So You’re Writing a Romance
By Jilian Whitehead
Valentine’s Day is here! And that means . . . yep, it’s time to talk about love. Romance is one of the most written on topic in all forms of writing—that also makes it one of the hardest. While it may be a cliché topic, people will also never tire of it. If you’re trying to write romance, here are some of my opinions of things you should watch out for!
1. “We fell in
Love at first sight sounds romantic, but it hardly ever works in writing. Why? Because a romance story should be about the journey, and if your two characters fall in love when they first meet . . . where else is there to go? There might be external reasons that prevent the two characters from being together, but internal conflict is key in developing strong relationships. Instead of having them kiss a few pages after they’ve met, make your reader really root for the two characters to get together!
2. “I loved them both.”
Love triangles are tricky and controversial. They may seem like a great subplot, but too often, the main character comes off as indecisive, passive, or worse, a cheat. For love triangles to be successful, the protagonist needs to have strong chemistry with both characters and solid reasons they can’t choose between them. The best love triangles I’ve read always make me question who the protagonist will end up with—and make me kind of want both.
3. “He was the hottest guy I’d ever seen.”
You can tell a lot about a person by how they describe someone else. First impressions focus a lot on appearances—and there’s nothing wrong with that because that is what we notice first—but if someone continually talks about how “hot” the love interest is, or a guy tells his friends “She’s not like the others” . . . that’s a warning sign. Know the exact reasons why your characters have fallen in love. If you can’t think of anything concrete besides their looks or a feeling, you might want to reevaluate their relationship.
4. “Only I can save them from themselves.”
Signs of an unhealthy relationship always make me cautious. However, some people do like romances where one partner is more dominant, and fiction is one outlet for that. In my opinion, abusive relationships should never, ever be glorified, not even in “fiction.” If you’re writing a story that may feature signs of abuse, you need to be very careful, and be mindful of your audience. Writing an abusive relationship in a young adult story is a lot different than an audience who knows what they’re getting into.
There are so many other things I could talk about, but these are the main points I wanted to share with you. They might be tied to my personal pet peeves, but I think they’re important to consider. Still not sure how to tackle your romance? What about not including one at all? Friendships and family relationships are becoming quite popular lately, and they can provide just as much conflict and dynamic!