Gone are the days of knights in shining armor, long trips in horse-drawn carriages, and thrill-seeking adventures on glittering blue uncharted seas. In the world we live in today, romance often takes a backseat to practicality, logistics, and the laws of physics. So as writers, how are we supposed to provide that same level of spine-tingling, heart-palpitating adoration in a society that is increasingly less romantic? Read on below for my best tips for writing romance that sizzles, straight from this hopeless romantic.
It’s in the little things.
A subtle glance in the grocery line, a tentative handhold in the office meeting. Cross the line between friendship and more, but keep it deliciously vague. Readers love the will-they/won’t-they debate. Well, they’ll claim they hate it, but it’s a total love-hate thing, I promise! Suspense always adds a great texture to your work, and you can learn more about that here: Writing Suspense: Five Pressure Points to Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats.
Romanticize the little moments of an otherwise boring day by pausing. Make your protagonist stop and smell the roses, so to speak, and maybe the whole world fades away as they meet that special someone for the first time. And actually, that brings me nicely to my next point…
You gotta have the meet-cute.
Ah, the meet-cute. This can be really anything you want, but my favorite examples of this are basically anything from the Hallmark Channel. Girl drops wallet, guy picks it up and returns it. Guy misses flight, girl asks him out to coffee. Klutz girl walks the wrong way into a revolving door and collides with hot guy. The opportunities are endless. Or maybe, you’re like me and you use a real-life meet cute, despite your love interest having no idea they’ve inspired a whole book. Those are always fun.
The quintessential hug-kiss awkwardness.
The pinnacle of the will-they/won’t they debate, this one never goes out of style. She reaches for a hug, he leans in for a kiss. Then they reverse, and neither one know exactly what the other is thinking. Bonus points if you make it so deliciously awkward that they both just settle for a fist-bump instead. Or maybe you go head-first into the romance and just have them start making out then and there. Awkward moments can be pretty powerful aphrodisiacs sometimes. But of course, it all depends on the context and how you lead up to it.
The mismatched pair.
A far cry from the princess and the frog, but still notoriously effective. Choosing two people out of very different socioeconomic or cultural backgrounds and throwing them together can often make for a deeper message. In this day and age, breaking down divisive societal norms can be a really powerful motivator for healthy growth and change. Maybe your girl is a hard worker but came from a financially strapped family, while her suitor ate off of a silver spoon. Or maybe she’s dressed to kill, while the dude feels most irresistible in oversized sweats and a mustard-stained tee. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Everyone knows opposites attract!
The first kiss, and everything else.
Unless your chosen genre is erotica, less really is more for romance. I personally am a big fan of fade-to-black scenes. With the right sensory details and subtle nods to the facts, you can get your reader swooning in no time. My favorite examples of this include maybe a rustle of taffeta, or a haphazardly-buttoned jacket after the event. As for what happens during, John Green is a great example of an author that toes the line (mostly). He certainly has some “whoa there, TMI” moments, but most everything he does is purposeful and effective. I know it might not be totally realistic all the time, but honestly, sometimes we want real-life fairytales. I know I often do, and there’s no shame in that!
The biggest takeaway from the everyday struggle is that life is a precious gift. Maybe it’s rarely glittery and floral, with hidden gardens and castles covered in lichen. But there’s still untapped potential for greatness in the gap between what we perceive our life to be like, and what we desperately want it to be. So pucker up and make it happen!