I have a confession to make. I am not qualified to write this post. Love, romance, and intimate relationships in serious fiction are something that I struggle to get right.
Not being one to let my weaknesses hold me back, I’ve been looking into the whole topic of writing love and romance.
Blog posts about writing love and romance
Being a geek as well as a writer I have been looking at what other people have had to say about writing love and romance. Here is a cross section of the blog posts that I looked at.
- How to characterise love in your writing
- Writing romantic subplots
- Writing Romance In Your Mystery and Vice Versa
- How to Avoid a Forced Romantic Sub-Plot
- When to have a romantic subplot
Good Reasons to have love and romance in a story
There are some great reasons to include love and romance in a story. Here are three good reasons.
- Love and romance happen in real life so why not in fiction too?
- Love and romance are a central part of the story.
- Love and romance are the story (I think we all know what you are writing)
I am sure that you can think of more good reasons to include love and romance in your story. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment. However, this list exists to contrast with some very bad reasons to include love and romance.
Very bad reasons to include love or romance
Love and romance because I need a female character
Oh dear muse, no. Just don’t. Not ever…
This is just about the worst reason to include love and romance. If your female character cannot stand alone without the romance then she is an interloper. There are many good reasons to have strong female characters in a story. You don’t need romance for any of them.
Love and romance to fill up the word count
Apart from anything else, this would be as boring to your readers as it is likely to be to you as a writer. Stop worrying about your word count and tell the best story you can.
Love and romance to motivate the hero
If you ever – and I do mean that literally – if you ever need romance to give your hero motivation then you have not got a story but a cliche. I mean, honestly, stop that right now.
Come back tot he idea of love and romance in your story after you have sorted out the hero’s motivation.
3 things that make you better at writing love romance
After all that reading I have come up with three things that will make you or me better at writing love and romance. When you think about it, this is common sense for writers.
- Read good love and romance writing.
- Write more love and romance.
- If possible, get out there and experience life.
Swap out “love and romance” for any other aspect of life you want in your story and the same three rules apply.
What, you wanted some magic formula? Please. This is writing, not magic (the two are very similar sometimes).
Using “magic moments” for love and romance
Oh, very well then. Here is how to use a magic formula for writing love and romance. This magic formula is derived entirely from writing theory and is based on no direct experience whatsoever.
Rules for writing love and romance
- Feelings matter, keep them in focus
- Show far more than tell
- Avoid cliches
- Anticipation builds expectation
- Let the reader do some of the work for you
Let me briefly explain these rules. Love is an emotional topic, therefore you need to be comfortable talking about feelings. Furthermore, you need to be able to show what characters feel not just tell the reader. If you use cliches to do this, you will kill your story.
Do not be in a rush. Anticipation can be a powerful tool. Think about romance stories (I’m talking about the sort of story where all there you have in a romance) we don’t rush to the happy ever after but take our time getting there.
Anticipation can let the reader do some of the work for you. If you can present the reader with the material to start shipping your characters for you, then they will do a lot of the heavy lifting too. A close cousin of the cliche is the pattern. The pattern of love and love stories contain a common language that signals to the reader that a love story is in progress. I’m going to talk about patterns another time. If you know how to use them do, if you are worried about cliches avoid them.
Now the magic
The magic formula is actually the magic for all story telling. The formula is in two parts:
- The Scene
- The Sequal
The love and romance scene
In the scene a character wants something. In this case, maybe to confess her feelings to her love interest. There are obstacles to overcome. Something defining happens. Often this is a disaster to be dealt with but as this is romance this could be a mid-story win for the hero.
A married man, alone at the bar, wants a drink. There are a lot of people at the bar and the barman is busy. Disaster strikes as some (hot) woman starts chatting to him and he misses his opportunity to be served.
A timid girl alone in the castle wants to go horse riding. Guests arrive and she must receive them. Disaster! Prince Charming is walking over to her.
The lovers, separated, long to be reunited. They must overcome the distance between them. Success, they finally find each other.
The sequel to the scene
In the sequel, there are four stages to be covered and they need to happen in strict order.
1. Emotional Reaction
This is vital to a love and romance moment. The emotional reaction is both the payoff and the motivator so do not skimp here. This is, I think, where I might be going wrong- time will tell on that one.
A married guy approached by a hot lady might feel flattered but shy.
A timid girl, approached by her prince charming, might feel flustered but overjoyed.
The lovers, reunited, are relieved to be back together. This is a big emotional payoff so we dwell on those feelings.
The more pure romance you are going for the smaller this section will be. If the hero is in denial about his feelings this is where he will try to reason them away. He might even think about what the right thing is to do here.
The married man might reason that he needs to end the conversation with the hot lady at the bar. He might conclude that this is the right thing to do.
The timid girl might reason that her prince charming is telling her the truth. She trusts him.
The loves reason that the conflict is over.
This is where the character considers what others might do and say. He anticipates what might come next. This is fairly internal but you need to show it nevertheless.
The married guy might anticipate that he can get away with a night of forbidden passion.
The timid girl might anticipate being hurt as she has before.
The lovers anticipate living their happy every after. They think about how they will spend the rest of their life together.
This is where the character does something following from their anticipation and they set up the next scene where they want something and must overcome obstacles.
Our married guy might decide to cheat (or try to).
Our timid girl may run away from her prince charming. Thus setting up the prince for a chapter of him trying harder to win her heart.
The lovers, meanwhile, are sailing off into the sunset.
We are on to the next scene
Rinse and repeat, as they say.
That’s the structure of a scene, generally, but with the theory applied to love and romance. I’m going to be giving this a try soon.
Over to you
When it comes to love and romance in fiction, I am just a beginner. This is more theory than any practical experience here. Please use the comments to share your insights into writing love and romance.