If you’re writing about love, it is absolutely essential that you can immerse readers in your romance. If you can’t convey the feelings between your characters – well, then what do you have left? Unfortunately, writing a convincing romance isn’t the easiest thing.
I’ve always been a fanatic romance reader. When I started writing romance, this was one of the things I found most complicated: how do you convincingly show your readers that these people have such strong feelings about each other? How do you make the reader feel the romance too? How do you go about writing love without simply saying “And they were in love”?
Here’s what I did: I took some of my favourite and least favourite romance books and browsed through them to look for common characteristics. What made for a convincing love story? What didn’t?
I’m happily sharing my results with you in this blog post!
Writing love: 6 ways
1. Make your characters real people
If you’ve ever fallen in love, you doubtlessly know that feeling of getting to know someone better and better, and falling more and more in love with them with everything you discover about them. When I first met my boyfriend, he was really just a fun friend of a friend. But then I found out that he likes to cook, doesn’t like sleeping in, has some painful troubles with his sister, is very scared people will consider him lazy if he doesn’t do everything perfectly…
And that made him not “just someone”, it made him my someone.
In order for your readers to feel your romance, they need to fall in love a little bit themselves. And nobody will fall in love with cardboard characters! So make sure your characters are real people, with real fears and flaws, real hobbies and quirks.
In Velvet, Viviette isn’t just a princess. She’s wrestling with a deep fear that she may not be capable enough to rule her kingdom in the future, and feels frustrated about a father who still sees her as a little girl. She’s a bit too curious for her own good, she’s snarky, she’s fond of warm baths and long walks… Well, you get the point!
2. Use beauty the right way
Of course, beauty is attractive. But just announcing that your main characters are supermodels is not enough to write a love story. As said above: you need real people, not just cardboard characters.
However, your characters’ beauty can still be very useful in writing love – if you use it the right way!
One technique I’m very fond of is to have your characters seeing each other in more and more positive ways when they fall in love with each other. At first they may consider each other pretty plain – or even unattractive, if they don’t like each other. But when the sparks begin to fly, they suddenly notice attractive features in each other that they never noticed before. This way, the reader understands what’s happening even before the characters themselves do.
Even with this technique, however, it is important that you don’t just state “Jim had never seen how beautiful she was” and leave it at that. That’s telling, not showing. Instead, give meaningful details. Make them notice each other’s eyes, hands, movements, voices, smell and whatever else you can think of. (I personally adore my boyfriend’s shoulders.)
3. Show, don’t tell feelings
Just as with characters’ appearance, you should try to show their feelings of love as much as possible. In other words, don’t just say “Lily was in love”. Make the reader see she is in love, using more indirect clues.
You can show feelings through:
- Thoughts. For example, Lily might constantly think of her love interest (“I can’t wait to tell him about this!”). Or she might be worrying about what he thinks of her. Or she might be daydreaming about his positive characteristics.
- Dialogue. Is Lily talking about her love interest all the time? Does she mention him in conversations that really don’t have much to do with him? Are her friends teasing her about him?
- Actions. Does Lily go to a party just because she knows her crush may be there? Does she go out of her way to help him? Does she tell him about things she doesn’t discuss with anyone else?
Again, if you start putting in these clues well in advance, your reader will notice the upcoming romance before the characters themselves do.
4. Make your characters vulnerable
Love is all about trust, about opening up to each other. So when you’re writing about love between your characters, show them being vulnerable towards each other.
Do they have deep fears or doubts? They may still share them with their love interest, even if they’re afraid they may be hurt. Are they afraid they will be rejected if their love interest figures out some dark secret? Show how the secret comes out in the open – and how the other character still sticks around.
It’s best to do this in little steps. Don’t make them go from total strangers to open books within two pages. Give them a small secret to share, then a slightly bigger secret… Build that trust as you go in the story and show how the characters begin to open up along the way.
5. Show daily intimacy
Writing sex is fun, I’ll be the first to agree. But amazing sex is not an automatic pathway to eternal love! If you want to show actual intimacy, beside the real hot stuff, you should pay attention to the more subtle clues as well.
Intimacy can often be found in the little things. Characters knowing each other’s favourite music, or food. A kiss on the forehead. Inside jokes. A back rub after a tiring day. A cute date, a playful fight, whatever you can think of.
Don’t try to put it all in the large, sweeping gestures. My boyfriend doesn’t need to save the world for me, but I’m very bloody happy when he hugs me and makes me food after I come home from work.
I wrote another blog about ways to show intimacy without sex. Perhaps that gives you some ideas!
6. Don’t make it perfect!
Alright, so your shy, insecure heroine has found a strong alpha man who teaches her to believe in herself. And your tormented hero finally learns to open up about his past hurts with this sweet, understanding woman in his arms. Everything is perfect forever!
Good? Well… not really.
Yes, of course you need your Happy Ever After. But happy doesn’t necessarily mean perfect. In my opinion, perfect is a problem. Perfect is not only unrealistic, it’s also very damned boring. Who wants to read about two people who go about their day in perfect harmony and never do anything surprising again?
Your heroine may still be a little insecure, even if it’s no longer so much of an issue in her life. Your hero still needs to be reminded every now and then that he’s closing up again. They may still have little misunderstandings, even when they have the largest obstacles out of the way. In short, make sure it doesn’t suddenly become one smooth ride as soon as they’re officially together!
Those were my 6 most important tips on writing love. Do you have any amazing suggestions? Let me know in the comments!