Genre Types

How To Write Romantic Relationships (Without Getting Cheesy)

I love a good story with some romantic element. It has a way of sweeping me into the characters’ lives and drawing me deeply into their trials and triumphs. Of course there are books that focus on romance as their main genre, but a solid romantic relationship can add dimension to almost any story. The problem is pulling it off without overusing any looks of longing or overdramatic reconciliations (not every argument has to end with someone flying across the world with two dozen roses). Here are some tips on how to write romantic relationships that add depth to your story.

Look At Real Relationships

The best inspiration is right under your nose. Think about your own relationships and those of your friends and family. Even doing some observation in a public place can spur some revelations about how people act when they are truly in love (return my shopping cart in the grocery store parking lot and I’m yours forever). How did your friend know that her boyfriend was “the one”? What would make someone married for twenty years still swoon? You can build a list of ways that real couples communicate—through words and actions—that will be original and authentic.

No One is Too Good to Be True

I gave similar advice in “Describing Characters: What Are You Doing Wrong?” and it is still helpful here. As much as we might be tempted to use our protagonists’ love interest to fulfill wishes for that perfect partner, it just won’t ring true. Give each partner flaws to work past and they will look and sound more realistic and relatable. These imperfections also lend themselves to laying the groundwork for conflict, which is always interesting between romantic partners since it can help reveal their true characters and move the plot forward.

Give Them Real Obstacles

When you throw a wrench into their romance, make sure you avoid any of the overused conflicts and give them something to really disagree over. Again, think about real relationships and consider if anyone you know in real life would react that way to the problem you are presenting. Could a simple conversation clear it up? Does it seem overly petty without developing the story or their relationship? Then it probably isn’t a conflict that will stir up will-they-or-won’t-they suspense in your readers.

Show the Everyday—Not Just the Fantasy

Heroic gestures and romantic escapades are great and all, but every relationship has to survive more than dancing under the stars. Take the opportunity to show how your characters relate to each other on a day-to-day basis. Think about their relationship in comparison to real partnerships you know: How do they make decisions? Do they split familial duties? How did they meet? How do their words and actions reflect their appreciation for each other (it can’t all be champagne and diamonds)? You don’t have to include all of these tidbits in your story, but developing a good idea of what kind of relationship they have will help you make decisions about their reactions, concerns, and expectations of each other that feel genuine.

Even if a romantic relationship isn’t the central focus of your story, taking the time to write truly inspiring relationships wherever they show up can help your readers connect to your characters and their situations—no roses necessary.


With experience as an English literature teacher and freelance writer, Elaine brings her knack for revision to the editorial team. She started at the University of Central Florida in 2005, and she holds degrees in English Literature and Language Arts Education with an additional minor in writing. As a parenting blogger, she enjoys writing about her adventures with her toddler daughter and husband as they take advantage of living where the rest of the world vacations.

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