Figure I will ressurect this thread one last time for my latest Writer Guide = and probably the hardest I've ever done <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

The Good Romance Guide

Writing a good romance is one of the hardest things that any writer will ever attempt. Not only do you need both of your characters to be sympathetic and likeable, but you also need to make sure your readers can see why they are a couple, and accept them as such.

A good romance requires a great deal of thought and planning on the part of the writer. It is the aim of this guide to look at some of the most vital areas of this process, and hopefully to make things easier for anyone who is unsure of how to begin.

The Beginnings

The first thing to work out is always how your characters will meet. This is usually the easy bit, but can look far too contrived if not written correctly.

Your characters should ideally meet as part of their normal lives, and in a way the reader can easily believe. A chance meeting while feeding ducks in the park, for example, only works if at least one of your characters regularly visits the park. If they both happen to spontaneously walk into the park on that very morning at the same instant, when neither usually visits the park at all, you have a clear case of contrivance and your reader will know it.

One character might seek the other out as part of your plot, but the initial reason should never be romantic unless you want the seeker to come across as a stalker. Assuming you are writing a true romance and not a darkly twisted tale of obsession and revenge, stalking of any kind - and even the impression of it - is out.

Most couples in real life either meet as part of their jobs or fall for members of their extended social circle, and this is always a simple and very natural way to get two people together. Other normal methods involve clubbing or other social activities that involve large groups of people.

The actual method is not too important, as long as your two protagonists meet in a realistic fashion that allows them later opportunities to meet again.

First Impressions

An instant physical attraction - especially between two good looking people - is very common, and happens all the time, but an instant romantic attraction is rare. True romance involves love, and while love at first sight is an option, it is not always the best way for a writer to go, unless there are many great obstacles that the couple must go through in order to finally be together. A good approach for a grand epic with your lovers at the heart, but not so useful for a normal romance or one that happens as part of a story rather than the whole of it.

The best approaches, to my mind, are:

1) The characters get on well right from the start, giving them a friendship that you can build up into a romance over time. This works particularly well with team or work mates, or members of the same social circle. It is easy to find one's feelings deepening from liking and respect into admiration, and finally into love. This gives a nice conventional romance with little real trouble, but makes for a good side plot or as part of a much larger story. As the major part of a story, this approach lacks interest, and should be avoided.

2) One character is attracted; the other is repelled - either by looks or seeming personality. This gives you the chance for one character to slowly win the other over, and offers a lot of chances for both characters to grow and change over time. learning more about themselves and each other as they do so. I generally consider this the best overall approach.

3) Dislike is on both sides. This will not work unless you are writing a comedy or the two are forced into close proximity regardless of their wishes, be warned. It works best in the case of team or work mates who have to endure each other, and are grudgingly forced to recognise each other's good qualities. This mutual respect will deepen over time into admiration and then into love.

And lastly, an approach to avoid. If you are writing characters who have been good friends for years, they will NOT suddenly decide to fancy each other completely out of the blue and with no rhyme nor reason. This is definite contrivance, and your readers will not believe in it for one moment.

The Growing Attraction

This takes great care to do right, because so much of it depends on the personalities of the characters involved. In general, we are more attracted to people who have qualities we like and admire. These will not always be qualities we ourselves possess, but they are always things we see value in.

A kind and generous person, for example, is not likely to be attracted to someone who is cruel and greedy, but they may admire qualities such as bravery or steadfastness.

Remember that your characters must possess 'the illusion of life'. If you truly want to see them work as a couple, they must not only work as individuals but the relationship must clearly serve to enhance both characters.

Also, your readers must believe in it. They must be able to see why the couple are attracted in the first place, and why that attraction is growing.

Compatability & Suitability

Couples do things together, meaning that they need to have interests in common. This may be a shared interest in many smaller things or in the great over-riding passions of their lives. While the smaller things build an attraction, the thing that truly leads to lasting love is compatability of life goals.

The singer and the manager; the actress and the director; the artist and the writer - each of those pairings has obvious value to both sides, both professionally and in terms of mutual understanding. It is not hard for anyone to see why members of such couples are attractive to each other, nor that each brings something to the table that enhances the other, and thus the relationship as a whole.

Ideally, a good couple will each understand what they want out of life, and the other will in some way enhance this goal or provide support to help them attain it.

