Jul 16 2009

How to Make Your Love Interest a Real Character

Published by at 9:00 am under Guest Articles,Romance,Writing Articles

“Love interest” is a degrading term. It brings to mind the shiny-eyed chick, with nothing better to do than swoon over the hero and get kidnapped. But they don’t have to be like that! It only takes five steps to save the mandatory trophy girlfriend.

1. Make her her own character. Ask yourself what she’s like. Was your answer “she loves the hero very much”, or worse, something about her looks? Hard as it is to believe, she probably has a life beyond loving the hero. Find out what she’s like apart from him. Don’t think of her as a love interest. Think of her as a girl, who loves the hero. Develop her the same way you developed the heroes. Why does she act how she does? What makes her stand out?

2. Know why they fall in love. This is vital if they haven’t met in the beginning. Now, pick a movie with a romantic subplot. Any movie. Watch the scene where they meet. Chances are, there’s no meaningful interaction. They talk about nothing important…but he keeps eyeing her like he’s never seen a girl before.  It doesn’t work that way.

I’ll admit it’s doable in movies, but it stands out like a sore thumb in written form. Look at it realistically. Ask yourself this: what originally drew them to each other? Was it a personality trait that attracted her to the hero? Why does he love her?

3. Know what makes the relationship tick. You may know why they got together. Why’d they stay together? What is the relationship like? Are they lovesick and in over their heads, or are they deeply romantic? Or maybe they just feel happy when the other room.

Do you really feel like they complete each other? Think about it. Look at them from an emotional standpoint and ask yourself who or what they need. If you don’t think they fulfill each other’s needs, think of how you can change them to fix that.

4. Make her add something. What does she contribute to the hero’s quest? If you could have the sidekick perform her actions, that’s bad. If you could easily replace her with a loaf of bread, that’s worse. If MJ just waits for Spider-Man while robbers loot her house, she may as well be out of town. But if she fights them off with the things in her bedroom, she makes an impact on the story by buying Spidey time.

5. Be sure you have room for romance! Too much is likely to grate on male readers, but a hot trophy girlfriend annoys everybody. Romance can make for a genuinely warm development arc. It can also be a meaningless distraction from the plot. If the romance adds nothing, but you want to keep the character, just make her a friend. If the character is that vital, she’s probably more important than the romance.

55 responses so far

55 Responses to “How to Make Your Love Interest a Real Character”

  1. FarawaySoulon 17 Jul 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks, I really needed this article.

  2. Tomon 17 Jul 2009 at 3:31 pm

    There’s only one character in my series that I’ve added just for the sake of having a love interest, but she does get development. This article will be useful, thanks!

  3. mrs marvelon 29 Jul 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Thanx that was a great article and it help alot. but I have one question (sigh…I know, i always do sorry) i have a girl whos a superhero and is just basically motherly to the whole team shes in but one of her friends/team mate is rugged in aperrance (everyone screams when he enters a room) but is funny and mostly annoying but has a disire to help in anyway he can. She helpes him with school scince he cant go in a human one. Are they just too compatable?

  4. ekimmakon 11 Sep 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Is the “love interest is a supervillain” angle plausible, or has it been too many times to use effectively?

  5. B. Macon 12 Sep 2010 at 11:02 am

    I don’t want to step on Banana Slug’s toes here (she wrote this article), but personally I feel the supervillain-as-love-interest is workable. I suspect it’d be hard to write a story where the love interest (or the love interest’s alternate identity) is the main antagonist, though. So you’d probably want some other character as the obstacle between the two getting together–perhaps an overzealous/obnoxious superhero or another supervillain or a police leader?

    PS: Great article, Banana Slug. 🙂

  6. Blonde Emoon 05 Jan 2011 at 3:26 pm

    First off, I would like to say I’m finding all these articles EXTREMELY helpful. Thank you.

    And also, I am impressed you know that special feature of the Bannana Slugs, which is why I think you featured it here.

  7. Blonde Emoon 06 Jan 2011 at 12:54 am

    You don’t want to know. I know you’re probably an adult, gotten sex ed, etc, but I’m telling you: you don’t want to know.

  8. Blonde Emoon 06 Jan 2011 at 12:55 am

    Also, I couldn’t describe it without being excessively vulgar, which I’m sure would not be appreciated.

  9. Salazarison 20 Aug 2011 at 9:51 am

    I am searching for a unique twist on the love triangle cliche. As of now: the hero and his buddy encounter the love interest at the same time. (Her unique skills make her necessary to the plot) At first the hero denies any feelings of attraction but as soon as the buddy character forms a relationship with her the hero realizes he had deeper feelings and becomes jealous of them, straining the relationship and throwing the quest into jeopardy. Is that cliche?

