What is it that makes a scene swoon-worthy? That’s the eternal question at the crux of this week’s article all about romance. I would argue that it varies by genre and context, but I’m going to present the elements that I feel are present in any good romantic moment.
Of course, it’s always about two people falling for each other. And there’s usually a host of clichés that make it borderline done-to-death. The funniest thing about it that I’ve noticed is that clichés are often cliché for a reason. By this I mean, that there’s usually a plethora of typical moves that are universally crowd-pleasing. And as long as you use them sparingly, there’s no reason why they can’t still be meaningful.
Wondering what all good romances have in common, regardless of heat level? Read on for five major turn-ons as I de-stigmatize the clichés we all wish we hated.
For more about the modern romance genre in general, read my recent article about it HERE.
1. The Unlikely Pair
If your characters have next-to-nothing in common, or even hate each other at the beginning, that’s so hot. There’s definitely something to be said about building tension with surprising plot twists drawing the characters closer together.
In the same vein, I’m always a sucker for the quintessential bad-boy trope. I’m not saying it’s necessarily healthy, but like a big greasy pizza or a giant cinnamon bun, the brooding, punk rocker bad-boy persona never lets me down. At least in books, anyway – real life is a much different story.
2. The Hesitant First Kiss
This is the meat-and-potatoes of a good romance scene. It’s the will-they-won’t-they moment with the readers at the edge of their seat. I like to start with eye contact, and maybe add a hesitant touch. It’s a question, with an answer. And it’s not all about lips either. Maybe it’s an angry, “what the heck” kiss filled with full-bodied passionate angst. Or it’s full of love and long-term longing, all heightened emotions with hearts and glitter. You can tease this out in body language, and make the whole thing indicative of something much bigger. That leads quite nicely to my next point, which is…
3. The Turbulent Emotions
Before, after, and during a romantic encounter of any kind, there is always some kind of emotion, be it positive or negative. Maybe the lovers are uncertain of the other’s feelings. Or better yet, they’re uncertain of their own feelings, but slowly admitting an undeniable draw to the other person. Either way, there’s always something that holds them back from acting on their impulses – until there isn’t. The moment when they start to break through is always magic. Play into this, tease out every bit of tension you can possibly squeeze from it.
4. The Aftermath
There must always be consequences. Not necessarily bad ones, but some kind of result from finally just “going for it”. What happens when the friends and families find out about the budding romance? Do they themselves question this before, after, and maybe even during the encounter? Up the ante and make your reader feel the pressure your characters feel.
5. The Happily-Ever-After
Something that simultaneously drives me mad but also keeps me turning pages, is delaying the happy ending (if there even is one at all). I’ve noticed, in the crap-ton of romances I’ve read, that there’s almost always a “honey-moon” phase right after the characters get together. Then everything crumbles. It’s predictable, yes. But it’s also so intense. Separate the love birds, and bring drama into the mix so that your reader is left wondering how it’s going to end. This can be as predictable or surprising as you want, just as long as it’s plausible. Don’t create drama for the sake of drama. But if your character notoriously has certain insecurities that hamper their progress, feel free to dig your heels in.
There you have it – my best tips to make your romantic scenes sizzle! At the end of the day, it’s all about the magic of the moment and letting your readers feel exactly what your characters are feeling. The more you can invite them into that space, the more it will resonate. Think five senses, and all the craziness that comes with falling for someone (or flat on your face). Tap into your own experiences so it feels real, or even just read and watch scenes that resonated with you. If you can deconstruct what others have written, you’ll learn even more about what’s hot and what’s not.