One of the biggest complaints editors and agents give writers is that they don’t believe the romance.
I know, right?
How can they not believe that our two heroes are fated for each other, the modern equivalent of Achilles and Patroklos?
What is wrong with them?
Well, usually, they don’t believe in the romance because of these five things. Are you ready? Here we go:
Love and relationships aren’t usually quick-time things. It’s not like you can make a relationship in the time it takes to microwave your tea. You want to give the readers and your characters a bit of time to know each other. Think boil the water in the tea kettle versus heat up a mug of water in the microwave.
Love takes time, usually. You have to work for it.
The love interest is too perfect.
Is there such a thing as too perfect in real-life romance? Only if that perfection is hiding a sociopath. Try to remember that the love interest needs to be three-dimensional, too. A perfect person doesn’t really exist. Flaws are interesting. Flaws are also believable. Make your love interest flawed.
Actually, everyone is too perfect.
Here’s the thing: everyone in the world isn’t a constant Instagram post full of soft lighting, best chins forward and romantic settings. People have scars. People have flaws. Those people? They deserve love too and it’s powerful when they get it. Make your characters have issues, crusts, cracked edges. Make them real so that us real folk can believe that we’re worthy of love, too.
The world is too easy and so is their love.
Romance needs to have plot. Plot needs to have conflict. The world your lovers are in needs to be… Well, it needs to not be too easy for our little lovebirds. How do you make it not easy?
- Make them want things that don’t work well together. One wants to be a Twitter Influencer. One wants to hermit. That sort of thing.
- They are far apart, separated by distance somehow.
- Jerks abound. Yeah, just like in real-life there can be human obstacles to their love.
All that tension makes their romance so much more worth it at the end.
Avoid the characters that are just – well, stereotypes and tropes. How many strong women stories end up with them suddenly being helpless and having to be rescued by a man? How many strong men stories end up with them having to open up to love and stop their drifter ways.
Same goes for setting. Oh, look, it’s a remote but beautiful Vermont town on a snowy winter’s night. Oh, look, they are trapped there. Oh, look, it’s a sexy beach full of wealthy people doing wealthy people things.
Try to think outside the box. Hey! That’s one right there!
Make your characters and settings better than tropes. Make them real.
That’s truly the secret: make your characters as real as possible.
I made a video about copy editing my next book, co-written with Steve Wedel. It’s called IN THE WOODS and its scary self arrives in 2019. BUT HERE IS THE GOOFY VIDEO!
Our podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.