  10. Mynaon 20 Aug 2011 at 10:40 am

    It’s not cliche, but it’s not really a twist on the love triangle trope. Which of them gets the girl in the end?

  11. B. Macon 20 Aug 2011 at 5:17 pm

    One possible twist for a love triangle is that the love interest is both an initiator and a recipient. For example, maybe the sidekick falls in love with the love interest and the love interest falls in love with the main hero, but the hero is a Sherlock Holmes-type too cold to care. I think there’d be enough there to keep readers guessing. (Will she be able to change Sherlock enough that he falls for her? If she gives up, will Sherlock realize on his own what he was missing and try to win her back? Will she somehow choose Watson instead? Over the course of the book, does it become increasingly clear that she’d be much happier with Watson?)

    I think the standard love triangle has a conflict between two initiators fighting over the same recipient.

  12. Contra Gloveon 20 Aug 2011 at 5:48 pm

    @ Salazaris

    If you’re looking for twists on the love-triangle formula, the Triang Relations trope is your friend. There are no less than 13 different types you could use.

  13. Mynaon 20 Aug 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Whoaaaa! Now that is a helpful trope. I almost failed geometry, though. xP

  14. Contra Gloveon 21 Aug 2011 at 2:17 am

    @ Myna

    Glad I could be of service.

  15. Salazarison 21 Aug 2011 at 10:12 am

    @ Myna: The hero
    @ Contra: That IS awesome, thanks! I’m still taking geometry…
    @B. Mac: I like that idea a lot. I think I am going to review the mechanics of this love thing…

    by the way I absolutely LOVE this website! So many great insights! Thanks!

  16. Contra Gloveon 21 Aug 2011 at 2:29 pm

    @ Salazaris

    I’m glad it helped you out.

  17. Yayzikenson 18 Jun 2012 at 1:42 pm

    All right, so I’m writing a superhero story (obviously), and there’s a love triangle going on. I really want some feedback on it. Here we go.

    One of them, let’s call him Richard for now, is a nice guy who just happens to be really self-conscious and acts sweet because he wants others to accept him.

    On the shorter side you have some dude who will take on the pseudonym Blake. He’s quiet but really gentle, and he spends all his time trying to protect Richard and stuff. However, due to some crazy stuff that happened back as a kid, he really wants to be loved and when Richard rejects him, he just LOSES IT and gets all stalker-like, you hear me?

    The other dude will now be known as Fred. He’s mean, sarcastic, and bitter, though he turns out to be really nice and once stops Richard from committing suicide. Unfortunately, Richard says he isn’t interested in him. He soon becomes Richard’s best friend. Fred got along just fine with Blake, you know, but when he finds about his love for Richard, he tries to stop him because seriously man this is not how you handle your emotions.

    Near the ending, though, he becomes very, VERY protective over Richard, to the point where no one else can touch him lest they suffer a punch to the face. Then he seriously injures him and he just BREAKS DOWN. See, Fred was going through some really traumatic stuff right now and that pretty much shoved his heart into a wood chipper.

    Oh, and he also realizes how Blake actually treated Richard better than he ever could. As a matter of fact, after Blake regains his sanity, he tries to snap Fred out of his catatonic state and says stuff like, “BUT RICHARD LOVES YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Fred listens for, like, three seconds. Then he goes back to being really whiny and brutally murders Blake.

    Richard is traumatized and the two grow distant. So in the end, it’s not much of a love triangle. HA.

    So … how’s that?

  18. Sonearageon 19 Jun 2012 at 12:48 pm


    Right, be careful. Be very careful. If this is going to be a an angst-fest then make sure the characters are still vaguely likable/the readers have an emotional attachment to the characters other wise it’ll turn a bit wangsty.

    Think about when Fred and Richard grow distant, is it going to be a smooth transition to sudden not friendsness or will it be a bumpy road of upset and binge drinking? Possibly including Richard craving Fred’s friendship again and possible PTS issues from Blake’s murder.

    Also, does Richard actually love either of them or was Blake just lying with the whole “BUT RICHARD LOVES YOU!!!!!!!!!!” stuff?

  19. B. McKenzieon 20 Jun 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Yayzikens, who’s your target audience? I could probably see some sort of audience for the angsty love triangle and I can see an audience for a superhero story, but I don’t how know how much overlap there is between the two. In particular, romance* usually appeals overwhelmingly to women rather than men, and superheroes usually skew more to men than women.

    *At least, romance more involved than James Bond-style flings–e.g. the Richard-Blake-Fred love triangle is definitely pretty involved.

