I hate when romance is the focal point of a story. There is a right and wrong way to write romance. This post is going to be part writing tip, part soapbox so bear with me.
How to Write Romance Without Making Romance the Focal Point
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance, but even in a romance novel, the relationship isn’t the only thing happening. There are outside forces creating conflict. The characters undergo personal growth. There’s something that needs to be done.
Romance is not the plot of a story. It’s a genre and a literary technique. The protagonist doesn’t say “I want to fall in love,” and then set out to do so. And even if they do, it’s not without some deeper self-discovery. In the end, it’s a coming of age story or a personal quest, not just a romance.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I believe romance should be used to enhance the story, not be the story. Below I discuss three of my favorite away to do this.
1. Character Development
This is super important. Your characters should still show development independent of each other. It’s totally okay for your characters to be each other’s cheer squad and support one another, but they shouldn’t be making decisions for the other person. The relationship shouldn’t be a character’s sole reason for changing.
Think about what makes your characters unique.
What do they have to offer the relationship?
Are they the spontaneous one?
Are they the caretaker?
Try writing your OTP (one true pairing) into their own short stories where the two don’t interact. If they can’t stand alone, make choices, and move the story forward, then you need to head back to the drawing board and flesh them out a bit.
Instead, use the relationship to expose them to new conflicts and watch how they react. Let the passions and the arguments reveal a side of your characters we wouldn’t normally see if they were alone. Show us how they interact with people and what they do when denied their personal space. Which brings me to number two!
Not only does romance reveal a character’s true nature, but it can lead them down many different paths. Maybe they’re dating someone who’s a bad influence and drags them to a bad part of town which ultimately lands them in the middle of a murder investigation, or a drug smuggling ring. Maybe a musician takes a closet poet to an open mic night and signs them up without telling them.
The opportunity for conflict and plot expansion is endless. When writing about relationships, you’re ultimately giving a secondary character permission to pull the strings and redirect the script here and there. But don’t let it get your protagonist too far off track. Make sure it all circles back to your main plot. Everything that happens should be leading to your character’s ultimate wants/needs.
And for my very favorite..
Romance is the perfect redirect. Like I mentioned before, love can be your protagonist’s want, but deep down you have to ask yourself what your protagonist really needs. What aspect of love or a relationship are they ultimately drawn to? Are they making up for love they didn’t receive somewhere else? Don’t be afraid to delve deep.
This should be where your character shows the most growth. The way they express love, the type of love they seek, and their role in the relationship should evolve with the story. The love story you end with should be to some degree different than the one you started with. Your character should learn something from their journey.
Another great redirect involves the ever illusive plot twist!
Are you writing a murder mystery?
Need more suspense?
Reveal the love interest as the villain! Obviously, this heavy of a plot twist has to be set up well from the start, you don’t want your readers confused and unconvinced, but it can be the perfect punch in the gut. Your readers feel betrayed by a character they loved. While, your protagonist is reeling in denial and heartache. Use it to drive your story.
Romance can be a beautiful and wonderful plot device that moves your story seamlessly from one conflict to the next. Just don’t forget that your characters and their journeys come first. Give them interests, let them butt heads, and allow romance to provide a unique perspective on other not-so-romantic topics.
With all that being said, let things go wrong. Let romance be messy. Art imitates life, and life is by no means perfect. Remember that your own relationships, whether romantic or platonic, help shape you, but they don’t define you. Write your romance novel in a way that allows your characters to be more than just love interests.
Are you a romantic or do you prefer the adventure? Let me know in the comments!