Welcome to the fourth and final article on my series on tropes! I saved the best character type for last: the love interest.
It’s possibly the most stressful part of writing, if only because it’s difficult to get it right. Everyone has their own view of who the love interest should be and how they act. I can’t stand passive romantic interests; if their only purpose for being a distraction for the main character, then what’s the point? They should be a driving part of the story.
I have trouble writing love interests because I struggle with writing subtle scenes that make the main character and the reader fall in love with the idea of the two being together. Other people I know struggle with actually wanting the main character to have a love interest.
There’s really no right way to create a good love interest, but there definitely is a wrong. Romanticizing extreme dysfunction or subtle abuse is probably the most obvious way to screw up a romantic subplot. If a character is falling for a brooding, semi-cruel, tragic-backstory guy/girl, then chances are they’ll have a difficult time in their relationships. One of the most crucial pieces of advice I can give is that the reader is affected by what you write. When these abusive, dysfunctional, flawed relationships are viewed as romantic and true love, then the reader will begin to believe that true love is abusive, dysfunctional, and flawed.
* Spoilers Ahead! If you haven’t read the entire A Court of Thorns and Roses series and The Cruel Prince series and want to avoid reading about what happens until you’ve caught up, skip to the starred paragraph! *
However, it’s great to write a story where the main character is in love with a bad egg but then begins to realize that their relationship is not healthy. I know I use this book a lot, but bear with me: Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses is the best example of this. Tamlin’s rage and violence are romanticized, but when Feyre spends more time with Rhysand, she realizes that being around Tamlin is not healthy and that she needs to escape it. It lets the reader know, Hey, this isn’t healthy. She needs to get out of this as soon as she can.
Writing a great romantic subplot should drive the story. Jude and Cardan’s relationship is the entire driving point behind The Cruel Prince’s plot. Jude’s love/hate relationship with Cardan is what drives her to be able to control him while he’s reigning over Faerie.
I love writing relationships where the two main characters are so in-tuned with each other than they know what the other is thinking. If I write a story with a romantic subplot, I want the two characters to know what a person would do if they went off to do something on their own (Think Holly knowing Michael’s every move in The Search episode of The Office).
I also think it’s very important for things to not be great in a relationship—because that’s not realistic at all. People in relationships should disagree, get into small arguments, get upset with each other, etc. People will stop reading your work if they think that the relationship is unrealistic, and constantly-perfect relationships are about as unrealistic as it gets.
When I write, my characters are completely different from each other, so much so that it’s easy for them to be confused about each other. It’s a great way for them to learn more about each other and for me to develop their relationship on the page.
Keep in mind that the relationship you’re writing needs to be a reflection of the genre you’ve decided upon. If you’re writing a historical fiction/historical romance novel set in 1700s High Society London, chances are the characters won’t end up with each other—and if they do, then they’ll either have been cast away from their family or from their society. That’s because marriages were still being arranged then, especially for wealthier families.
Having a romantic relationship with someone generally provides a good motive behind the purpose of the book. When your main character is up against the villain, part of the reason behind the reason to defeat them (aside from saving the world) is a more personal motivation—saving the person they love and getting the chance to live with them happily ever after.
It provides a motivation for the villain, too. Kidnapping the protagonist’s true love means that the protagonist will do anything to get them back.
Romance normally really puts a person through the metaphorical wringer, so it should do that in your book, too!
Have fun writing romance. It’s a great distraction for you as a writer and also gives the reader all the feels. They’ll want to keep reading to see what happens to the two characters, and you’ll want to keep writing to find out for yourself!