Realistic Romance

There seems to be a very common problem in fiction pertaining to romantic relationships. Authors create characters who are supposedly meant to be together and fall in love, but their interactions are bland and boring (honestly, that protagonist had more chemistry with her sandwich). Yet for some reason, this is incredibly common.

I didn’t really understand it until I started writing my NaNo MS. Ceri and Bel are meant for each other. They would be great together. But for some reason, I couldn’t get their chemistry on the page, and I couldn’t figure out why. Now that I’ve changed Cheri’s gender, they definitely have a lot more chemistry (Bel is sexless and genderless, but Cheri’s personality went through a huge shift, which certainly contributed to better interactions), but there’s still that strange awkwardness of building their relationship throughout the course of the MS that I can’t seem to get right.

So, of course, I did some research.

The first thing I had to consider was what makes a healthy relationship. That’s easy enough for me: trust, communication, and respect are the most important in my book. Relationships allow room for personal growth. They should let the other person (or people) a chance to grow internally. They’re similar in many ways, though they might have some differences. Problematic behaviors are addressed and fixed. They fight or argue occasionally, but it’s rarer than not.

The big thing, however, is that chemistry. It’s what changes the relationship from platonic to romantic, because the above can be used to describe two really great friends – which is what a romantic partner should be, anyway.

I asked my best friend a long time ago what the difference is between a platonic and romantic relationship if you take sex out of the equation (since not all romantic relationships have sex and not all platonic relationships are sexless). We couldn’t come up with much, but the one thing we decided on was that there’s a certain chemistry involved. There’s a part of your brain that designates this person as different than others and sees them as not just friend, but something else, something different. Their personalities need to click, but they need to click in a very specific way to deliver them from friends to more than.

For writing, they need to show that chemistry and have interactions that allow for tension (assuming you’re building up to their relationship). Whether that’s sexual or “I really like you and just want to hold your hand and make you food” is up to you. If they save each other from something, then it needs to be mutual. Don’t let one character consistently save the other, because that implies a power dynamic that can be dangerous. The relationship shouldn’t be about saving each other, though that can certainly help the romance. Nevertheless, they need to be equals in each other’s eyes.

I think I’m on the way to creating a realistic, loving relationship for Cherifa and Bel, but it’s still a few chapters off. I want them to be believable, and finding that right spark is difficult. But I think they’re on their way, and slowly, I’m beginning to really see them as the couple I want them to be, and I’m excited to see how they help each other grow, heal, and become better people.


4 comments on “Realistic Romance

  1. kquintana says:

    I’ve been struggling with the same thing recently. My MC’s were having a long distance relationship and it just didn’t feel natural. I’m now putting them together in more situations to try and build the chemistry.

    • Is that maybe something you could build off of? If you can get them to have chemistry when they’re together, then maybe you could have the problem be part of your story. Maybe they could work poorly as a long-distance couple, but great when they’re together?

      If you learn anything as you’re trying to fix it, like any techniques that work, please let me know, though!

  2. That point about the power dynamic’s a really good one. Too often we’re meant to be interested in ‘romance’ that’s really just one person constantly rescuing the passive other.

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