I ran across a tumblr blog post recently that was advice about writing romances your readers will ship. Ship being as in want to see them in a romantic relationship and will write/create art/blog excessively about said character duo.
And the writing advice as far as writing advice goes really wasn’t that bad IF and only IF your audience likes the type of thing that the advice was suggesting.
To paraphrase, characters should have chemistry, though the advice makes it out that they should be opposites in the old “opposites attract” trope. There should and can be a slow burn relationship which takes place over several books. Great if you aren’t writing a romance novel where the readers want things to be snappy. Cute catch phrases or exchanges that mean “I love you,” which is something given to us from the Princess Bride. To increase tension and cause needless drama, main romantic pairs should take breaks and time off and apart. (Oh god, please no.) And lastly, not all stories have happy endings.
And really, these aren’t bad pieces of advice. If your audience likes characters who are polar opposites having a slow burn relationship that has cute catch phrases, them breaking up repeatedly due to “misunderstandings” that probably could have been solved with a simple conversation and ends up with them having a tragic ending of either death or breaking up or being pulled apart or whatever tragic ending you prefer here. (Honestly, I feel more audiences especially of the romance genre want happy endings where the couple succeeds and is happy rather than sad endings. Due to the fact that the couples success in the story gives the reader a feeling of success and emotional fulfillment. That is my heart felt opinion.)
I know that this advice isn’t meant to all be taken seriously and you can pick and choose among the five different ideas presented. It has been my experience that you don’t always know what your audience is going latch onto with relationships. Yes, some audiences like a tragic ending or are just stubborn enough to think that somehow their tragic relationship is going to work out in the end for a happy ending instead.
There are many different types of romantic relationships and what you feel your audience or even what you feel you like and/or want in a relationship is going to really depend on the types of relationships that a writer writes and an audience latches onto. I myself have noticed that over time I’ve gone from liking stories where the guy doesn’t notice the girl, notices the girl and then falls for the girl to stories about where the guy has liked the girl from the beginning and has to spend time earning her respect. I also like relationships where the girl is the one who really understands who the guy is even if the guy is reluctant to admit it.
There are childhood sweethearts and whirlwind romances. There are business contracts that turn to love. And long drawn out courtships. There are intellectual relationships and emotional relationships and loud relationships and quiet relationships and each type of romance is valid.
Chemistry doesn’t have to be about snark and being opposites. Chemistry is as much about how characters look at each other, touch each other and how they find each other attractive. Chemistry can be the happiness over a shared passion. Or even one partner teaching the other partner how to do something. Chemistry can be as simple as a shared joke and a laugh.
There are audiences who like unrequited love stories. There are audience who like romance stories that involve class keeping characters apart. There are audiences for every romance book trope imaginable from mail order brides to time travel.
And let me say that it is difficult for me as a reader to take a relationship that constantly breaks up and gets back together seriously. Many of the times the circumstances involved created by the writer feel like drama for the sake of drama. That they can’t come up with a way to keep their characters relationship feeling fresh or interesting. So instead of dealing with problems like adults, the relationship ends in a break up or a ‘time out.’ Now some of this is true to real life because OMG does my family have some doozies of stories, but in a written world that is partially fantasy it gets stale quickly and makes any happy ending feel cheap and not ‘hard earned.’ Because given the characters histories how long will that ‘happy ending’ last anyways. Well, only long enough until the writer needs fodder for a new book.
No matter how you write your book, to market, with formula or for yourself. Writing romance will depend on what your audience likes, even if that audience is you, yourself and I. And there is no guarantee in life or anything really, that your favorite couple that you’re writing who is the main couple of your story will be latched onto by whatever fandom you acquire.
The best advice I can give about writing romance is write what feels natural to you as a writer. Don’t try to force things between your characters. And if writing romance naturally is writing opposites attract with a slow burn and cute catch phrases where the characters take breaks and end up having a tragic denouement. Then the more power to you.
Oh, and one more thing, romance triangles are on the way out. No more romance triangles please. Thanks. (Never was a big fan to begin of those to begin with.)