The majority of couples who fall out of love and split up do so because one or both cannot fill this deep need for fulfillment in the other. Someone who's greatest desire is to travel the world will only be happy for so long with a partner who has no interest at all in travel and insists on staying home.

As a general rule, the higher a person aims in ther own life - the harder the goals they wish to accomplish - the harder they will find it to meet an 'equal' - one who is at the level they themselves are and can climb as fast.

Make no mistake - any relationship where two people seek the same goal and one is making it while the other is not is in trouble.

Any seeming inequality in a rock-steady relationship is not at all what it appears, you may be sure. Some people make supporting their other half into their own life goal, and such relationships are often exceedingly strong

People may be compatable in many other ways - intellectually, morally, physically, etc - but without compatability of life goals they will not be suitable.

Always bear this in mind if you wish your characters to come across as 'The Perfect Couple'.

What We Want vrs What We Need

Everyone has a list of things they want in a partner. Mostly this involves a more or less godlike physique, a brain to rival Einstein, a great sense of humour and an undying appreciation for us, in all our imperfection. Such flawless paragons not existing, we all end up having to settle for rather less.

Worse, we generally leave a lot of traits off of our wishlist that would be ideal in a partner because we need them to allow for flaws in us. Some of us need an emotional rock, others need someone who can control finances or who give us the confidence to be ourselves.

Every one of us needs someone who will not only share our lives, but also enhance them. This often means covering weaknesses we either do not anticipate or do not like to admit.

A great story can be told about a person chasing an impossible ideal who slowly realises that the person they really need has been close at hand all along - or is nothing at all like what they thought they wanted.

Honeys & Hunks

Imagine - you are out with the god or goddess of your dreams, walking beside them and happy. They are laughing at your jokes, and their vivacity and sheer physical attractiveness turns every head and causes murmurs of appreciation and wonder. Every person who sees your ideal is charmed by them; everyone who also wants them - which is about half the population, give or take - will seek to win them from your side. When your ideal is out alone, they will be flirted with by all and sundry, their company courted and their heart, body, or both constantly sought after. Paradise - or nightmare?

People are most comfortable with a level of physical attractiveness in a partner that they feel is equivalent either to their own, or to their social status. In other words, people seek out a long term partner who will stay with them rather than moving on to a more desirable partner.

In writing terms, this means it is fine to pair up your two gorgeous leads, but if your lead is supposed to be rather plain, has little or no social status and little to offer then they are going to hate dating the local hunk or honey simply because they will feel inadequate and unworthy.

The less attractive partner in any relationship will always have to feel they bring more to the relationship in other ways, and this is something you need to bear in mind. What is more, it must be something their partner knows about and values, because it is their partner's perception of them that determines fidelity.

Avoid Mawkishness

If you ever find yourself writing page after page of endearing little phrases that your characters are saying to each other, do yourself a favour - delete the lot. Reduce it to a single line. Writing a romance is NOT an exercise in seeing whether or not you can make your audience feel queasy. Your loving couple may spend hours every evening whispering adoring phrases to each other, but spelling them out in detail adds nothing whatsoever to your story.

If you want to show love, show it by the automatic closeness of your characters. The way they automatically cuddle, or kiss for no reason except that they're close. Have them seek each other's company just because.

The written equivalent of show don't tell. It works better than any amount of purple prose.

Avoiding Self-Projection

We all like to be in love, and the easiest trap to fall into is the thinking that our characters in love will act the same way as we ourselves. Nothing will destroy your characters or your story faster than this. Before you know it, your lead character will be n idealised you and their other half will be your ultimate fantasy. You will be writing endlesss pages of endearments as you create a fantasy you will love to death. Quite literally, because doing this will kill your story. Avoid like the plague.

Always remember that no character you write in a fictional story is you, and that in order to create the 'illusion of life' every character must be allowed to be themselves - whether they are in love or not.


It's harder than it sounds, but truly rewarding if you can bring it off. Love is simultaneously the most ennobling and humanising emotion we have - and it will bring out the deepest parts of your characters and challenge them in ways that nothing else will.

If you truly want to examine your character's moral and ethical values, love is even better than an arch enemy, and can contain just as much fighting.

Love is one of the writer's greatest tools - and one of the hardest to master. Hopefully, this guide will help.

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