How To Write A Romance That’s Actually Romantic

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writing romantic romance

Writing A Romance That's Actually Romantic

By Arabella K. Federico

Weather or not you're writing a romantic subplot or a full romance novel, the biggest key is to make that romance actually romantic. then why are so many writers getting this wrong? Walk with me, baby.

the forgotten romance (advice)

To begin, many people giving advice on writing romance will tell you to choose what TYPE of romance you’re going to write about. Friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, lovers to enemies to lovers again…and they’re not necessarily wrong about this advice, I just believe they’ve forgotten a step. A necessary step.

How do you want your READERS to FEEL about this romance? In addition, what feelings do you want to leave them with when reading this love-story? Do you want them to feel hopeful about love? To believe love never lasts? Do you want them to feel hopeless and then bring them back to being willing to end it all in the name of love? Whatever it is-this is a step that should never be overlooked in any romance story-ever again.

now you can choose the romance that your heart truly desires

Secondly, deciding how you want your audience to feel about this romance is crucial because now that you have an emotional outcome you’re working towards, you can then decide what the best romance would be to facilitate this outcome. Writing an plain enemies to loves story isn’t enough anymore, you’ve got to drive an emotional train-wreck in there with it-which is why knowing what type of feelings you’re going to create is so important. For example, a friends to loves story will feel very different than an enemies to lovers one. Readers will feel two very different emotions when reading those stories, so be sure that you make sure that the emotional response your shooting for matches the TYPE of love you’re writing about. Enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, loves to enemies, or love triangles are popular setups to begin with.
The Cruel Prince Romance
The Cruel Prince is my ultimate enemies to lovers books. Buy it here and check out my book review of it here.

Ditch the instant-romance, darlin.

For example, my favorite way to create romantic tension in the beginning is to X the instant love, instant romantic attraction gig all together. To be honest, I like to X the whole liking each other-period. Tension is a MUST when building a romance, but when you thrown in a wrench at the beginning where these characters have an initial aversion to each other, then you get the opportunity to build this tension over a much longer period of time. Above all- it’s what your readers want. Watching your character(s) slowly go from hating this person to then falling in love against their better judgment is fascinating. As the story progresses, the protagonist AND the audience begins seeing this character in a new light…in a lovable light. This is a mind fuck that your readers will LOVE to love, and IMO why “hate to love” romances work so well.


How does romantic love solidify itself?

Contrarily to popular opinion, having a great set of abs only constitutes attraction. Which is fine, but you’ll have to move on from that eventually. Typically, true love and connection is brought about by something much deeper. In my blog post about creating your dream Protagonist Part 1, I talk about a term coined by Jessica Brody as “The Shard of Glass”. Which is your Protagonist’s wound that they struggle with/overcome in the course of the story. A wound like this should be shared with the love interest. The vulnerability, the intimacy of showing someone the worst part of you creates a moment of deep bonding and ultimately trust and love between characters. Let the other love interest express some of their past wounds or scars themselves, and create a “safe space” for them both to bleed openly without fear of judgment. Who COULDN’T fall in love after that?

if there are no stakes...there is no romance

Perhaps we could argue that without stakes, there is no romance, but I’d be down to fight you for it. Allowing the characters to experience a sense of  “Wow, I could truly lose this person.” is going to throw them off in a big way. Weather it be from the romance itself, where one isn’t as in-love as the other or perhaps fears intimacy. Or, it could be a threat from the plot, where these two lovers are in physically dangerous situations and either could easily be killed or taken hostage. Humans are hard-wired to want what they can’t have, therefore when a scenario is presented that tells these characters that truly losing this person who’s so important to their lives is a high possibility-it creates stakes for them and the readers. Without these stakes, the romance seems guaranteed, and that’s not how you want anyone to feel.

Don't be afraid to break them

Firstly, I know that sounds morbid…and going for their heads is a little much, but I implore you to add a couple scalps to your collection…
Nobody? Okay…ehheem.
Well, in addition, breaking hearts is just as okay. And breaking relationships is even better. So, break them up. Typically this should occur within the “Dark Night of the Soul” beat, when everything else in the plot is also going to shit. Breaking hearts is just the cherry on top of the shit-show sunday. Remember those stakes I was just talking about? Well, you weren’t messing around. You did it, and it’s gonna be good. But be careful here, if the breakup is contrite, or over something dumb like a misunderstanding or miscommunication that could easily be fixed by a mere conversation-your readers will hate you. Make this something BIG that shatters the hearts of your lovers. 

Don't discount chemistry, tension, and all the feels

Lastly, CHEMISTRY!!! TENSION! THE FEELS! All the good stuff…the stuff that makes people do stupid shit. It isn’t overrated, it isn’t cheesy, it’s how people feel when they’re falling in love. Make a list of all the different types of ways you feel and experience chemistry and attraction and “the feels” when you’ve fallen for someone really hard. Especially if you’re writing a character who’s never been in love before, it’s a beautiful, exhilarating feeling-and your audience WANTS to feel that. They want to know about the electricity going on between these two characters, and this goes back to my very first point about how you make your audience feel. So if you have a clear vision about how you want readers to feel when experiencing this romance, and you have it aligned with how the characters feel while they’re IN the romance; it’s a complete experience.

Wrap Up

Wrap up what we learned about writing a romantic romance?
  1. Decide exactly how you want your AUDIENCE to feel about this romance, from beginning, middle, and end. 
  2. Which type of romance “troupe” fits your desired feeling from above. 
  3. No insta-love, and SHOW the characters falling in love with each other, and the audience will fall in love, too.
  4. Create moments where the characters can share their deepest wounds, issues, and insecurities w/ each other. Develop love by bonding these people together.
  5. Either within the romance itself or from the plot, create realistic stakes for your lovers. Give them and the audience a real fear of them losing each other somehow.
  6. Break them up!! But don’t do it in a convoluted or contrite way, because that’s annoying.
  7. Don’t forget the feels, the chemistry, and all that warm and fuzzy crap.

and they lived happily ever after

In closing, my dear love-bugs, I hope you leave this blog with a better understanding of romance and why it is the way it is. I know in this day and age, our real life romances are mystical and complicated and full of…well, a whooooole lot of crap.  I say, let the love rule the world.
Thank you for reading! Share, like, leave a comment! Who are your favorite fictional lovers? Tell me below, and don’t forget to Tweet out the blog!
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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ashmikaa

    Super helpful advice!! And there are just so many great fictional couples to choose from

    1. arabella

      OMG right??? I really don’t think I could pick just one. There’s no way. And don’t even get me started on the ones in movies! Ahh!
      Thanks for dropping a comment! 🙂

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