To be honest, I suck at writing romance. I get embarrassed, imagining my children or my mother reading a romantic scene and snickering. But, of course, not every writer suffers from the same flaws as me. Your greatest talent may be writing romance. So, does the Steampunk genre have room for romance and adventure?
The answer to that is a loud and definite YES! A perfect example would be Cassandra Clare’s Young Adult trilogy, The Infernal Devices. Paranormal romance is one of the biggest sectors of the YA market, and Steampunk is a genre easily adapted to combine with the Romance literary genre. Clare is better known for her The Mortal Instruments series, which is set in the modern day, but her Steampunk trilogy is a prequel to that series.Clare started out writing fanfic, but was soon able to turn her passion for writing into a career of writing about passion.
Romance need not be the central theme of a Steampunk narrative featuring romantic going-ons. Michael Pryor’s Steampunk books always feature a romance as a subplot, while the main plot is always full of adventure and derring-do. He uses the romantic subplot to fill out the personalities of his characters, to share details that might not have come to light in any other way. Pryor could write the same stories without the romance, but the stories would lose some of their essential underpinnings. The love in the subplots add to his characterizations, they haven’t just been crowbarred in for the sake of having some romance. Rather than slow down the plots of his books, the romance strengthens them.
One person falling in love with another person is one of the classic plots of all time. It makes perfect sense that your characters in your Steampunk story have the same feelings of desire, attraction and affection as everyone else. This means you can contrast messy emotions with rational intellect. Just don’t fall into lazy writing, and assume only women have emotions and only men can be rational, or that pure intellect it somehow better than pure emotion. A passion for science can be just as messy as a passion for a romantic partner, maybe even more so.
The wonderful thing about including romance in a Steampunk narrative is that it helps your audience feel sympathy for your characters. Falling in and out of love is just about a universal experience. Most of your audience will have been swept away by the euphoria of discovering your crush likes you back; have lived through those heady days when your new boyfriend (or girlfriend) can do no wrong and you are slowly dying when you’re not with them; and have had their hearts ripped out when going through a breakup. A good writer can tap into those feelings, and let their readers suffer through those experiences vicariously.
You don’t have to have any romance in a Steampunk story. But don’t be afraid to add one if you deem it necessary.