Jul 18 2009
Many books and comics have at least one official pairing in them, either as a main plot element or as a sidestory.
It can be very difficult to write a believable relationship, and it is something that can very easily become cliché and annoying. I have a handful of tips for avoiding the pitfalls of romance writing.
1. Try to be original when you describe how they meet. We’ve seen the Crash Into Hello so many times that it is more fodder for eye-rolling than anything else. Try combining different stereotypical meetings to get something fresh. Perhaps Alice accidentally knocks Bob through an open window, and Catherine runs to help him, spraining her ankle and needing help from Daniel, the creepy guy who never talks. Two words: love quadrangle.
2. On that note, be careful with love triangles, quadrangles and other polygons. If 2+ characters are fawning over the same love interest, there had better be a good reason. Otherwise it makes the object of their affection appear to be a Mary Sue and the other corners of the triangle look pathetic.
3. Try to develop the characters independently before pairing them up. Or at least let the reader see what they’re like when they’re alone. Alice might be a total slob at home, but when she’s around Bob, she’s hardly going to belch.
4. Don’t bring the pairing out of nowhere. If Alice doesn’t turn up before Bob introduces her to his family, it is like introducing her to the reader at the same time. That’s generally not a good idea, because the reader doesn’t know her, and will accept the way she is characterised around Bob’s parents as the way she always behaves. Most people would behave eloquently at a dinner party, and try to hide their flaws. If Alice is introduced there, it may make her look like a Mary Sue. However, if she is shown before the dinner party with her hair messed up and her apartment full of scruffy cats, we will see her true colours and be more interested in her at the dinner party. Will she mess up?
5. If the romance is a main plot point, don’t have the love interest disappear and come back whenever it’s convenient for the characters. If Alice is a superhero, she doesn’t want Bob to knock on her door while she’s fighting ninjas in her living room. It will be much more interesting if he does anyway.
6. If all the scenes they share are simply about how cute they are together, the story will get stale very quickly. There must be some conflict. For example, while Alice is fighting the ninjas, she may yell at Bob to go away. Understandably, he’s going to be hurt by this, and may bring it up next time they speak. Alice has to explain why she was so angry and why Bob could hear her collection of vases smashing. She can’t exactly tell him that she threw them at ninjas sent by the Yakuza.