Tis the season for a cozy romance! But no matter if you’re writing the next Hallmark-worthy novel or a summer release YA fantasy, there are some basic (but essential) rules you need to follow if you want to have me drooling with the MC over that romantic interest!
Using the flaws
Everyone tells you to write flaws in your characters, but that’s not all there is to it—especially for a romantic interest. Choosing which flaws to include and how to present them is very important.
Firstly, these flaws need to have a believable and sympathetic source. For instance, an overprotective male might be that way because of a loss in his past. Similarly, a woman unable to trust might have been burned by those she’d trusted before. Particularly when it comes to the more serious, relationship-affecting flaws, don’t just throw them in there willy-nilly.
Once you’ve sourced and seasoned that flaw, make sure you also consider the reveal. Sometimes, it’s appropriate that the reader (and MC) understand the trauma and the result from the beginning of the story. It can be critical to understanding the relationship. Other times, revealing the source of a flaw at some key moment can provide a momentous catalyst for the relationship. When that epiphany is shared with the MC and reader at the same time, we feel it!
Don’t make the romantic interest creepy.
Breaking into her house to watch her sleep? Restraining order, please. Forcing her to kiss you against her will to “prove” there would be “sparks?” That is literally sexual assault.
Unless you’re writing in a particular niche romantic genre with darker themes for adult readers, please. Pay attention to red flags in your characters. When in doubt, think sarcastically about their relationship and imagine how it would get meme’d. I don’t want to throw shade at particular authors, but if your book’s meme-a-bility has a similar cringe factor to some other books that have been meme’d out there, think about revising.
Take from real life.
Think about the relationships in your own life—and not just the romantic ones. Think about your friendships and family ties. What has made them difficult? What has made them last?
Pull from these interactions as you build up your characters’ quirks, bonds, and clashes. Turn your focus a bit more back to your own romantic interests as you hone in on deal-breakers and deal-makers. Whatever those are for you, you aren’t alone. What resonates with you as the ideal partner will resonate with your target audience, so be authentic to your tastes!
Ok, ok, I admit it. This might be a bit more of an opinion piece than a true how-to. Truthfully, more than one famous author has shattered the guidelines above and still saw cult followings swell for their fictional beaus. So you do you. Just remember to do right by the audience you’re targeting.
Most importantly, have fun.
Fantasize. Get into it. We feel your pain as you write through those moments you hate. We rejoice with you and celebrate when they finally kiss! The more you feel as you write, the more naturally those feeling are conveyed to (and shared by) the reader.
You’re not cheating on anyone if the guy isn’t real, right?
About the Writer: Kathryn Tamburri (@KathrynTamburriAuthor) writes clean YA epic fantasy novels which seethe with slow-burn romance. You can find more of her writing tips on #ThePantsersGuide and follow her new #AdventureLog on the blog at KathrynTamburri.com, and be the first to know when her novels publish by subscribing to her fun author newsletter!