Ah romance. The passion, the sweet gestures, the long awaited moment of “I love you” or “you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen”! We love reading it. More often than not, we love it regardless of how deep or motivated it is. But I think I can speak for a lot of writers when I say… romance is not my favorite thing to write.
Romance is, of course, it’s own genre, but incorporating romance into other genres can be a bit of a trick. Plagued with corny “I love you”s, too many longing looks to count, and a slew of other…well…let’s just be honest…horrible cliches, fitting a meaningful romance into your stories can be a bit of a problem.
Give me a novel full of deep romances and a variety of characters who change and grow throughout the course of the story and I’m ALL IN. Add in a romance that isn’t shallow, cliche, or boring and you have me sold. But boy is that hard to write.
It’s easy to write a romance littered with sighs of longing, intense eye contact, lots of hemming and hawing, and plenty of unoriginal descriptions of the crush. It’s hard to write a romance that has seen a bit of life, one that has seen their twenty-sixth fight and had to deal with their in-laws and figure out how to deal when their partner snores or is a slob or leaves dirty underwear on the bathroom floor.
I think that’s because these romances are often more lifelike than the glittery flakey ones we read in the typical young adult novel. The ones where the two lovebirds are adorable, not because they can’t look each other in the eye, but because they can and have an entire conversation without a word. The ones where instead of showering each other with compliments that everyone has heard, they pinpoint specific things about the other that they appreciate or love.
Oops…I think went a bit into relationship-advice-land just there….we’ll just carry on.
I love a good romance. I really do. I like to think my husband and I have the best romance ever. But romance is a tricky thing. It can be too pushy, too creepy, too stuffy, too many things. Romance resonates differently with different people, and what is cheesy to one person could be the most romantic thing in the world to someone else. This is a beautiful and good thing because it means that no matter how you write it, your story’s romance will appeal to someone.
But, this does make it hard to know how to best write a romance, whether it’s a one night stand or twenty years of marriage. It’s hard to convey either the maturity of life-long love or the flurry of a one night stand, especially when you have so many other story elements to focus on. I often find it easier to create complicated worlds or new creatures or intricate plots than to write a well developed, deep romance.
I’m not alone right?
Writing romance can dig into you as a writer in ways few other things do. Writing romance reveals your own beliefs about love, relationships, marriage, monogamy, and how we think others should view it too. Writing romance, like many other things, takes a bit of self-reflection, but for this post, I’ll give you my tips for well-rounded, non-cheesy romance.
Look at the Relationships Around You for Inspiration
Ask people how they met, what they love most about the person they’re with, what you admire about the romantic relationships around you, what you’re most proud of in your own romantic relationship. From my own experience, I find romances that stand the test of time, overcome a few hardships or stumbles in the beginning, and feature a deep care and respect for one another are ones I can read again and again and again.
Write About the Daily Life
How does your couple go throughout their day? How do they make decisions? How do they communicate? How do they make each other feel loved and appreciated? What do they do when they fight or disagree? How do they deal with money or sex or in-laws? While the answers to these questions might now end up in your story at all, add them to your character profiles to really get to know your character’s relationships from the inside out. Knowing how they are in a relationship will not only help your write a more authentic romance, but it will help you write deeper characters. Try writing a short story that takes place after they get together and feature a day in their life. Write about their first date, or their first fight, or their twentieth fight, or how they deal with sharing the remote or family at Christmas.
Include a Scene with Conflict
It may seem a bit cliche to include a conflict between your two lovers, but there are ways to pack the same punch without submitting your readers to the eye rolling, fly-across-the-world-to-apologize scenario we’ve all grown weary of. Miscommunication, misinterpretation, and disagreements over small things can still give the readers that oh-my-gosh-they’ll-get-back-together fright, without over creating a dramatic conflict.
Make Your Lovebirds Part of the Same Team
While it’s true that opposites do attract, that doesn’t mean that your two main characters need to be at odds the whole story long to be in love. It creates a stronger bond, between your characters and between your reader and your characters, if your in-love duo are on the same side. Give them a cause to support together (that they BOTH support…not that one of them supports because they other does), have them organize something big together (a coronation, a big party, a fundraiser, a family gathering, a blind date for friends). Give them a chance to support each other in a way that’s clear to the reader. Besides, we’ve all read the Romeo and Juliet story of star-crossed lovers who were on opposite sides of the story… Shakespeare did it amazingly. Let’s let it lie.
There you have it! My best tips for writing non-cheesy romance. What are your favorite romances? What do you do to create authentic romances?