© Copyright Arabella K. Federico All Rights Reserved
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. Duh...so 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
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
Don't discount chemistry, tension, and all the feels
- Decide exactly how you want your AUDIENCE to feel about this romance, from beginning, middle, and end.
- Which type of romance “troupe” fits your desired feeling from above.
- No insta-love, and SHOW the characters falling in love with each other, and the audience will fall in love, too.
- Create moments where the characters can share their deepest wounds, issues, and insecurities w/ each other. Develop love by bonding these people together.
- 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.
- Break them up!! But don’t do it in a convoluted or contrite way, because that’s annoying.
- Don’t forget the feels, the chemistry, and all that warm and fuzzy crap.