Five Tips for Writing an Office Romance

By Katie Gowrie

Harlequin headquarters is moving! That’s right, we’ve packed our bags and closed the door on one legendary office building (we’ve been there since the ’80s!). We’ve left our cozy spot in the northern end of Toronto for a trendy new space in the heart of downtown—the land of expensive coffees, bankers, pumps on the pavement, glass, chrome, and corporate-wear galore!

The office is where a lot of us spend most of the day—everything from commute to lunch options is tied to this place. In fiction, offices are the backdrop of some great romances! The close proximity and the stress of the job can make for sizzling tension and really tender moments.

As Harlequin headquarters adjusts to a new office, we thought we’d share with you our top tips on writing an office romance!

1. Your leading couple is forced  into this space together all day. Use that close proximity to amp up the tension between them. Once an attraction has been established, go for the slow burn—how will they deal with the chemistry and remain professional? And what kind of turmoil will that cause?

2. One of the best parts of an office romance is when those cold and calculating or primly professional facades melt away to reveal the genuine person beneath. There’s lots of potential for emotional growth here. We’re all a little different at work than we are at home—explore the ways your hero and heroine come to know and understand each other both in and out of the office.

3. And on that note, these stories present a fountain of ideas for conflict and character development. Romance characters can find themselves in some pretty high-stress jobs, which allows for meaningful and plausible conflict. Are their career aspirations at odds with the romance? Will they have to come together for a common goal? Think about what your leading couple learn not just about each other, but from each other, and how that will set them on track to their HEA.

4. There’s certain characters we expect to find at the office—the perky young receptionist, the boring accountant, the CEO’s fatherly advisor. Try to avoid a cartoon secondary cast and think of ways to shake them up. As always, you can set your story apart by surrounding your H&H with a group of unique and many-sided characters.

5. Let’s talk about that balance in power. Evening out the power dynamics is something we love to see. So, if your heroine works under your hero, how does she have the upper hand in some other aspect of their relationship? Perhaps it’s socially, sexually, intellectually? Spreading control between them, allowing for power plays and mutual respect, is a great way to heighten the emotional and physical connection. And of course, we’re always open for a twist on a classic trope — maybe in your office romance, the heroine the CEO and the hero is her PA. 😉

Office romances are tons of fun! There’s so much potential for great conflict and tension—and it lends itself to a number of well-loved tropes (friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, best friend’s sibling, secret babies, and the list goes on). If you’re working on an office romance, above all remember to get creative and enjoy yourself!

Do you love office romances? Tell us why or why not, and share your tips on writing one in the comments below!

12 replies on “Five Tips for Writing an Office Romance”

Don’t like office romances. First thing I try to do is toss the poor characters into the streets during the zombie apocalypse. Sorry. Not a citygirl here.

You don’t have to be a city girl to do an office romance. We’re authors.. our imaginations are limitless. Maybe you should try one, just to see if maybe you could like it. 😀

I think the office environment is perfect for romance. The contrast between trying to appear professional and not show the seething emotions that entanglements can cause. The bitchiness, jealousy, one-upmanship – the list is endless! Great fun.

Agreed, Jackie. All those emotions seething under the professional facade is so much fun!

Thanks for reminding me that those office days that were a laborious part of my past can be plumbed for gold. Got paid dirt at the time, but hey, who knows??!!

Isn’t that so true Ann? We have to mine those not so great experiences, and turn them into story material.

So true! Perhaps not so pleasant at the time, but nice to be able to work those experiences into your writing 🙂

Thank you for the insights and suggestions Katie.
There are some great takes on office romances, from the original Shop Around the Corner, to The Proposal. After a SYTYCW challenge the other week got me thinking, I’ve got an story idea playing around in the back of my mind.
An office romance with an officious hero might be in the offing.
(with apologies for the word play, obviously I’m a little off today.)

Lol, Kate! I agree! I love those heated moments. Let’s not forget the classic movie with Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin 9 to 5! Lol.

I’ve always meant to see that one, Chrissie! I’ll have to take time to watch it one of these days 🙂

Good luck with the story idea, Kate! I love both those movies — I watched Shop Around the Corner at Christmas and told myself I should watch it more often.

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