One of my readers made an interesting comment on the romantic subplot in one of my stories. This particular reader was an older woman and not interested in sappy love stories or erotic scenes. She brought up the point that romance doesn’t need to be either of those things;
A romance can bloom without the characters even touching.
This got me thinking about romance in books. I did a bit of research and found some useful tips to consider when writing romance. These tips do not include writing sex scenes!
1. Individual. The romance should be as unique as the characters. Romance is not a cliché, it is individual and personal. The two romantically involved pairings in Earth Angel couldn’t be more different. Pair 1 – a teenaged girl smitten by a young man who doesn’t even realise. Pair 2 – a man trying to win affection from a woman by driving her nuts. Both pairs have an entirely different relationship and conflicts.
2. Tension/conflict. Conflict is often a good tool to develop the relationship, whether the two characters have conflicting traits or they are put through a conflict together that brings them close. Tension between characters is good to generate an emotional response from the reader, for example, if they want to touch but can’t.
3. Climax/raise the stakes. Throughout the novel it might be an idea to raise the stakes of the romance or relationship to a climax at the end for added drama. Start off with small steps and increase the romance throughout.
4. Exaggerated awareness. From the perspective of the smitten character, they note looks, movements, speech of their loved one with exaggeration. A simple touch is heightened, tense and emotional. This is called Exaggerated awareness and draws the reader into the romance.
5. Genre. Genre can be used to add drama to a romance. The genre I write is fantasy so romantic elements are always subplot but I use the setting and plot to heighten the relationships. People are brought together through epic, life changing scenarios.
6. POV. Perspective can be a good tool to add mystery. Telling the story from only one character’s POV in one scene, we don’t know what the other is thinking or feeling which adds tension and mystery.
7. Details. This can be related to the point about individuality. What are the characters backgrounds, traits, personalities, wants, needs, issues that can affect the relationship? Details are a way to ground the romance in believability.
8. Dialogue is an essential tool to utilise that can generate a myriad of emotions. The way the characters speak and the words they choose can add drama easily.
9. Humour. Humour can work if it fits in with the character. One of my characters fancies himself as a joker and pokes fun at his female fancy. This point also relates to the individual aspect.
10. Character development. Don’t shoehorn a romance into the story for the sake of a romance. What does it add to the plot and to the characters? Your characters should develop and change through the story as the romance and plot does.
11. Other emotions. It’s not just about romance, what other emotions are in play? What issues do the characters have that affects the relationship: anger, sadness, fear? These tools can be used to add drama or bring the characters together through hardship.
Romance is about the relationship, not just physical attraction. It doesn’t have to be all about kissing and touching. Relationships are built on more than just the physical. The journey the characters take and issues they have to face can be more heart wrenching. This point is related to other emotions and the character development.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have any other tips to share on writing romance? What is your favourite fictional romance and why?