Believable Romance: No Random Sex Scenes, Please

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When reading a story, one aspect that always sticks out for me is bad romance. Done well, a romantic plot/subplot can add to a story. Done poorly, romance can destroy what could have been a great novel.

Romance is often based on emotion rather than logic. There’s the sense of intuition and imagination, the mysterious and subjective, rather than reason and rules. This can make romance chaotic and rebellious. It can create conflict, which, in fiction, is extremely important.

Conflict is what motivates readers to keep reading. It’s what causes them to care about the characters and what happens next.

In romance novels, there are usually outside forces keeping the protagonists apart. This can be done in novels where romance is a subplot as well. However, in novels whose main focus isn’t romance, the characters’ personalities can also make a romance difficult.

The important thing to remember is to create enough buildup to make the romance believable. If it’s not, then the romance is awkward and, many times, laughable.

The Guardian gives a Bad Sex Award to one author every year, along with a shortlist of other authors. This link includes sexually explicit details, so be forewarned.

One of the great aspects of fiction is that the stakes are usually raised very high. There’s a ton of tension. Think of novels dealing with revolutions. When there’s so much tension and threat of death, failure, etc. emotions are ramped up too. This makes it easier for two characters to fall in love. Now, after all the tension is gone, their relationship might fall apart, but novels typically end before that happens, and the emotions the characters are feeling in the present feel real to them.

In most novels dealing with romance, whether as the main plot or a subplot, there’s a typical progression:

  1. The two characters meet and dislike each other. Yet, there’s an unspoken attraction. I.e. – The Mortal Instruments, Darkfever
  2. An external event forces the two characters together and they fall in love.
  3. External events try to keep them apart (or, in some cases, one of the characters believes it’s better for them to be apart, but can’t resist the other. I.e. – Twilight). Their love grows as they bond over these events and fight to for each other.

(For a more in depth version of this progression, see How to Write Romance.)

What do you think of romance in novels?

(Photo courtesy of ALhanouf AL- abdollah.)

 

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2 thoughts on “Believable Romance: No Random Sex Scenes, Please

  1. T.D. Donley

    I always enjoy romantic tension in novels, even if it isn’t the main plot. I was going to try and write a love story that follows the “Ross-Rachel” formula that you mentioned in your third point. It’s amazing how frequently that formula is used, but no one seems to mind!

    Reply

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