    Also, I’ll definitely second Sonearage’s suggestions on making the characters vaguely likable to keep readers emotionally involved. Right now, it feels like the characters are dripping with enough crazy that I think it would take a lot of work to execute the triangle without putting off a lot of potential readers. (Which is not to say it’s impossible–pretty much everybody in the Batman universe besides Oracle and Alfred is some type of crazy, but I think that most of them are gripping and/or likable).

  20. MoguMoguon 23 Jun 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Should I be worried if I’m writing a superhero novel with a female protag AND no love interest? I’m afraid of isolating all demographics. I also think I might just be paranoid and that if my lead is interesting and writing good, then it’ll be picked up.

  21. MoguMoguon 23 Jun 2012 at 6:17 pm

    What do you guys think?

  22. B. Macon 23 Jun 2012 at 6:26 pm

    “Should I be worried if I’m writing a superhero novel with a female protagonist AND no love interest?” Assuming the character is interesting and does interesting things, it probably won’t matter much.

    If you’re going after male readers, I think it might help if the main character is not stereotypically feminine (e.g. Catniss Everdeen is a survivor first and a woman second-if-that). It sounds like your character has goals besides romance and shopping/glamour, which will probably help.

  23. Neilon 13 Jul 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Hello. First off, thank you so much for posting this article. It’s been quite beneficial. Having said that, I am having trouble with my story’s love interest. This is not surprising. Developing and creating characters has always been a hard process. It took me quite a bit to figure out my main character, Derek’s, motivations and basic personality.

    Having said that, allow me to elaborate on the character. Originally, I wanted the character to be similar to a hippie, but I decided against it. The basis being that I’m not confident in making her able to contribute significant to the plot or trying to avoid making her into a damsel in distress.

    That said, the current character, I have is as follows. Her name is Teri Meadows. In the story, she’s from Florida, specifically, Tampa and has moved to Seattle, Washington, where the story takes place.

    Her most notable trait is her drive for adventure. Given her goal in life is to become a professional skateboarder, she has a passion for skating. She sees it as the ultimate thrill, a way to which she can assert her individualism all the while enjoying herself.

    Being that she’s a female, she has to deal with plenty of people who either are in disbelief or just plain do not support it. Coupled with her parents (rather, her father who isn’t too supportive), she’s got quite the temper, easily loosing it when people question her.

    However, having said that, Teri’s experiences have also made her more confident, as she’s not the type to be pushed around so easily; rather she’ll hold her ground.

    She’s also prone to a bit of stubbornness, particularly, when others don’t agree with certain actions she performs.

    Having said that, in the story, Teri is originally VERY distrustful of Derek. The reason being that he’s just a typical jock who’s ignorant and only is going after her for the sake of it.

    But of course, Derek’s not like that. He supports her decision, because if there’s one thing he values it’s someone who’s content with themselves. It’s this bit, along with her confidence within her own skills he comes to admire.

    In contrast, Teri comes to admire Derek’s easygoing nature and exuberant attitude towards life. Though, this could be anything but said about his incredible absent-mindedness.

    On Derek’s case, he’s also thrown back by her hot temper and stubborn attitude. Nevertheless, they feel both complete one another emotionally. All in all, that’s what I have so far. Feedback of any kind is welcome, as I really do want to flesh out this character.

    P.S: I have one interesting question to add. I have a scene in the story where Teri is kidnapped. Having said that, how do I go about the process so as I don’t make her into a damsel in distress. One of the ideas is that she tries to fight off the individual with her skateboarding skills all the while trying to be resourceful.

  24. Janon 13 Jul 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Just found this post. I have no love interests that aren’t superheroes in their own right (hence there isn’t much romance as I won’t create a character just to be a love intrest) I have a guy love intrest problem: he has super strength and he’s kind of a bully (emotionally, not physically) to his very timid and kind of spineless (but only when he’s around) girlfriend.
    The guy’s a jerk, plain and simple. But he’s a ‘good’ jerk. He won’t become evil. He will never be evil. So I’m not sure how to get across, yes, he’s a jerk, but not evil. Any suggestions?

  25. B. McKenzieon 13 Jul 2012 at 11:20 pm

    “So I’m not sure how to get across, yes, he’s a jerk, but not evil. Any suggestions?” Some possibilities:

    1) He’s jerkish in a mostly charming way. For example, Tony Stark is occasionally brusque, but (at least in the movies) rarely-if-ever malicious. It was not very friendly for him to cattle-prod the mild-mannered Bruce Banner, but in his defense, the team really did need to know if Bruce could keep his cool (even if annoyed by billionaire genius philanthropists).

