In the literary world, the romance genre is often treated as a joke due to its overuse of certain tropes, unrealistically portrayed relationship growth, and focus on physical aspects rather than the romantic connection between the protagonist and their love interest. Today, I’d like to share three tips on how to craft a believable romance that will leave readers swooning rather than rolling their eyes.
1) The Dos and Don’ts of Insta-Love
One of the most common complaints I’ve read in reviews for romance books involve the characters instantly falling in love upon their first meeting with little to no reason as to why. The best example I can provide of this trope is Anna and Hans from Frozen. Did anyone else cringe upon their engagement?
Luckily for Anna, she escapes the mortifying consequences of that case of Insta-Love, as the film transitions on to her introduction to Kristoff. Disney was able to twist the Insta-Love trope and make it end up as endearing for the audience. How can we as authors do the same?
Suggestions for Writing Insta-Love:
- Give the characters one strong common goal or interest. They don’t have to have everything in common, but give them enough similarities to develop a foundation for their connection.
- Make the initial first-sight moment develop by having the characters notice an intriguing personality trait about one another rather than a physical trait. Make the romance about the characters, not about how they look.
- Be subtle about their initial attraction. Even if the chemistry is there on Day 1, the relationship should still have room to develop and mature throughout the remainder of the book. Don’t have them spouting out that they love each other, should get married, and have kids the day they meet, unless they have gone through a lifetime’s worth of relationship-building circumstances with each other over that period of time (Ex: Katniss and Peeta’s close proximity in The Hunger Games resulted in a Insta-Love of sorts for the viewers in Panem).
2) Don’t Base the Romance on Looks or Physical Aspects
This bit goes hand-in-hand with what I mentioned about Insta-Love, but the overfocus on how “hot” or “sexy” the love interest may be is a huge problem throughout the romance genre.
For me, as a reader that favors cleaner romance, whenever the protagonist continually describes how good the love interest looks, I cringe. For the most part, this is a tip off that the relationship will be one where lust is mistaken for love. Romance, to me, should be based on a love story involving each person’s emotions, and how, working together, the couple learns from one another in a way that results in amazing character arcs.
“Romance” books that are purely lust-based often lack the depth for promising character arcs. In fact, lust-based have their own separate genre, and I’m disappointed that its genre is often thought to be intertwined with the romance genre, as romance books then get a bad reputation for having books that confuse lust with love. Please determine which genre your story will best fit in. If it’s purely a lovestory-based book, then it’s a romance. If it’s incredibly steaming and physical… that’s not romance in the true sense of the word, and it belongs in a different genre.
Lastly, in order for readers to ship your fictional couples like there’s no tomorrow, a palpable chemistry between the two should be crafted. In other words, the characters, like I hinted at in the Insta-Love section, should have a common bond and/or goal that can set the course for the rest of the relationship.
There’s nothing worse than reading a “romance” where two people meet and you can’t for the life of you comprehend why they’re a good match. In order for a couple to be portrayed believably, the readers need something to latch onto, whether that be how Person A compliments Person B’s personality, how they both have been through similar traumatic experiences and help each other mend, etc.
So, if you want to craft a believable romance that will lead to your fans shipping your couple, remember to try the following:
1) Remember the Dos and Don’ts of Insta-Love
2) Love Story = Romance | Lust Story = Not Romance
3) Couples Thrive On Chemistry
Talk to me, Arrowheads!
Do you have any tips for crafting a believable romance that I didn’t address in today’s post? Please add to the conversation in the comments!