On Writing Romance

lovelylittlethoughts4you asked: “I’m trying to write a story a romance without sounding cheesy but I also want to make it extremely psychologically scandalous. I need help! Badly thank you!”

I’ve said this before, but romances are really only cheesy when your characters stop acting like themselves and start acting like they’re in a bad rom-com. If suddenly, you’re wading through bad pick-up lines and dates that make you cringe, you know you’re doing it wrong. 

If you’re already there, take a step back and have your characters talk. Maybe the scene doesn’t end with the steamy make-out session you’d hoped for. Maybe your characters aren’t ready for that. Or maybe, if there is a lot of physical intimacy, they aren’t emotionally ready for any kind of commitment. Whatever you need to do to believe that this is how your characters would act.

If your characters are both interested in each other romantically, they can get together. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Often writers will put in some kind of issue or secret that will hinder how they begin to trust each other and things like that. It’s not necessary – it’s just one way to build tension. Writers love tension. 

The idea I’m going to be getting at though is that love builds slowly. It’s not all-or-nothing right off the bat, or really at any point. Your characters have to learn to open up to each other, perhaps unpack any baggage they might have, and begin to trust each other. You have to let that happen with time and experience. 

In stories a romantic subplot, often writers include challenges that will help the characters build up that trust in one another and escalate that relationship – keep in mind, you can have an intense relationship that has a lot of trust, without it being romantic – romance will come from attraction, desire, some kind of want for something more than friendship. 

For the characters to get together, that attraction will have to be mutual. Also, keep in mind, attraction can build overtime – it’s been found that people who spend time together and see each other a lot will find each other more attractive even if they didn’t have any attraction at first sight. 

Anyway, back to the question. I don’t know how something can be ‘psychologically scandalous’ but scandal comes from characters doing something wrong or taboo. For it to feel like a scandal, you need to set the reader’s expectations. The perfect housewife doesn’t have an affair. A kind-hearted sister doesn’t murder her brother. The girl at school who has never been kissed doesn’t show up to third period pregnant. Scandal comes from characters doing what you wouldn’t have expected. If you’re going to get romance involved, things get a little messier. You sometimes get into plots where characters are searching for paternity tests, or a couple finds that they’re really third cousins. I don’t know exactly what I can suggest beyond that. Feel free to reach out whenever though, I’m always happy to talk. 

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