The Problems With Romance in Most Literature

By on July 17, 2014 . Category Column

I’m not a romance writer. I’ll be honest with you:  I’m not even a romance reader.  I’m the first to admit that it’s not my genre of choice, and therefore I am a poor judge of it.

But after giving it some thought, I realized that I don’t actually have a problem with romance or love.  I don’t find it “icky” or “stupid” or anything…I just tend to find books and movies that center solely on romance to be lacking.

Originally, I chalked this up to personal taste.  After all, I like action, adventure, supernatural, paranormal, sci-fi, dystopian…romance is too tame and ordinary for me, right?

I’m starting to suspect, though, that that’s not the case.  See, I’m writing my own stories, and I’m incorporating my own romances into them…and I’m having fun with it.  I enjoy the back-and-forth.  I like the growing closeness.  I like watching a relationship blossom between two people, and having them react to it in their own ways.  I even like the challenges that come with relationships, be they the ordinary challenges faced by all, or things like “we can’t have a romantic night out because our city keeps getting bombed.”

So why don’t I enjoy romance when I’m reading a romance novel?

I think I’ve figured it out:  Most people don’t write romance in a way that allows you to actually attach to the characters.

Authors have a bad habit of telling the audience that characters are in love, when actually, they need to show the love.  I’m not going to believe—or care—about these characters or their romance unless I’ve had the chance to attach to them.

Don’t just make the characters fall in love with each other, make the reader fall in love with both of them, and ache to see them together.  There are always those “perfect couples” that aren’t together yet, and it just kills the audience.

And why are they a “perfect couple” to us?  Because we’ve seen how they are, we’ve gotten attached to them, and we know that they’re great together.  We see how they’re happier in one another’s presence, and how they support, care for, and are always there for one another.  Even better—they’re fun when they’re together.  Do you ever see combinations of characters in books or movies that are just hilarious and awesome when they’re together?  You love their chemistry, their dialogue, their banter and exchanges, even bickering and disagreements.  That is what makes an audience love the idea of two characters together.  That is what will get your readers hooked on the romance.  That is what will make them care about the outcome.

And the way to do this?  Once again, it’s to write real people instead of characters.

Use examples from real life, or look at characters from other stories who really captured your heart.

Sidenote:  Even if your characters are already together—like a married couple or a long-standing committed relationship—you can convince the audience that they are perfect together by showing how great they are together.  The rules are the same, you just get to approach it as a romance that’s already in motion, rather than one that’s just beginning.  Just remember to give them history; all couples have it.

The funny thing is my advice for writing good romance is the same as my advice for writing anything else well:  Make sure your characters are real, genuine people, and make sure the audience cares.

And that, dear readers, is how you can make romance fun!


What’s the best romance you’ve ever read, and how did the author make you love it?


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