Episode 14: Romance or Love Story?

On October 13, 2018, we welcomed Charleston-based Romance Writer Savannah Frierson into the studio to discuss the romance genre and all the subgenres therein. Here are the show notes:


Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer

Rex Hurst, fiction writer and English instructor

Savannah Frierson, Romance Writer

Theme for the day

Romance: The Genre

Link to the Podcast


  • Who we are and why we’re here
  • The topic for the week: Romance as a genre
  • Book discussion — currently reading and its analysis through the lens of the topic
  • Craft book discussion — Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life
man and woman holding hands walking on seashore during sunrise
Photo by Ibrahim Asad on Pexels.com

Link to the podcast

Segment 1

All About Savannah Frierson:

“Savannah J. Frierson realized writing was her calling her junior year of high school. She completed her first original work, Reconstructing Jada Channing, as her senior thesis at Harvard University, earning the 2005 Dorothy Hicks Lee Prize for most outstanding thesis concerning African or African-American literature. In 2007, Savannah released her first novel, Being Plumville, which earned Savannah SORMAG Readers’ Choice Awards in 2007 and an Emma Award nomination for Debut Author of the Year at the 2008 Romance Slam Jam Conference. She has also spoken at several book fairs, including the South Carolina Book Festival, Charleston’s Black Ink Literary Festival and Capital Bookfest, book clubs, radio shows, and classes about her work.

“Savannah is dedicated to social justice issues, especially those concerning Black womyn. She is dedicated to ensuring representations of Black womyn are as full of breadth, life, and vitality as they exist in the world.

“When not writing, Savannah enjoys engaging in social media until she’s either laughing or cussing at her screen; reading until her eyes grow heavy; singing until she’s hoarse; and learning until there’s nothing left to learn. Luckily, such a thing is impossible.”

The books:

The Beauty Within (2008)

AJ’s Serendipity (2009)

Being Plumville (2013)

Trust Fall (2014)

Reconstructing Jada Channing (2015)

More Than a Summer Love (2015)

Go With Your Heart (2016)

Manna Tree (2016)

Then the City of Sin series:

In rapid succession in 2017.

The Light

The Fight

The Sight


How did you get started in romance novels?

What spoke to you about the genre?


Segment 2

What makes a romance novel a romance novel?

Romance Writers of America –  says it this way: “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”

There are the rules summed up in one paragraph.

  • A hero and a heroine
  • A problem that threatens to keep them apart
  • A realization that this is “the one” and the struggle to make the relationship work
  • A commitment – whether that’s marriage or simply the implication of marriage – at the end.

RWA specs:

Series or “category” romances: books issued under a common imprint/series name that are usually numbered sequentially and released at regular intervals, usually monthly, with the same number of releases each time. These books are most commonly published byHarlequin/Silhouette.

Single-title romances: longer romances released individually and not as part of a numbered series. Single-title romances may be released in hard cover, trade paperback, or mass-market paperback sizes.”

The Sub-Genres of Romance novels:



Categorical (part of the “monthly” issue by a publisher)


Futuristic, Fantasy, or Paranormal

Time Travel




Why does romance as a genre satisfy? What are its expected scenes?

Five required scenes

The Meet

Look What We share

Physical attraction

Emotional commitment

Sacrifice for love


C.S. Lakin puts on a CLINIC with these three blogs:

20 Key Scenes for Writers of Romance Novels

The First 10 Scenes You Need to Plot for Your Novel

Layering 20 Scenes to Create a Strong Romance Novel


Segment 3

The Love Scene

There’s an art to how they develop, where they’re placed, and what we provide the reader and what we leave the reader wanting.

Try this resource: Knowing Where and When to Have Love Scenes in a Romance Novel

The key is sexual tension that begins early and builds for both the characters and the reader until when the sex scene finally occurs, they’re all ready for it.

  • Make it obvious – the attraction
  • In sight or out of sight, but always on their minds
  • Make them wait
  • Let them start then make them stop
  • Leave them wanting more

Some dos and don’ts

  • Utilize dialogue
  • Incorporate real-life sex details like fumbling and awkwardness
  • Seek beta readers and workshops to try out vocabulary and flow of the scene
  • Revise, revise, revise to refine the scene for the perfect impact


  • Write something that doesn’t further the plot
  • Turn your sex scenes into poetry

This article asks some important questions about including sexual activity in your novel, regardless of the genre. The most important lesson is to know the expectations of the genre as far as sex is concerned, and to meet those expectations.

What’s the best way to know the expectations? Read in the genre.

Jane Friedmansuggestswe look to the Victorians and “restraint” for writing compelling love scenes:

  • Establish believable reasons for your characters to fall in love
  • Give your characters something other than themselves to talk about with one another
  • Limit the dialogue – the power is in what they don’t say
  • Don’t overstate the description (at the sentence level, less words is better)
  • Get cosmic
  • Delay the kiss – romance happens in that moment between the possibility and the kiss
  • Reread the most memorable love scenes you’ve read, analyze why they were so great

Segment 4

What we’re reading

(Since it’s probably not a romance, here’s a link to Sarah MacLean’s suggested reading)

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