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Roxie Faye

I've realized that I suck at getting two characters together in a romantic relationship. Normally I can only write gen or fic where the two characters are already in a relationship.

In my head, I know that two characters are together and that they have feelings for each other, but I can never translate that into writing. It never sounds convincing enough. Usually it just sounds lame. Or more than that, sometimes I get so caught up by the surrounding plot that the focus shifts from the relationship to some random plot event, which I don't want.

So my question is, how, exactly, do you write a convincing get together relationship?

1/22/2011 #1
melody's muse

I think you should focus on the reasons why you think these characters would be a good match for each other.

Do they seem to have a lot in common with each other? Do they seem to understand each another in a way that the other characters don't? Do they share things with one another that they wouldn't necessarily share with others?

I think if you want to write a convincing relationship, you have to find a way to show how these characters connect with one another. Characters either have chemistry with each other or they don't, and I find that whenever characters simply have a lot in common, the relationship is more believable. Unless you're going for the whole "opposites attract" thing, which can be fun too! But I think even then, they would still have some common ground to build a relationship on.

Just a few ideas to get you thinking...maybe someone else will have more advice for you. :)

1/22/2011 #2

I don't really know, I'm fighting with this problem myself...

Maybe try to separete the two. Built up the romance in one chapter, continue and focus on the plot in the next one, and only suggest their relationship through their actions, through the way they interreact with others, compared to eachother.

1/25/2011 #3

Roxie Faye -- I have no idea what sort of story you're trying to write, or who the lovebird characters would be, so what I'm about to say may not do you a lick of good in practical terms. (But that never stopped me before!)

The thought occurs to me that even if it's meant as a form of love story, that doesn't necessarily mean the characters have to spend much time talking about how much they love each other. If you're not sure how to write that sort of thing at length, with heartwarming plausibility, then there are some tried and true methods of working around that problem by having the characters ostensibly concentrating on other things entirely in their daily activities!

I've seen writers of romantic tales (sometimes marketed as "romance novels," and sometimes just stories which happen to have romantic elements mixed in with lots of other stuff going on) take all sorts of different approaches to establishing the idea that there is mutual romantic attraction going on between Character A and Character B, even if those characters spend most of the story saying (or implying by what they don't say) that no such thing is happening!

I've noticed the following approaches (among others):

1. The reader knows from the beginning that Character A is very much in love with Character B -- but Character A has no intention of saying so anytime soon, and Character B seems cheerfully oblivious. So for most of the story, all of the dialogue between the two is about any subject under the sun except "I love you -- do you love me?"

2. The reader doesn't know for sure, but we see Character B's viewpoint most (or all) of the time, and Character B is, in fact, totally oblivious to the subtle hints which the reader, at least, noticed right away, regarding the idea that Character A is very, very, very fond of Character B, but can't bring himself to say so. Therefore, even if Character B is obviously becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of having that guy around (because of whatever else is going on in the plot), they aren't getting all mushy in their dialogue (until the final scenes).

3. Characters A and B seem to get along great -- as friends. Neither of them (for the first 95 percent of the story) ever suggests there is anything more to it. Perhaps they are working side by side as part of a team of heroes seeking to do something frightfully important, such as literally saving the world, and they are perfectly willing to trust one another in life-and-death situations. (Just as they would trust any other member of the same team.) Yet it's only toward the very end of the story that either one of them says (or even thinks in any passage we see) anything which a fair-minded reader could possibly construe as "romantic overtures." The implication is that the romance has been very quietly building up all along, "between the lines," as it were -- and then the reader can, on his or her own time, go back and reread scenes of cheerful camaraderie between the two characters, looking very hard for "hidden signs of affection," etc.

4. Character A thinks Character B's heart is already spoken for; he believes that she is absolutely, positively committed to the idea of marrying Character C. Sometimes this is actually true. Other times it used to be true, but it's recently been broken off -- and Character A didn't get the memo! Other times, someone (possibly Character C) has been lying through his teeth in order to discourage competition. (Heck, Character B herself may have been doing all the lying, talking at length about an imaginary boyfriend/fiance/whatever whom she doesn't really have waiting for her back home, as a defensive measure to discourage other boys from annoying her with unwanted attentions.) So once again, throughout most of the story, each character's spoken dialogue will have little or nothing to do with the subject of romantic love.

