How To Write Romance (when you don’t like romance)

Hey, guys! Blackbird here! So, this kind of post is something I usually do on my personal blog, but since I’m steering that blog more towards reviews and further and further away from its original intent; which was to be a writing blog, and the story I’m currently writing and draw all my writing-related ideas from is Shadows Rise. I consulted Plotstains and we agreed that it couldn’t hurt to post some of these here from time to time.

Since the reader base on this blog isn’t the same as The Nest, I should preface what I’m about to write here with: this is not advice. Regardless of the ‘how to’ on the title of this post, I don’t really do advice. I simply write posts exemplifying and exploring things that work for me. It may not work for you. Your approach can be different and if different works better; do that. I’m not here to stand on a pedestal and tell you right from wrong like I know what I’m doing. 

Introductions and fair warnings out of the way. Let’s talk get on with it.

How do you write romance if you don’t actually like romance? The short answer is… You don’t. And here is where I need to make a very important distinction between writing romance in the sense of writing a romantic, or intimate, relationship between two characters and… Writing romance as a genre. Those are two vastly different things. In the past I’ve been called a hypocrite repeatedly for saying that I don’t like romance and then openly gushing about my characters’ relationships back in our RP days. My defense for this is that:

1) I dislike the genre of romance (we’ll discuss why in a second), not romance in general.

2) I’m not made of stone, alright? >.>

3) The reason I used to gush so much about those characters is precisely the reason I decided to write this post. Because, for once, I actually enjoyed writing those relationships where in the past, writing romantic pairings had been an absolute chore to me. So much so that one of my guidelines for possible RP partners back then was “no romance whatsoever”, a rule that I’ve gradually relaxed, then abolished over the years.

So, how is the short answer that you just don’t write romance? Well… Looking back at our RPs and my old writing I can see in the way certain characters interacted how much I was forcing myself to try and write romance with the genre itself in mind. Even though the Shadows Series was never a romance story at any point, when those characters were together, due to the nature of their relationship, I thought I needed to write it that way. So my short answer is that if you don’t write romance as a genre and you don’t enjoy that genre at all… Throw those preconceptions out the window. Right the fuck now. You don’t really need them.

Now here’s the thing, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the romantic genre. There are some romance tropes that can be problematic if you read into it, but the genre as a whole? If you like it, power to you. If you write it and you enjoy writing it… I salute you. I just can’t. It’s not the idea of romantic relationships that bothers me, it’s the romanticization of what those relationships entail that I don’t have the patience or the stomach for, really.

And again, as a concept within that genre, there’s nothing wrong with that. I do understand that said romanticization serves a purpose for its audience and far from me to judge what people like in any way. You can’t pick up a romance story and be annoyed that the whole thing revolves around the main characters having feelings, but you can, and should, just take those things entirely out of the equation in any other genre and still write a meaningful relationship. It was the realization that I could do this; that it was okay to do this, that made me actually enjoy writing ships back in the RP days. And what makes me enjoy every little bit of it in Shadows Rise now.

One day I’d really like to go over the how and why exactly I got to where I am today in regards to writing romantic pairings, but gushing about my RP characters nowadays would actually give away gigantic spoilers. Not just for Shadows Rise, but the rest of our planned serials. That being the case, I’m obligated to draw from the serial itself and exemplify how I write ‘romance’ currently.

If you’ve been keeping up with Shadows Rise and you just asked yourself “wait, what romance?”, yeah, you have a point there. It’s there but you probably have to squint and really read into it to see it at this point. Things… do get a little clearer later on, but I’m not going into real spoiler territory here. I don’t really have to. If you don’t know who the romantic pairings currently are in Shadows Rise, either because you haven’t read it, or you just haven’t picked up on it somehow, and you don’t want me to just tell you all about it, you can click off, but I can sincerely say none of this has any significant weight in the plot and if you’re reading SR for romance in the first place… Why? lol

