Almost every novel has a romantic plot and/or subplot, the same can be said of any creative piece—love and intimacy have been a common theme for a very long time, and because it’s found so often there are times when it’s done right and done wrong. So here’s a little bit of poke in the right direction so your romantic entanglements are written in a solid, coherent manner.
One of the first points of contention is whether the love interest for your character is more than just that—a love interest. Do they carry their own story line? If not, you might want to take a second look. In order to endear a relationship to the audience, you must first endear the characters to them. This means making each character a well-rounded, whole character with depth and dimension. Every person walks their own path in life, learning their own lessons; if you don’t have the time to follow the other character through their arc, at least make references to these struggles through dialog or your main character noticing a difference in their love interest. This can be exemplified by Allison Argent’s character in MTV’s Teen Wolf series.
Now that’s all fine and good, but does the love interest also have flaws? They might go through struggles, but that doesn’t always mean that they emerge a hero on the other side. Sometimes external struggles lead to internal ones, or vice versa. It gives a character depth and a plot arc all their own to contend with while going through the main plot of the book. It’s sometimes difficult to add in these various eccentricities and complex behaviors to pieces, but inferences and implications of these internal struggles can be show easily by deliberation before action; out-of-character action, word usage or behavior; and attitude. In Allison Argent’s case, she goes dark-side for the better part of a season due to the death of someone close to her. In the end she came out of it in one piece and stronger than ever, but it was a very interesting arc to give to a character that began as a weakly structured love interest.
Now that your love interest’s character is filled out and a dynamic almost-human being, you want to give thought to the relationship. Is this the type of relationship that starts out very quickly and the two are suddenly in love, their lives crashing together abruptly, or are the two going to have a slow burn relationship, where the characters are slowly slipping into one another’s lives? Either way you go with it, the author must think of how this affects not just the characters in the relationship, but any that are around the two. Do their friends cringe away from spending time with the couple? Does the parents or guardians approve or disapprove? Is the relationship a seamless transition in life that just fits with no drama? Once you know how the relationship affects everyone else in the piece, you can move on to the last point of interest.
Relationships have flaws. No one is perfect. Now that I’ve gotten that mind blowing revelation out of the way, I will continue. Every relationship is different, every flaw has its causes and those causes are different from relationship to relationship, even if the flaw is the same as another relationship from the same set of characters. Flaws may be resolved, and for a while there may be peace in a relationship, but some other struggle is bound to crop up eventually. That doesn’t mean that the relationship isn’t meant to continue, although the characters may struggle with that thought—that’s okay. Just make sure to think about the flaws.
Overall the romance needs to be an interesting, complex situation with its own struggles and resolutions—if it is the plot, that’s great! The more complex it is, the better the read will be! If it’s the subplot, make sure you consider the ways it’s affected and the way it also affects the main plot. Romance is a wonderful, enticing theme in many avenues of creativity. Do it justice!