5. And then, of course, there's the old reliable "Let's Pretend to Be Engaged" (or "Let's Pretend to Already Be Married," or any other variation). Perhaps these characters are undercover cops, or spies, or investigative reporters, or in some other line of work such that it occasionally seems necessary to travel under false identities while infiltrating a certain place, organization, or whatever. Some authority figure has, in his infinite wisdom, decided that one of his male agents and one of his female agents should pose as a romantic couple so that they will seem to fit right in at that luxury hotel (or wherever the heck it is that they're supposed to work undercover). Or, for that matter, what if they're actors (professional or amateur) who are supposed to portray lovebirds on the stage just for entertainment purposes?

In any such scenario, if the girl suddenly kisses the guy vigorously, he may assume she's just staying "in character" to fool the audience, and that it would be completely obnoxious and clueless for him to later try to take the initiative in kissing her all over again, in another time and place, when there won't be any audience to impress with their acting skills. If she is hoping he will, in fact, kiss her again when they're in private, but she has too much pride to say so in plain English, this could lead to some very awkward misunderstandings, etc. All sorts of other possibilities for humorous misunderstandings would also abound in such scenarios. (Which may explain why I've seen the "you two have to pretend you're crazy about one another" routine used so often in TV shows and other forms of fiction.)

2/4/2011 . Edited 2/4/2011 #4

3. Characters A and B seem to get along great -- as friends. Neither of them (for the first 95 percent of the story) ever suggests there is anything more to it. Perhaps they are working side by side as part of a team of heroes seeking to do something frightfully important, such as literally saving the world, and they are perfectly willing to trust one another in life-and-death situations. (Just as they would trust any other member of the same team.) Yet it's only toward the very end of the story that either one of them says (or even thinks in any passage we see) anything which a fair-minded reader could possibly construe as "romantic overtures." The implication is that the romance has been very quietly building up all along, "between the lines," as it were -- and then the reader can, on his or her own time, go back and reread scenes of cheerful camaraderie between the two characters, looking very hard for "hidden signs of affection," etc.

This seems like the best solution to your problem. I know next to nothing about romance, but what I do know is that this kind of thing gets the least amount of complaints from people. Dropping little hints and observations here or there that sound like the POV character is a little too appreciative of the other's positive attributes can go a long way to supporting this method. Innocuous stuff like, "I really like it when the sunlight catches her hair in just the right way and she almost glows like an angel," or something like that. Most of them would probably be less obvious than that.

Hope I helped!

2/5/2011 #5

I've got to say that a get together relationship where the focus spends most of its time on the rest of their lives sounds far more convincing than one where they both drop everything to snuggle 24 hours a day.

I'd also say that if you wrote down the dialogue from the "get together" part of my current relationship, "lame" would be the understatement of the century. Neither of us had a clue what to say, and we were both bright scarlet and not looking at each another. It was possibly the most awkward 15 minutes of my life. We've now been married for nearly 18 years.

So I'm far more convinced by a relationship which starts off with two people being friends, progresses to them naturally doing things together because they both enjoy them (but still having mostly completely separate lives), and then has a ghastly embarrassing bit where they try to discuss whether they want to be friends or more-than-friends, than I am by a cutesy romanticised one.

2/5/2011 #6
Roxie Faye

Wow! Thank you for all the replies everyone. Lorendiac - your example scenarios are really helpful for me, and I can see which form(s) I think I want my story to take, so that's perfect! Thank you so much!!!!

2/6/2011 #7

After reading some not so convincing romances I figured I'd bump this thread. What are some of the ways that you try to make a romance more realistic. For instance, my characters Jebb and Kira have now been married for more than three years and the honeymoon is over. LOL! They argue just like normal married couples. :D

7/29/2012 #8

In my story, readers know that the character A (the POV character) is in love with the character B. Thing is, due to his past as an assassin and a prostitute, he's not sure if what he feels is 'love' - he saw too many 'loving' husbands coming to buy 'love' to the brothel to believe it's possible. And what he feels is so different from 'love' in romantic ballads...

