Throughout March, HarlequinTEEN has been presenting 9 of their most romantic titles for spring reading, with special guest posts and giveaways along the way. I’m happy to welcome Hannah Harrington, author of Saving June and a personal favorite of mine, who’s written a guest post for me about how she puts together a love story.
Love Story Road Map
I was asked to write a road map to a great love story. Well, like most things when it comes to writing, there isn’t one answer or a straight line. But I came up with a few ideas on what works for me and my writing, and what I think about when I’m creating a romance.
Here are my five tips for mapping out a good love story
- Create a love interest who is not perfect, but is perfect for your protagonist.
Perfect people are boring. Flaws are what make us human, relatable, and interesting. Imagine if you were around someone who was very good-looking, the smartest person in the room, always made the right decisions, and never did anything wrong in their life. Sure, you might be impressed at first, but soon that would give way to annoyance. Give your love interest a flaw, or multiple—maybe he is too stubborn, embarrassed about his bad spelling, doesn’t like confrontation. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, so try not to write a character who can never lose an argument and has people fawning over him left and right.
There is something else to consider: what is “perfect” to you may not translate into what is “perfect” to someone else. People have different needs. Think about who your character is, and what kind of person they would be attracted to, even if it isn’t your personal ideal. The best romances are the ones where each half of the couple brings out the best in each other, and complements them in ways no one else does, and is able to understand and provide for them emotionally. They should make each other’s lives better. There are all kinds of tropes—the best friends who fall for each other, the love/hate antagonist relationship, the star-crossed lovers; the list goes on. Any of these tropes can work as long as they make sense for the characters within them!
- The meet cute.
This is a staple of romantic literature, film, and television. The term is used to describe the first encounter your two lovebirds have. Despite the name, it doesn’t have to literally be cute— for example in my novel Saving June, Harper and Jake meet during her sister’s wake; not so much with the cuteness. However, it’s the first connection your characters will have in the audience’s eyes, so it needs to leave an impact!
- Build up the tension.
So your characters have met each other—success! The next step is to develop their relationship before it progresses to reciprocated feelings. Sure you can go the insta-love route, but why miss out on all the fun of the buildup? You want your readers to be invested before they’re declaring their love for each other and falling into one another’s arms. You need to show how these two characters feel about each other and why they are attracted to one another (beyond the physical). There’s a lot you can add to build up the sexual tension without jumping straight into kissing.
Have you ever had a crush on someone, where every little look exchanged or innocent fleeting touches like hands brushing or knees bumping together made your stomach all fluttery and your face hot? Those moments can be as exciting as the more intimate scenes. Speaking of intimate, creating an emotional intimacy between your characters is also essential. It’s all about establishing the connection and creating a foundation for the payoff. But before we get to that…
Conflict is needed for any story regardless of genre. It can be either external or internal. Before your characters get their happy ending, there needs to be a journey. Something to overcome. Maybe their love is socially unacceptable. Maybe someone is conspiring to keep them apart. Maybe one of the characters is torn between two loves. Maybe one has been hurt in the past and needs to learn to trust again. There are all kinds of possibilities here—but throwing a wrench into things will make your story more interesting. It ties back to reader investment. You want your readers to root for your couple, and making their path complicated and messy and difficult without them giving up on each other gives the reader an emotional investment. They’ll want to see things work out.
And seeing it work out is also essential. You’ll frustrate your readers if you go too heavy on the conflict and shorten them on the payoff. If you’ve made them suffer through the sexual tension, the obstacles, and don’t show the getting together, they may want to hurl your book at the nearest wall. The moment where your two characters get their crap sorted out and finally unite should be a release for the reader. It should excite them, satisfy them, make them feel like it was worth what it took for them to get there.
Thank you, Hannah! I’m suddenly in the mood for a big sweeping romance.
Hannah Harrington resides in Michigan with one dog and too many cats. When she isn’t busy writing like a crazy person, she enjoys arguing about politics, watching documentaries, playing guitar (very badly) and speaking about herself in the third person.
For more about Saving June, the tour and a seriously awesome giveaway, click the “read more!”
By Hannah Harrington
Publication Date: November 22, 2011
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
‘If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’
Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.
When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going, California.
Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.
Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again.
And the giveaway: you can enter to win a copy of Saving June and there’s a lovely Grand Prize that I’ll let them describe: HarlequinTEEN dresses you for a romantic date with this beautiful, unique heart shaped locket! And in case it’s a chilly spring evening, don’t forget the matching beautiful Pashmina!
Entries in the daily giveaways also count as entries for the grand prize, so I’m including the entire tour list underneath the Rafflecopter form. There are plenty of great guest posts and a lot of other giveaways to enter!
Monday, March 4th – Karen Ann Hopkins and Temptation:
Wednesday, March 6th – Liz Fichera and Hooked:
Friday, March 8th – Cayla Kluver and the Legacy series:
Monday, March 11th – Aimée Carter and The Goddess Test series:
Wednesday, March 13th – Julie Kagawa and The Iron King series:
Friday, March 15th – Katie McGarry and Pushing the Limits:
Monday, March 18th – Rachel Vincent and The Soul Screamers series:
Wednesday, March 20th – Hannah Harrington and Saving June:
Friday, March 22nd – Jordan Dane and In The Arms of Stone Angels: