The next installment of my series on What Makes a Great Story is about romance. To see the previous posts in this series, check out these links:
Openings - Part 1
Openings - Part 2
Dialogue and Internal Thought

Romance is a topic I find difficult to both read and write about. It just isn’t what motivates my interest in a story. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think romance can be an important element. I just prefer it not to be the main focus of the work. Therefore, it isn’t likely that you’ll see me reading or writing in the romance genre.

Here are a few things that are important for me to enjoy reading about a romantic element.
  • Great characters. A good character must make decisions that a “real” person would make under similar circumstances. Therefore, motivations and back story has to be properly conveyed to the reader. Don’t just stick two people together because you want them to be together. Give the reader reasons for doing so.
  • Don’t beat me over the head with how much the characters love each other. In other words, I really don’t want to read about people acting like thirteen-year olds—every moment together or apart is the most monumental thing to ever happen in their lives. In a way this goes back to the first point about great characters. To me, a good romance works when you show that characters have other interests than just the significant other.
  • A few sappy moments can be a good thing. Though I don’t want to be beaten over the head with cheesiness, a couple of touching moments are great. Even the toughest warrior can care about someone (think of the movie Braveheart and the fact that the love William Wallace has for his wife is what spurns him to start the uprising).
  • Conflict. Any story, including romance will be uninteresting unless you give it conflict. The conflict can come internally from the relationship or characters themselves. Or it can be external and come from a big event (like a war or murder) that affects the relationship of the two people.
  • Less is more when dealing with the personal emotions of the characters. Don’t overdo the touchy/lovey feelings (especially if told from a male’s POV). They need to be there, but a couple of impactful sentences will say far more than three pages of detail.

What do you think makes a good romance work?


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