There are also hints that the character B is falling for him, too, but he's not sure if he understood the signs correctly and is afraid to make a wrong move that could hurt the character B (who also have few traumas from the past). So for now, they are best friends, working on saving the world from Blight and trust each other with life, etc. The other characters, especially girls, noticed and are teasing the character A mercilessly- and I think that when the two fools finally admit they're in love, the girls will throw a party. :D

It's slow and complicated, but my readers say it's realistic. :D

7/30/2012 #9

There are also hints that the character B is falling for him, too, but he's not sure if he understood the signs correctly and is afraid to make a wrong move that could hurt the character B (who also have few traumas from the past). So for now, they are best friends, working on saving the world from Blight and trust each other with life, etc. The other characters, especially girls, noticed and are teasing the character A mercilessly- and I think that when the two fools finally admit they're in love, the girls will throw a party. :D

Vaguely reminds me of something from the manga/anime series "You're Under Arrest." I think it went this way:

Most of the regular characters all worked at the same police station in Japan. One of the female leads, Miyuki, was crazy about Ken (a male motorcycle cop), but was far too shy about romantic matters to say so, and was afraid he just thought of her as a good friend and reliable co-worker.

Meanwhile, Ken worshipped the ground Miyuki walked on, but was far too shy about romantic matters to say so, and was afraid she just thought of him as a good friend and reliable co-worker.

Both characters could be quite confident and aggressive when it was a simple matter of chasing and subduing a wanted criminal (or in other areas of endeavor, such as telling a friend what the friend was doing wrong) -- it was only on the really mushy personal stuff that they were both likely to blush and stammer and change the subject.

It was painfully obvious to the reader/viewer -- and to Miyuki's roommate/patrol partner Natsumi, and to just about everyone else who worked at that police station! -- that all of the above was Absolutely True, and that these two were really made for each other. In other words, Ken was the only one who felt any doubt about whether Miyuki thought he was adorable, and Miyuki was the only one who honestly didn't realize that Ken regarded her as the perfect woman.

As far as I can tell from online research (conducted some time ago) -- in the final episode of the anime, there was some dialogue which suggested this deadlock was finally being broken (maybe) . . . but until then it had just provided humorous tension in one episode after another, over and over, without anyone ever making any significant progress in communicating his or her feelings to the other in plain Japanese! (I wanted to say "plain English," but that wouldn't really fit.)

7/30/2012 #10

Yeah, something like that, except Dragon Age is dark fantasy, so they have bigger issues than just shyness. But that's another way to write a romance - and it's fun. But it's easy to overdo it and change it into a sugary soap opera, which is not funny any more, and instead of laughing, people are rolling their eyes 'just make them talk together already'. I have my real life BFF who helps me avoid that. :D

7/30/2012 #11
Corinne Tate

How did I miss this thread?

I think Lorendiac said it best, that just because two people share romantic feelings, they don't have to spend much time talking about their feelings. (sorry for the paraphrase.) Most people don't write straight romance, since romance alone can be boring. I'd have them go about their business, and write the story you envisioned, with the romance just a small addition to it.

For me, it's not about the hearts and flowers, the kisses, the hand-holding, or the impassioned declarations. Real romance is when he helps you do the dishes, listens to you complain about your day, remembers you don't like onions on your pizza, gazes just a little bit longer, or laughs at your lame joke. Maybe that's just me, but romance has to be something real. It looks a lot like a real friendship, but one where they are likely to put you first, without keeping score. They want to be with you, but not necessarily glued to your side.

Some people like the flowers and candlelight, but it's the effort behind those that really matters. If he buys cheap flowers from the grocery store, while he's there to pick up a cold drink, that's not romantic. If he buys cheap flowers from the grocery store, because the florist was too expensive on his min. wage job, but he just couldn't stop thinking about you, and wanted to bring you a surprise, then that's romantic.

