3 Biggest Relationship Writing Mistakes

LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_TypewriterMost fiction has a romance of some sort. Historical, literary, suspense–most plots, even if they’re not a romance novel, have a romantic subplot at the minimum. And actually, most of this advice can be used for all sort of relationships between characters (mother/daughter, best friends, lovers).

The interaction between your characters is what brings a book to life. No novel is written without dialogue, secrets, plot and emotions that cross between the characters in your novels. So how does this all come to life and become real for the reader?


1. Coincidence. It’s not that easy.

There is nothing more transparent than characters who come together serendipitously. It’s easy for a writer to have characters bump into each other on the street. What’s hard is to plot interaction naturally for each character’s own motivations and goals separate from their relationship to each other. Comb your writing for things that seem too easy; chances are, the reader can see right through it.

2. Can they just get in a room together?

The opposite of coincidence is a similar problem. If your relationship issue could be solved by two people simply being in the same room and talking it out–it’s not plotted deeply enough. The characters have to be up against something external and bigger than themselves. If they themselves are the limitation to their happiness or coupling then the reader will get frustrated very easily.

3. Technology. The curse of modern relationship writing. 

I know writers, this one isn’t easy. But, setting your novel in the 90s isn’t the answer either! (The reason for writing a historical novel has to be more than just avoiding the cell phone or internet.) Even having a characters’ cell phone drained of battery is hard because of the modern conveniences of car charges and backup chargers. No reader will believe this unless it’s a character quirk and even then we’re all frustrated by our own friends who don’t travel with a fully charged phone! Plus, there is wifi everywhere we go, so of course in a modern novel there will be the same amenities for your character. Therefore, you can’t make your plot too simple or else we’re back at Problem 2 (i.e. why can’t they just talk?). If you have to keep them away with a forgotten cell phone or dead battery then the see above (i.e. external conflict!).

Q: Which one of these is the hardest for you?

Plotting romance: when it works and when it doesn’t

Romance in novels is a big part of what drives readers’ emotional connection and thus sales.

Whether YA, women’s fiction, literary fiction, mysteries or thrillers, romance can be a big part of the plot and should never be overlooked. Writers spend so much time crafting plot. But what about crafting a romantic arc, a relationship, or a marriage?

What makes romance work in books:
  • Authenticity. We want to believe that these two people are real, that their relationship goes through natural processes, and they share the same feelings we do.
  • Motivation. A character’s hotness level isn’t motivation. It’s factual evidence. So what drives two characters together? Is it opposites attract? Do they spend a lot of time together in a close environment? Putting two characters together doesn’t mean they are right for each other, just like in real life when you introduce two people to each other. So show the reader how they fit, how they flirt, and what their connection is really like. That’s how bonds are built between the characters and between the book and readers.
  • Complex 3D characters. Relationship success and failure is a big part of plot. It can drive it and layer it. When you show the sides of a character and consequently show the sides of the character in their relationship you build a layer of meaning to that character that they didn’t have before. It can help build character as I said, but also build plot because you weave storylines into it.
  • Whimsy. My final point may seem contradictory, but it makes the relationship complete for readers. This being that your book isn’t real life, it’s fiction. Romance is part of escapism. So don’t use too many mundane elements of everyday love unless you can layer them in a way that works. Dishes aren’t sexy. Dog walking isn’t sexy. Grocery shopping isn’t sexy. So pick and choose carefully the actions and scenes where the lovers/romance interacts.
What happens when it doesn’t work: Continue reading Plotting romance: when it works and when it doesn’t