Now, if you have been paying attention (congrats!), you’ll know that the romantic pairing in Arc 1 was Gerald and Jo. It’s not explicitly said anywhere, but come on. They’re not fooling anyone. If you want a small list of dead giveaways I sprinkled in throughout Arc 1, here you go:

  • Gerald not only knows Jo’s birthday, but he knows it well enough that she expects him to remember and was upset to think he hadn’t. She makes no mention of it to the twins or gives any sign of it being an important day to her overall, so it’s clearly important to her that Gerald remembers it.
  • He settles on spending his free time with her when Gabrielle suddenly takes Kyle off his hands, despite the fact he had more productive things he could be doing around the Outpost instead.
  • She would absolutely have eaten his disaster stew just to try and make him feel better if he hadn’t insisted on trashing the entire thing.
  • Jo was so upset when Gerald showed up to the Outpost injured that she cried the moment she thought she was completely alone. Even though his injury wasn’t that serious.
  • Chapter 1.08. Just… All of it really.

From the twins’ point of view, Jo and Gerald are in blatant denial of how close their relationship really is and, again, things will become clearer as we move forward, but I can let you guys in on the fact that that’s not actually true. If anything they’re extremely aware of that, but, as you guys may or not have noticed, Jo has some emotional baggage to deal with at this point. She kind of opens up to Sebastian about this in 1.07:

“It’s okay.” Jo’s voice sounded smaller than usual. “Wounds heal…” The woman let go of her sleeve and slowly reached for her neck, her fingers searched past the collar of her tunic and retrieved a thin metal chain. She pulled the chain free from her shirt and hanging from it were a pair of rings. The bands were made from the same dark metal, but one of them was set with an azure white gemstone. He remembered having seen his father wear a similar one around his neck. Jo let the rings rest over her tunic. Apart from the gem, they almost disappeared into the dark grey fabric. “Scars don’t heal,” she added.

“Your fiancée?”

And if it wasn’t clear before, her conversation with Gerald in 1.10 confirmed that he does indeed know about her fiancée, even if he clearly didn’t know all that much about her brother in law yet. Regardless of how close they are, the nature of Jo’s loss and the fact it clearly still bears enough significance that she won’t let go of her engagement ring (and his) paints a very clear picture of why they’re actually tiptoeing around any potential relationship so much. Like I said, you have to really read into it, but all of it is there.

Literally all of it:

Jo shook her head, her expression heavy with grief, but bearing a hint of a smile. “You’re my family now.”

There was the smallest twitch in Gerald’s demeanor, his gaze lowering to the ground for a small collection of moments, then rising to the weapons displayed on the wall. “I’m not asking you to make me any promises.”

“Mhm.” Johanna’s hum was faint, though the softness in her voice was less withdrawn now and more reassuring. “I know.”

So, where does all of this fit into my non-advice? Well, I already told you. Don’t write romance. Don’t write romanticized versions of your characters. Don’t have them swoon over each other like they can’t believe anyone could ever be so unbelievably dreamy. Write your characters showing affection the way your characters show affection. Write things like mutual understanding, thoughtfulness, support. Instead of forcing yourself to write sappy dialogue, write actions that say “I know you”, “I appreciate you”, “you’re important to me” in the way those characters in particular would express these things. Add these things to the background of every scene and leave it there. It’s okay not to focus on it. It’s okay not to have their every interaction revolve around it. If the story isn’t about that, don’t force yourself to stop and put a spotlight on it. If you don’t like romance, just don’t write romance. Because you’re gonna have a bad time doing it, it’ll mess with the story you’re actually trying to tell, and you don’t need it.

I don’t know if anyone out there is actually struggling with this in the same way I have in the past, but hey, if this is something you needed to hear; my work here is done. If not, welp, hopefully you found this interesting and it wasn’t a waste of all our times.

I’ll see you guys on the 16th for chapter 2.11. Until then… Stay safe, stay healthy; wear a mask. 🙂

B.B

 


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