8/8/2012 #12
Or perhaps if they buy cheap flowers at the grocery store because they saw them and thought about you while getting that cold drink. It's the spur of the moment thing that's romance in my opinion, not just the cost of the item. It doesn't have to be a big gesture - maybe they go out of their way to bring you lunch cause they heard your day wasn't going well or make a point of waiting outside your workplace so you don't have to walk home alone. Or just sending a silly picture to make you smile. IMO, with romance it is the thought that makes the gesture more important. A cheap four dollar bouquet from the grocery store is more romantic than a thousand dollar diamond and pearl necklace if it's done for thinking of the person they love instead of an expected "romantic" gift. Weirdly enough though, a bouquet of hand gathered wild flowers could be considered even more romantic though they cost nothing and some might even consider them weeds too. ;)
8/8/2012 #13

Pen: Lol I just thought of how to make a decleration of love awkward

Character A: I uh got you these flowers! :3 *shows them to her*

Character B: *raises brow* uh....those are weeds....are you trying to say something...

Character A: I know, I'm a botanist for christs sake! I picked em cause they're pretty...like uh... someone I know...

Character B: =_= someone you know? *sarcasm*

Character A: Dammit woman just shut up and kiss me *chimed while kissing her*

Character B: *blinking from kiss* so you love me cause I remind you of weeds *pushes glasses up on nose*....how...sweet...

Character a: *blushing with awkward silence*

Character B: *sigh* you're cute when you're stupid you know that *pecks him on the forehead with a kiss*

See what I mean, sometimes unexpected changes make the thought more cute than romantic, though still makes his intentions clear if she really appreciates it. Any other kind of flower might have made his message more clear, but this makes the girl suspect he's thinking of something else entirely. She understands his feelings, but cause of the way he did it her reactions are mixed.

I also like the "unfortunate turns" in events, like when character A spends all his allowance on the best bouquet of roses he can buy; then by some twist of karmic comedy he gets mugged, or something, and falls on the bouquet and crushes the flowers but still gives them to character B anyway. And she thinks the gesture is sweet either way. :3 It's a cliche tactic but it still brings the point across to the reader without being loud and going "HEY THIS GUY IS CRUSHING ON HER IMO" in the narrative.

8/9/2012 #14

"A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place" - George Washington Carver. ;)

But it is the thought that inspires the effort that makes it romantic or even just cute. Awkward doesn't mean not romantic. ;)

8/9/2012 #15

Yeah lol thats what I meant

A science nerd in love with a secretary ._. awkward love? I say AWESOME love :3

Yeah, it's usually the thought that makes the message come across

The execution of said thought can make things a little awkward :P

8/9/2012 #16

Absolutely. And an awkward but cute little scene can tell the story of the romance better than the most grand, sweep-them-off-their-feet gestures can sometimes. All it takes is knowing your characters and letting them be themselves. :)

8/9/2012 #17

Yeah like when they have violins playing when some guy proposes to his fiance at the restaurant? W**? XD Over-excessive much :P

Still though, it does have a lot to do with the characters and how they act, rather than how you perceive things as romantic.

For example, a vampire chick would have better time telling her love to a man than a Succubi girl

Character A: "I'd kiss you darling but um I love you too much to suck out your soul"

Character B: "O_o um...okay...." *backs away slowly*

XD At least with the vampire chick you'd just have to worry about loosing some blood if she got thirsty :P

I have a character who's a total perv (Think Jiraya but very watered down on his obsession XD) but he's a really big sweetheart, imagine trying to tell your girl you love what's behind her chest more than what's in front of it ._. even though you're busy staring at her cleavage while saying so lol

Although it does help that the girl in question knows he's a perv but still, tough time to confront your feelings. Especially since she's you know, one of those aliens you and your palls have been fighting off for about a year X3 Forbidden love is the sweetest kind :D

8/9/2012 #18
Corinne Tate

What if you had that guy, with his grocery store or wild flowers, trying to impress the girl. But the girl scorns his offering, and tosses them aside. After she storms off, another girl rescues them from the trash, smiles shyly at the guy, and says, "I like daisies." It could be she really likes the flowers, or it could be that she really likes him.

