Romance in novels, movies, and life turn up…everything. Tension, excitement, anticipation, emotions—all the things you want lots of in your book. There is nothing trite about romance. Love and lust are two of the biggest drivers of human action. Including it in your manuscript makes sense. There’s just one problem. Romance has sometimes historically been portrayed in an unrealistic or even unhealthy way. Read on to find out how to modernize romance.
Obsession Isn’t Romance
The Great Romantic Gesture is certainly a theme we’ve all seen in the way romance is depicted in media. You know the one: John Cusack showing up in your driveway with a boombox (that one was nice). Other ones are unhealthy. Romeo and Juliet is a classic obsession. I mean, they kill themselves over it. However, when I was a teenager, the intensity got me. Sure, the story has stood the test of time, but in today’s day and age, we need to be aware of how far our characters go with obsession. Twilight has gotten a new look, and in retrospect, the obsession between Bella and Edward is not what anyone would call healthy.
When crafting your romance, be aware of the fine line between passion and hysteria. New love makes even the most logical person feel a rush of enthusiasm and desire. These are thrilling feelings. But try to keep your characters from pushing into mania. It’s not healthy for them or your readers (especially young readers).
Love at First Sight? Ehhh….
Insta-love is no longer considered romantic. It’s pretty widely panned in fact. While it’s true that people can have immediate, chemical reactions to other people, this won’t necessarily be love right away. Don’t lose the excitement but perhaps temper the expectations of your characters. While they might want to sleep together and get to know everything about the other, they won’t necessarily plan their future right away. It might sound obvious, but it’s easy to fast-forward emotions of your characters for the purpose of tension and conflict. Be wary. Make sure that you set up your emotional backstory and motivations in a way that is relatable and believable. Think it’s not important? Google “instalove” and wait for the derision it brings.
Find Common Ground
Sexual attraction can sometimes make no sense. We all know it. However, in a story about a budding relationship, the reason the two people are attracted to each other does need to make sense. Characters who can’t communicate, have nothing in common, and have opposing world views can still have sparks fly, but they probably aren’t going to make the relationship work. A classic example of this is from The Little Mermaid. They can’t even speak. They don’t know each other. The first couple of years of marriage are going to be rough.
Equality for the Win
Romances and relationships do form when one person sort of completes the other emotionally (though that notion is old-fashioned too). Many people look for the yin to their yang, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with divided labor or one partner having talents that the other doesn’t have. However, it’s not healthy to see one character totally dominate the other. If the dynamic in your book looks like Beauty and the Beast—where a woman has to be mild, attractive, and open-hearted—and the moody abusive man gets to be, well, moody and abusive until she “fixes” him, there might be a problem.
I’ve loved all of these stories myself, but in our new, more aware era, adding healthy relationships can give your readers fever too.