    1.1) He has a good reason to push people’s buttons. Drill sergeants/instructors scare because they care–it helps prepare soldiers to function well in stressful and dangerous situations. Likewise, a doctor might behave more brusquely than normal in verbally slapping down an intern which is doing something dangerously wrong. Superheroes frequently handle life-or-death situations, and it’d be believable if he were occasionally rude and/or jerkish when lives were on the line. (I’d recommend being careful about taking this character so deep into Guy Gardner/jerk territory that we are praying that Batman comes to punch out his lights, though).

    2) Maybe he is more jerkish in a noncharming way (e.g. maybe in the heat of the moment he occasionally says things to her which are stupid in some way but not malicious), but he’s not notably assholish and he works on improving the character flaw in question over the course of the story.

    3) He occasionally makes social blunders and/or creates social awkwardness but there is some extenuating circumstance (e.g. he’s just awkward rather than malicious). For example, if a Westerner asks you how much you make, he’s probably being an asshole; if a Korean asks the same question, he probably regards it as just a basic getting-to-know-you question along the lines of “What is your job like?” Some possibilities here: the character is foreign and/or could not be reasonably expected to have a good idea of local social norms, the character is not human, the character has a social disorder or really socially awkward but is otherwise mostly likable, etc.

  26. Jesseon 23 Mar 2013 at 5:15 pm

    So just wanted to say that I find these articles SUPER helpful! I just a have a quick question about doing love interests in which they are both heroes.

  27. B. McKenzieon 23 Mar 2013 at 8:58 pm

    “I have a quick question about love interests in which they are both heroes.” Sure, what’s your question? (Are there any issues you’re having with the characters and/or the romance?)

  28. Jesseon 24 Mar 2013 at 6:39 am

    Yeah I’m not really sure if the romance can work in my story, mostly because they both have different ideals and ways about them.

    Basically, my protagonist Colt is a bounty hunter/mercenary and he wants to change USA back to a democracy and he wants to do that by exposing the horrors of the ISA (Imperial States of America).

    My ” love interst” is an investigative reporter named Rachel Reed who is also the hero Phantom. Her identity isn’t known like Colts who is actually popular in New York for his power of Technokinesis. Also unlike Colt, she wants to save the Empire from the growing number of PMs (Private Military) and also the crime that plagues New York that has remained since it’s sacking.

    I was wondering how these two can have a successful relationship when they both are practically on opposite factions. Colt, who has blind fury for the Imperials and Rachel who wants to make the ISA a better place and actually enjoys living in it. However, they do love each other though they don’t admit it outright and they somewhat complete each other by Rachel helping him deal with his past and Colt who tries to there fur Rachel as she faces terrible things. I’m just not sure how to go about this romance.

  29. grrron 24 Mar 2013 at 10:34 am

    I think havering the two have to entirely different interests is helpful in landing the story more interesting you could have them battle eachother for their beliefs and then have them relize that both sides are right in their own way and have them start their own politicos side and have that one win the war or disagreement or whatever it is

  30. B. McKenzieon 24 Mar 2013 at 9:01 pm

    “I was wondering how these two can have a successful relationship when they both are practically on opposite factions.” Definitely doable. See Romeo and Juliet (or any of its retellings), Batman & Catwoman (or Talia al-Ghul), Sherlock and criminal Irene Adler, the romance between Alice and Charlie in Flowers for Algernon (separated by issues of intelligence and intimacy), maybe Han and Leia in Star Wars (separated by an initial difference in motives), Dancing With Wolves, maybe Gone with the Wind (Scarlett the proper Southerner and Rhett Butler “that damned Scallawag,” for example), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner or any other classic about an interracial or interclass romance, etc. I think the most intuitive approach would be either to have them develop some sort of attachment before they know how major the factional issues are, or have one do something for the other which is so impressive (e.g. life-saving at considerable risk) that they fall in love even though they know that the factional issues will present an obstacle.

    “I was wondering how these two can have a successful relationship…” I can see several ways this could be resolved (assuming that the goal is to have them end happily).
    1) You could have the two characters attempt to create a third way apart from their two factions (e.g. like Romeo & Juliet, but successful).

    2) You could have one character move much more towards the other character’s faction or way of thinking (e.g. Han moves much more towards Leia than vice versa).

    3) You could have the characters work together to accomplish some major goal, while acknowledging that there is still very much on the side that will continue to divide them (e.g. it’s very unlikely that Catwoman will ever give up a life of crime, but she does occasionally work together with Batman against major threats to the city).

    4) The political conflict between them is externally resolved (e.g. if the Capulets and Montagues largely settle their differences), alleviating most of the factional issues separating the two lovers.