8/10/2012 #19

Corrine: :3 I like those too :D

The guys like "Aww f***...now what"

and then the other girl comes along and turns out to be cuter(to him) than the one he was crushing on :3

And for another nice twist, the other girl is the previous girls sister, cousin, clone lol

8/10/2012 #20

Romance, like any other genre, has conflict. Is the conflict internal, where one or both of the parties is insecure about themselves or the other person's feelings? Is the conflict external where there may be another rival or is it something else? There are misunderstanding and miscommunications. How do these two overcome the conflict(s)? How do these two people grow together as a couple and on their own as individuals?

Personally, I find romance easy to write but it is never straight up hearts and flowers. I throw in mystery and suspense with a good dash of angst. That being said, it also has to have a "realistic" feel and flow to it.

8/11/2012 #21
That Way

If I may, I'd like to commander this thread and take it in a slightly different direction and ask the question if there is such a thing as a Romance that isn't about a get together, but rather an established relationship.

Now, it may seem like the answer to this question is a very loud and obvious 'Yes', but I implore you to hold up and really think about the question. Think about the classic Romance stories, whether in movies or literature. Then think about the typical cliched paperback romance plotlines with Fabio on the cover, or even the average fanfic under the Romance tag. Most of them, the vast majority of them, are about getting the characters TOGETHER. Very few romances actually deal with an established, credible relationship. And even fewer remain interesting without resorting to increasingly ridiculous conflicts to create and sustain dramatic conflicts.

Now I'm well aware that there are plenty of stories, novels, fics, whatever that deal with characters who have been together for one, ten, sometimes even fifty years, but usually in those cases, the romance is the subtext or a side plot, not the main course or point of the story. They aren't Romances in the typical, genre definition sense of the word. They're about middle-aged ennui or sexual politics or infidelity & forgiveness, rekindling love lost or dealing with the challenges of children and families.

So I guess what I'm asking is, can a Romance even be about an established relationship first and foremost and not about getting two characters together (or back together)? And if so, how can it be done in an interesting way while remaining realistic? And perhaps most importantly, can you point me in the direction of any fics or books that fit those requirements so I can check them out for myself? Thanks guys.

8/13/2012 #22

Perhaps the most clear example that I can think of at this moment is from the movie Up!

Now I'm sure there are plenty of other examples, but I can't think of them all right now.

I believe one of the bigger reasons why we don't see these kinds of films/fics/novels as often as regular romance novels may be because of two things: innocence and smut.

The first one would cover things like love at first sight, true love, submissiveness, virgin love, and simply starting a romance (and then it's various conflicts).

The second one is quite obvious, I'm sure.

My other thought may have a bit more conjecture and sexism, but I'll try to explain it anyway. Romance novels may be popular for some women because it's a form of escapism. Now if they happen to be "escaping" their marriage with their current husband, they'd want to do so with material that they may lust over, thus reading about a time weathered relationship may not be as satisfying to some.

So I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it's certainly possible to have an already established relationship written, I just don't think it will be as popular as the aforementioned ones. But of course I could still be wrong.

8/13/2012 . Edited 8/13/2012 #23
Corinne Tate

Great question! I think there are plenty of stories where couples are in love and romantic toward one another. But just straight romance between an existing couple? I think it would be hard to make that work, since the plot of a romance is the who, what, when, where, how, and why of the couple.

I think this also brings up a problem with romance as its own genre. Even if a story is heavy on romance, in my opinion it's hard to read or write just the romance, without something else going on. In Twilight, it's romance, supernatural, teen angst, and a touch of action and drama. I'd love to see an existing romance played up at the forefront of a story, but I don't see how it could have a traditional plot thread, without something else going on, since the romance is a foregone conclusion. It would be like reading a whodunit when you already know who the killer is.

