Three Pitfalls of Writing Romance

3 Pitfalls

Romance in fiction is more common than you might think. These days, you don’t have to buy a ticket to the newest chick flick to witness sparks flying on-screen. It seems to be in every type of fiction I consume, from angsty teen novels to horror and action flicks. Romance spices up a story. It makes for a great subplot. However, while romance is a powerful tool, often encouraged in many fictitious endeavors, there is a right way to use it and a wrong way to use it.

1) Romance as Wish-Fulfillment

Far too often, authors write novels as a way to live out their own fantasies. The main character is a representation of the author himself in a life the author wants. Bad. Just bad. When an author is focused less on the plot and how his characters are reacting to their surroundings and more on living out whatever dream he’s fantasized about, suddenly the entire work is colored.

It will probably become pretty monotonous, focused mostly on that unfulfilled desire as he keeps coming back and coming back to that one train of thought with the sole purpose of reliving his desire again. In this case, the author who isn’t looking to tell a wonderful story about interesting people, but is looking to make their own heart pound, ends up leaving their faithful readers out in the cold with a lot of steamy scenes, but no story to back them up.

2) The “Love Interest”

Putting characters into a story with the sole purpose of being “the love interest” is a sure fire way to make them two-dimensional. We are all the heroes of our own stories. I am the protagonist in mine and you, I’m sorry to say, are merely a secondary character. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have your own life. It just means that I only get to see the snippets of your life that intersect with mine. How can we love a character who’s only function is “love interest?” How can we become emotionally attached to someone simply because they’re there? In a successful love story foil characters must learn to work together, support each other, and fit their strengths and weaknesses together like a puzzle.

3) Plot Driving the Characters

This is an especially important piece of advice for writers, and something that readers can be on the lookout for. Just think for a moment about all those Christmas time chick flicks made every year by Hallmark and ABC family. Sure, everyone knows the ending to a good romance plot is boy and girl getting together, but you can’t take the bones and leave the body! In every piece of fiction, characters should be driving the plot.

That’s what happens in real life, inspiring us to write. Wars don’t start, leading people to fight. People fight, leading to wars. The same rule applies to romance: People don’t just suddenly fall in love for no reason. Things happen, minds change, and sometimes people do dumb things. But there is always a reason. What is that reason?   Though I wrote this post pertaining to the romance genre, it really applies to any type of fiction. Keep these pitfalls in mind during your next chick lit (or chick flick!) If the story falls flat for you, it’s likely that the author has fallen into one of these holes.

2 Responses to Three Pitfalls of Writing Romance

  1. Bryan Kelly says:

    Great article; I definitely agree that few things ring as hollow in a story as a poorly written romance. It’s usually the emotional crux of a story, so if it flounders, it can bring a whole lot of the rest down with it.

    In regards to point 3, I would actually love to see a plot originally written as a romance where the writer finds, mid-way through, that as the characters have grown they just don’t work and change the story into something else entirely. I’m sure this has been done, especially in long-running arcs like TV shows, but the idea of characters becoming so defined that they begin to wrest control of the plot from the author always fascinates me.

    • Abigail Endsley says:

      That would be a super awesome read! I love when characters pick up a plot and take it somewhere neither the reader nor the author were expecting, but is just so wonderfully perfect that the author just goes with it. :)

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