  31. Anonymouson 24 Mar 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Another question…how do you think readers would respond if the MC didn’t get the girl? Her solid rejection would come in about three-fourths of the way and would lead to a brash decision. Also, I think having her choose the man he is already jealous of over him would help me work in a more believable confrontation between the two. (Side note: the jealously has made him the ambitious and erratic man he is.)

  32. Dr. Vo Spaderon 24 Mar 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Ack. ^

  33. B. McKenzieon 24 Mar 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I think it’s okay if the MC isn’t successful at everything he sets out to do (for example, a failed romance). It may dampen the mood–if you feel that is an issue, you can minimize that by suggesting the characters’ future is otherwise bright. For example, if a quintessential dork sought to woo his love interest by making himself a better man (e.g. becoming more confident, mentally active, physically fit, successful on the job, and the like), but she ultimately spurns him, while this will certainly be a hard letdown for him, you could end it on a positive note (e.g. a more enthusiastic lady offering him her phone number or asking if he would like to share a coffee).

    In this case, the rejection comes with probably 17,500 – 20,000 words left, so you could also work in some extra character development after he’s been spurned. It’s possible that he could have some sort of epiphany that his jealousy caused him to lose what he wanted the most, and perhaps he consciously gives that up. Or perhaps he storms off elsewhere. There are a lot of ways to show someone reacting to a tough break.

  34. Ghostfreakon 25 Mar 2013 at 7:46 am

    Very good article. There’s a woman in my story that goes by the name of Skye Jennings aka Clover, she serves as my hero’s partner/lover. But the thing is this: My hero already has a wife, but he’s having an affair with her and the other woman happens to be Clover. So my question is this, Would Clover & the wife still be considered love interests or Clover be considered the only love interest?

  35. Dr. Vo Spaderon 25 Mar 2013 at 8:07 am

    @B. Mac,

    Thanks, I was a little worried about that.

  36. B. McKenzieon 25 Mar 2013 at 6:20 pm

    “So my question is this, Would Clover & the wife still be considered love interests or Clover be considered the only love interest?” I would consider them both love interests.

  37. Blackscaron 26 Mar 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Hello there! Great article, as usual. 🙂

    In my novel, my main male MC and main female MC start off as rivals/enemies. I plan on making them grow to appreciate each other over the course of the story, hinting at romance every so often. (I suppose you could count the girl as the love interest, though she has her own plotline and motives.)
    I plan to have them kiss right after they both nearly die, which will either be at about the halfway point or the 2/3 point of the book.
    Both shall later admit that they felt nothing for the other and had no idea why they kissed, therefore destroying any possible future romantic interactions between them. (Let’s say that it was an abrupt, poorly-considered occurance, like a ‘Glad To Be Alive’ kiss of some sort.)
    Are there any other options besides just saying “They don’t love each other. Get over it. The end.”? Like, what sort of ending could I pull off without making it seem too clichéd?

    Thanks in advance!

  38. B. McKenzieon 26 Mar 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Hmm. Blackscar, I would definitely recommend making SOMETHING come of the short-lived romance (e.g. some character development or some major plot development or some major result of them breaking up or whatever). It may also help if there were a more dramatic reason for the relationship ending. Right now, the explanation along the lines of “they don’t love each other, get over it” suggests to me that the romance is largely inconsequential, and I think it could be challenging to get editors on board for a romance which takes space and is foreshadowed but doesn’t appear to have an impact on the plot. If I could paraphrase Chekhov, it’s best not to show your readers a death ray unless you have at least some zapping in store, and I anticipate that readers who have seen the hints at romance may be disappointed by what comes their way. (Alternately, readers that hate romance may get the wrong idea about what you have in store and preemptively flee).

    If it’s just a minor episode, I’d recommend cutting the foreshadowing and perhaps playing down the romance (e.g. they kiss once and it only gets brought up in conversation after that as a laughable misjudgment).

  39. Blackscaron 27 Mar 2013 at 3:22 am

    @B. McKenzie

    Ah, good point. I’ll see to it that it plays a role in character development. I already have an idea.

    Thank you very much!

  40. Kid Writeron 05 Aug 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Alright, so I’m thinking I want to have a little romance in my current novel, but not a lot. Also, I don’t want it to take away from the actual plot and so I don’t really know if I want to make the romance anything more than a crush that helps flesh out the characters a little. First, I’ll explain them though.

    Radish is a superhero with the average fire based superpower, and has some serious grudge problems. That’s her main flaw.

    Keegan is a superhero with the ability to communicate with computers and other electronics through his mind, but he’s flawed in the fact that he has absolutely no charismatic qualities and is pretty shy, seeing as he views, and is viewed, as a geek. (His nickname, Keeg, spelled backwards is Geek).