I did write a story, where the romance resolved fairly soon, and then the story was about how the couple was going to face all the obstacles facing them. I keep thinking about those wonderful existing relationships, and how I'd love to read about them. But they are all part of some other story. Or like you said, they're part of a reconciliation, or some other issue.

8/14/2012 #24

Okay about how old is the "good guy's girlfriend turns out to be the bad guy and/or a relative of the bad guy" plot bunny?

Or rather a better question is how often is it used and how to implement it in an intriguing way.

That's one of the main plot points in my fanfic and I need something else to drive it home.

The story focuses on their relationship, so if that's the only speedbump in their relationship well, I'm pretty much screwed after that happens.

8/14/2012 #25

You could still make a whole fic centred around that. Everything from the the romantic upstart, the bumpy roads to the disturbing revelation, then ending with love always winning out. It sounds somewhat simple when written out like that but considering there is a "good guy/bad guy" mentality you could also include a conflict to do with their actions not wholly related to love or the relationship as a whole.

8/14/2012 #26

Yeah, I thought about adding that whole good guy/bad guy mentality into play, but in a rather unique way.

First he betrays his team (the good guys) to join his girlfriend's team (the bad guys) and things seem to smooth out between them.

But wait! The girlfriend notices that he is significantly different (personality wise) on their team, she misses the 'old' him, and wants to break their control of him.

So she joins the good guy's team.

Later we find out that all of these events were constructed beforehand by the two lovers to prove one thing. If you love eachother enough you can pull off any stunt :P

It's actually a bit dark of a plot for the series I'm writing in, considering the girlfriend's older sister is a sadist, like if you looked up that word a picture of her older sister would be there in the dictionary.

8/15/2012 #27

In a completely different of what we are speaking of I have a good question on the common romance character archetypes, Bella and Edward from Twilight are perfect examples of this:

Female: Extremely feminine, Male: Extremely masculine.

This is to the point where the female is nearly useless with nothing that will mar her beauty and feminine traits (Bella is clumsy and is constantly being saved by Edward) and the male is almost perfect with no faults that will mar his cool masculine traits (Edward is god of lust to Bella because he has no faults).

While variations do exist (particularly with the female such her being more action-y ) in a romance oriented story the man is always very masculine, tall, cool and might have the dangerous act to him (Edward I'm looking at you). Sometimes a action oriented female love interest will be weakened down so she can A. isn't more powerful then her boyfriend, thus marring his coolness, B. is weakened down to so the male can save her and thus show his awesome masculinity.

These roles are very rarely switched, the girl doesn't save the guy and she isn't the person with the aura of danger. That belongs to the guy. Now let me complain about the girl.

She is always beautiful, no exceptions, while I don't mind this but when it stars getting unrealistic do we have a problem (no bruises or injuries after a fight, doesn't get covered in sweat or mud or just enough to show she's been through a lot but not enough to mar her beauty.) While a man can get the living *** beat out of him.

The girl can't be cool and more awesome then her love interest. No cool scars, no muscles (that might mar her beauty of feminine traits) and she is very rarely aggressive in the relationship. That's the guy's job.

So a common romance character archetype is played up like this

Female: Passive, feminine, always beautiful, can't be stronger then male, can't have the dangerous feel to her.

Male: Aggressive, masculine, dangerous as that makes him cooler, must be awesome and is always stronger then female to show his masculinity and coolness.

While variation do exist and some people completely break out of the archetypes, these I have identified as the most common particularly on this site. I have a few guesses as to why that is but I like to see your opinions and if you know any variation that stands out.

Yes, I probably am guilty of this too. Although I'm better then some (Stephanie Meyer I'm looking at you).

If it seems like I'm complaining, I apologize. But I just read Twilight and I'm currently questioning the entire romance genre while trying to find my brain bleach.

8/19/2012 #28
If you're looking for reasoning, it'll probably be in psychology and instincts. While I don't like reading about women being objectified, some people do, and I can respect that. The "chivalrous" male and the passive female in storytelling is much more older than Disney though.
8/19/2012 #29

And Stephanie Meyer, I'm a straight forward feminist so... Bella kind of offended me on a personal note.

8/19/2012 #30
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