|Photo credit: vicki wolkins on Flickr|
I'm talking about romance.
I'll admit that I started this post with some trepidation, as I do not write genre romance. Now, that's not to say that I don't ever write romance—in fact, I often include a romantic subplot in my novels—but for me, romance isn't the core of the story, it's more of an enhancement.
Nevertheless, even as a subplot, romance can go drastically wrong if not handled correctly, and so I still think it's important to discuss how to write it effectively.
I suspect that romance in writing is something that every writer handles a little differently. For me, I usually establish what characters will be romantically involved before I write a word (with exception to instances where characters surprise me). At the very beginning of the writing process, I usually have a general sense of who the characters are, what they are like and a bit of their background, but I don't really get to know the true core of my characters until the writing begins.
In my experience, the romantic subplots unfold much the same way—a natural growing relationship between two characters rather than a meticulously planned this then that plot. That's not to say that I don't plan it at all—I usually set down milestones while planning/outlining (first date, first kiss, etc.), but I try to be as flexible as possible while writing it.
There are two dangers that I look out for when working out romantic relationships between characters:
- Forced love. I've written a post detailing the dangers of forced romance in writing, so I'm not going to dive into it here. What I will say, is that the danger of over-planning a romantic relationship between characters is this forced romance. It's pretty easy to tell if your characters are victim to this danger—the relationship between them will feel stiff and unnatural, and reaching those milestones will feel much more difficult than it should be. The romance should unfold naturally, so if you're fighting your characters to get them to like each other, that's a pretty good sign that you might want to reconsider your romantic subplot.
- Insta-love. This totally clever term was coined by one of my CPs, and I have stolen it (with permission) will be using it from here on out. Insta-love is a problem on the opposite side of the spectrum, and it's one that many writers often struggle with. Sometimes, when writing romance, we writers start to get a little impatient. We want to get to the good parts—the first kisses and the first l-word and those moments in romance that make our heart flutter. And sometimes, in our eagerness to get to the good stuff, we push our characters along a little too quickly. We end up with love at first sight and premature kisses and saying I love you so quickly that our readers get whiplash.
The good news is that while this is a common problem, it's relatively easy to fix in revision. Your characters have chemistry—this is good—you just need to push on the brakes a little so it doesn't feel so sudden. Remember, most relationships don't form overnight, and if you want your readers to fall in love with your romance, you need to give them time, too.
Once you've avoided those two major dangers, you can breathe easily knowing you're likely on the right track with your romance.
And for examples of particularly well-written romantic subplots, check out Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
What tips do you have for writing romance? Any book recommendations with well-written romantic elements?