    They could compliment each other, and help them through their flaws, but aside from that, the only reason I want to have a hint of romance in it is because I kinda want to write a bit of romance. What do you think I should do?

  41. Sepheron 26 Aug 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Well I’ve got a weird romantic triad going on and I just wanted to see if it was marketable.
    My story has two POV characters, both male. Originally, there is an unrequited love thing because Seff is bisexual and Rue is not. But when my main female character Das comes into the picture, both boys develop feelings for her, and she comes to care deeply for both of them as well. And to top it off, Rue eventually comes to love Seff as a little more than a friend.
    So basically everyone is really confused.

    Will potential readers (especially guys) be put off by the bisexuality aspect of it? I’m trying to write for teens/young adults.

  42. B. McKenzieon 26 Aug 2013 at 5:06 pm

    “Well I’ve got a weird romantic triad going on and I just wanted to see if it was marketable. My story has two POV characters, both male. Will potential readers (especially guys) be put off by the bisexuality aspect of it? I’m trying to write for teens/young adults.” Some thoughts that come to mind:

    1) Is this a romance? If so, young guys are probably not a major part of your potential readers. Romance readers are overwhelmingly ladies. (If a romance does have any success with young guys — very rare — it’s probably because it was very successful on some other level. For example, Scott Pilgrim is a hilarious action-comedy and Hunger Games is very effective in action/adventure).

    2) If this is NOT a romance, I think a highly unusual romance like this would be very likely to turn off readers that are not interested in romance (i.e. most guys). I imagine this would be less noticeable in markets like Canada, Europe, and Australia, and more noticeable everywhere else. If I were evaluating this for U.S. readers, I couldn’t envision it selling thousands of copies unless perhaps the writing were extraordinary.

    3) Whether this is a romance or not, I wouldn’t expect young males to be a major part of the audience. Generally, young guys don’t read non-school novels and it’s exceptionally unlikely that a parent or teacher will buy or assign this novel for them.

    4) Thought experiment: I’d recommend polling a random 10 guys between the ages of (say) 13-20 and give them a 1-2 sentence summary of the book and ask them how much they would want to read it. Then ask them if they can name any books they’ve read outside of school assignments in the last 5 years.

  43. Sepheron 26 Aug 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks for replying! I guess I’ll clarify some things.

    The romance is not the main focus of the story. My story is fantasy, primarily action/adventure with a schooldays arc in the beginning. Basically, both of my main characters are trying to obtain a very important object, but they don’t figure out that they’re looking for the same thing until they’ve become the best of friends. So I don’t have a true hero or villain in my story, the main characters are forced to fight each other to achieve their goal (the primary girl character enters the story as a love interest much later on).

    Yeah, I can see my story not being accepted as well in the U.S., but I’ll do my best. I don’t claim to be a fantastic writer, not at all, but I’ve read quite a bit and I’ve got a knack for grammar and sentence structure. Or so the SAT tells me; I did pretty well in the reading comprehension section 😀
    So I’m hopeful I can write something worth reading. (I already wrote a short novel a few years ago that I now thoroughly despise, so at least this isn’t my first attempt at writing 😉 )

    Oh shoot, I seem to have screwed up quite badly when I put down my potential audience. By teens/young adults I meant like 17+. My story is in no way appropriate for 13 year old kids of any gender. There’s quite a bit of violence, foul language and sexual themes.

    Truth be told, I don’t even know if I want to publish my story. Mostly I just want to get it out of my head since my characters have been lurking there for years. And then I wonder if anyone would like it, if people I know would laugh at me after reading it…
    Maybe I should just make a blog of it and see if anyone is interested. I’m quite shy, so the idea of showing people my writing in person is mildly terrifying to say the least.

    Sorry for the long reply.

  44. B. McKenzieon 27 Aug 2013 at 4:22 am

    “Oh shoot, I seem to have screwed up quite badly when I put down my potential audience. By teens/young adults I meant like 17+. My story is in no way appropriate for 13 year old kids of any gender. There’s quite a bit of violence, foul language and sexual themes.” Ah, that makes sense. If the story is only appropriate for 18+, I’d recommend calling it an adult story. Generally, in creative writing, “young adult” means readers ~13-18.

