your average guy/gal/non-binary pal, while the other is The Chosen One, the warrior bards sing about and the people worship.
How do you handle this kind of relationship dynamic?
Some questions to consider:
- Does the partner gifted with magic care at all that their lover lacks it? Is it ever a point of contention between them?
- Does the magic-less protagonist struggle with self-esteem issues, or feeling like they aren’t worthy of their partner? How does this create tension between them?
- Is the magic-less character constantly needing to be rescued by their partner? What kinds of dangers do they face that might make magic important, and might make it all the more frustrating that the protagonist doesn’t have access to it?
- What kind of skills or accomplishments does the protagonist have under their belt? Do they feel pressured to prove themselves to their partner constantly because they don’t have special powers to help them out?
- A succubus who rules the city’s underworld with an iron fist is feared by monsters and humans alike (or, at least, the few humans who know of the existence of monsters). No one is as surprised as she is when a mere mortal stands up to her for the first time in centuries. Nor is anyone as surprised as she is when she finds that she…kinda likes him?
- In a world where everyone is born with at least one magic ability (and sometimes, even two), the love interest is a living marvel in that she was born with three abilities. Predictably, her friends and family all expect her to marry another powerful sorcerer who comes from a good family. They are not pleased when she instead falls for another living marvel: one born with no powers at all.
- A goddess with the whole world at her fingertips. Loved and worshipped by most, feared by others. Capable of leveling cities with a wave of the hand, known for granting impossible miracles to those who please her. And her partner, the eternal love of her life…Tim. He’s a nice guy.