Romance to Make Your Readers Swoon

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's day, all!  In the spirit of the holiday, today we're going to explore some great resources and tips for writing a good romance.  Whether it's a sci-fi, crime drama, or plain romance novel, many books have a romantic relationship of some sort (whether it's the main focus or a side story is dependent on the plot), and each work differently.  However, there are a few do's and don'ts that can be all-encompassing.

First and foremost, let it be believable from the perspective of their pasts.  For example, someone who has dealt with a lot of loss, is very pessimistic, or simply doesn't care to be in a relationship won't fall head over heels immediately.  Perhaps the love interest is persistent and "wears them down" so to say, but your book shouldn't be a Disney movie in that they take one look at each other and fall in love immediately (unless your book is a certain style of fairytale or one for young children, in which a plot must be accelerated to maintain interest).  Taking Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games as an example: she struggled with her emotions and swayed between what she knew or thought was safe and what she felt (logic versus the limbic system, or emotions). It was logical that she would struggle with the desire to be in a relationship given the circumstances in which she lived. Even Han and Leia from the Star Wars franchise can be examined: Leia, a very headstrong princess, takes awhile to come around to the idea of loving the equally headstrong Han Solo, but she does (eventually, and even then, their relationship is somewhat tempestuous).

Secondly, passion doesn't necessarily mean hotheaded.  I was reading Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson last night (which is an excellent book, just not about writing) and she wrote, to paraphrase, that relational passion doesn't mean drama, but rather intensity.  This is an interesting tip not only for personal relationships, but in writing as well.  What does this mean, exactly?  It means that your characters aren't honestly passionate about each other if they're constantly fighting or "on again, off again." Intensity means that regardless of what happens to them, they still feel the same way about one another; that nothing will come between them in their love.  This doesn't mean that your characters shouldn't fight/argue, either.  That's just another facet of life, therefore a realistic addition.  Just don't overdo it for the sake of drama and the "will they, won't they" storyline.

Third, romance isn't necessarily only the gushy, feel-good stuff.  While we may enjoy reading it, the characters and their natural behavior should be more important than squeezing in as much fluff as possible.  Do your characters call each other to make sure the other got home okay?  What about a text asking how their day has been going?  Grabbing a coffee and dropping it off at the office for them when they're having a bad day?  This stuff may seen everyday, but it's the core of keeping romance around.  You don't have to write speeches proclaiming love to be romantic, but rather, simply show that the characters care for each other and want to look out for one another.  Note how it makes the character(s) feel when this occurs. That's an excellent way to integrate romance into everyday life or as a subplot without being overbearing.   Any woman (most likely your target audience, especially for a romance novel) who's been in a relationship will probably swoon at the male character who just made dinner (no candlesticks and slow music, just dinner) for his love interest or even just cleaned up the kitchen after the fact.

Finally, make sure the characters mesh well.  While you can have opposites attract as well as birds of the same feathers flocking together, make sure there are things in common.  Personalities that work well together, the English and the mathematics nerds (creative versus logical but complement each other), the grad student and the woman who dropped out of high school to start her own business--so on.  Characters who wouldn't realistically work together well in real life won't be very believable for the readers, and therefore the storyline will have much less of an impact.

Finally, check out some of these great websites for more tips on writing romance:

How to Write a Heart-Stopping Kissing Scene, from The Author Studio

How to Write Non-Cheesy Romance, from The Lexicon Writing Blog

How to Build a Romance Thread in Your Story, "Tangled" Style, from Go Teen Writers 

How to Plot a Romance Novel, from Now Novel

What are your favorite romance stories, and how were they presented from a storyteller's perspective?