    “My story is fantasy, primarily action/adventure with a schooldays arc in the beginning.” I’m not sure what you have in mind for the school arc at the beginning, so take this accordingly… Generally, I’d recommend having the beginning of the book be as representative of the book as possible. One potential obstacle I see would be if leading with the characters as kids makes the book look like it’s written for a significantly younger audience than it actually is. Non-adult protagonists are almost always written for non-adult readers, so if the readers see a non-adult main character early on, they may mistakenly assume that the book is aimed too young for them. Some ways to avoid and/or mitigate this issue:
    A) The story handles the school arc in a way that it would be immediately very interesting to adults. For example, I think Harry Potter proved surprisingly effective with readers older than 18 because it focused relatively little on low-stakes kid stuff (e.g. puppy romances, the desire to be cool/popular, etc) and more on saving the world every year. Depending on how the story executes the plot (your two main characters trying to obtain a plot device), I think that could go either way.
    B) The story makes it clear that this is a flashback.
    C) The characters are adults from the beginning. E.g. perhaps the schooldays arc is moved back to college, or perhaps we see the characters as adults and THEN flash back to them in school.
    D) The arc with the main characters as kids is very brief.

    “I already wrote a short novel a few years ago that I now thoroughly despise…” It was probably very useful as practice (i.e. in helping you get so much better that you look down on it now).

    “Maybe I should just make a blog of it and see if anyone is interested.” Hmm, okay. If that’s your route, though, I’d recommend NOT getting discouraged if you have 500-600 readers 6 months down the road. Finding fiction readers online is exceptionally difficult, I think. People that are seriously addicted to the story may bring in guests/friends, but that takes a lot of time and setup/labor. SN had the help of modest amounts of Google search traffic for non-fiction keywords like “how to write superhero stories,” and even then it took me probably 6 months before my readers were collectively spending more time on the website than I was. (So far we’re up to ~800,000 readers).

  45. Sepheron 27 Aug 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Okay, it’s an adult story then. 🙂 Thanks for clearing that up.

    My book doesn’t begin with my characters at school, sorry if that was misleading. They actually meet each other out in the wilderness while traveling and searching for the plot device, and get dragged off to school by a couple of wardens for being truant at around page 30. In my universe kids are home schooled until they are 16-20 years old, so the school is more like college than high school. I use the school as a place to develop my main characters’ skills and their friendship (before they figure out that they have to be enemies).

    The characters in my book aren’t young kids. My two main characters are 18 years old boys, my main female is 19, and the people they join up with while looking for the plot device are 26, 33, and 35.

    Also, their motivations to get the plot device aren’t childish (at least in my opinion), as they both want it to save someone they care about.

    I think I will go the blog route. I have almost 100 watchers on my deviantart account, so maybe I could spread the word there. I’m also a decent enough artist to make attractive graphics for the blog.

    Thanks again for your advice, you’ve really helped with some things I’ve been worrying about with my story. 🙂 I love your site, even though my characters aren’t necessarily superheroes.

  46. B. McKenzieon 27 Aug 2013 at 4:21 pm

    “The characters in my book aren’t young kids.” Ah, I read too much into the word “schooldays.” I was operating under the assumption that they were something like 10-15. Please disregard that bit accordingly.

    Marketing ruminations: In general, main characters are usually a few years older than the target audience. So using 18-19 year olds as the three most important characters strikes me as a bit unusual. That said, this is less of an issue with adult characters and adult readers. (E.g. a 25 year old reader would probably be more open to reading about a 18 year old than a 17 year would be open to reading about a 10 year old, even though it’s a 7 year gap in both cases — individual years create less of a gap as time goes on).

  47. Sepheron 27 Aug 2013 at 6:51 pm

    It’s good to know that their ages won’t be as much of an issue for an adult audience. That way, adults and kids 16+ (if they were interested) would still be able to connect with my characters.
    It is true, though, that main characters tend to be older than the audience. I thought up these characters when I was 17. So they were a little older than I was. And then I decided to attend a military academy and now I’m twenty and the damn story still isn’t finished haha

  48. B. McKenzieon 28 Aug 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Ah, great luck with that! I was very briefly in Air Force ROTC. In retrospect, I would have been the USAF’s worst 2nd lieutenant.

  49. Proxie#0on 29 Aug 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I’m not sure if I want to make the “love” in my story as subtle as it is in horror (which is one major aspect of my novel) or open and overt.

    To cut to the point, my characters are like your average flirtatious group in the beginning. No real reason to get together, both just “hating” the other to love for different reasons. Later on, I knowingly shoehorn them together by constantly placing them at odds together, and sometimes against, each other. This creates a feeling of hopelessness and fear of being alone for each, and causing dependence, a symbiotic love, to form. Now, I do want to say that they have known each other before, and had dated for a few months in high school (both in their thirties now).

  50. Graceon 18 Dec 2015 at 8:54 pm

    So I’m currently coming up with a plot for a new novel, it’s essentially a mystery story about a girl who has to become a member of a pickpocket gang after a few complications in Paris, and although romance won’t be the main story line I want it to be a fairly obvious sub plot. Her love interest is going to be a pickpocket who’s kind of a jerk really, and she has an edge to her as well so I’m planning on a fair few arguments, but do you think the protagonist who initially hates her love interest is overused? Should I make them more compatible, or do you think the hate or initial dislike that turns into love could work? Is it too clichéd?

  51. Graceon 18 Dec 2015 at 8:56 pm

    Oh and I’m struggling with an age group… There are quite a few different characters, but the main characters will be in their early to mid twenties, so does that mean it would be for teens – young adults or an older age bracket?

  52. Tyleenia Tayloron 07 Mar 2016 at 10:01 am

    Um . . . ’bout the villain<3Hero villian<main villian? Well . . . In my tale that's basically depicting the forever battle of good vs. evil, it's just one hero and one villian, and, as they later find out, it's their 'lover' under the mask! And there's not much choice but to fight each other, unless they fight fate. Is this not a good plot, Big Mac?

  53. Andrewon 20 May 2016 at 2:07 am

    While there’s more to be done with character development and plot with my stories, I’ve managed to fit in romance. Since they’re on the same team, it leaves room for time for them to be together while not delaying anything. Sometimes, interactions are little sublties like a fist bump and a kiss later on. But not overly done to make delays to the story

  54. Vixis Shiar'Deluson 02 Jun 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Alfred Winslow is in an unofficial relationship with Joshua Vernes, of whom he is also the leader of personal security (that is part of how they met, though they did know each other before the Novae (alien) invasion). They ended up together after both (presumably) lost their husband (Joshua) and fiancé (Alfred) while working together to ensure that humanity in North America managed to flee to the cold lands in Canada. Alfred had previously experimented with men, but wasn’t quite sure until he started developing more than friendly feelings for Joshua. Josh cares about Alfred to a great extent, but doesn’t view their relationship in the same way that Alfred does.

    Besides being Joshua’s head of security, Alfred also works with the police department in New Haven from time to time, and hopes to move into a career in law at some point. Joshua is currently serving as the council member for New America’s economic section in the executive branch, though he has been pushed to pursue a spot as either the Vice Chancellor or the Prime Ministers position, which Alfred does support. In his liason work with the police department (and also in his pursuit of a legal career), Joshua does provide support in various ways, including but not limited to proving things like character statements and endorsements or directly allocating other physical forms of assistance in investigations.

    In the story, Alfred is also forced into an awkward position where he must confront his ex-fiancé’s new husband and his apparent children (whom he had no idea existed). Additionally, he assists in an investigation into an unknown killer that appears to be targeting political figures (who happens to be a consciousness that can pass from person to person, or leave parts of itself in other’s bodies to control them). That character intends to target Joshua, but doesn’t know about he and Alfred’s relationship (and so somewhat underestimates Alfreds vigor in his attempted search). However, he does end up sending one of his proxies (a female reporter that Alfred had saved from death weeks prior) as a potential love interest. He feels and understands that something is off, and attempts to continue with a false relationship with her to figure out what it is about her that is off. Joshua ends up finding out and is furious, but understands. Later on they separate the proxy from Cassandra (the reporter), and begin using her against Jaizon (the being controlling her) to continue gaining information on his activities. She doesn’t trust them (as she did legitimately like Alfred and did think they were in a relationship), which could allow her to be manipulated by Jaizon. At the same time as all of this, Joshua is attempting to run for Prime Minister, though he is running on a fairly controversial platform (this is why Jaizon, who wants to gain control of his fairly easily manipulable mind, is attempting to eliminate his competition to ensure he has as much power as possible once Jaizon takes control of him).

  55. Kindraon 09 Jan 2019 at 12:51 pm

    1. Adventurous, headstrong, highly reactionary, very intelligent but sometimes just doesn’t think.

    2. Well, he’s something of a paragon as well as attractive and the user of a rare form of magic, whilst she’s very intelligent and cheerful and her adventurousness intrigues him.

    3. She’s very reactionary like I said and flighty when it comes to interest and focus. She needs something stable in her life. He, on the other hand, is very quiet and withdrawn and needs more happiness in his life.

    4. She’s smart and well-read and knows a lot more about the villains (a mysterious cult) than he does. She provides vital information for their quest that he would not have any way of knowing without her.

    5. The farthest they ever get is a small kiss in the climax of book 12. All the interaction before that is them being friends and working together to figure out the cult.
    Though I have to say she does fly into a righteous fury when he’s almost killed in book 3. Which is unusual as her normal reaction to a friend almost dying is fear, not wrath.

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