So, when you use beta readers, it’s not uncommon to form friendships, or a kind of critique partnership, because usually they are writers too, so you begin to bounce ideas off of one another. One of mine asked me:
“I was wondering if you’d be able to share your biggest tips for building a relationship in a novel? Like what do you focus on the most to get the feelings into the reader?”
It took me a moment to think about, because I’ve kind of always been a romance writer, even if I enjoy other genres like action or adventure or fantasy, I get bored very quickly if romance isn’t a factor, which is why I write it. So, how?
I realized that what it came back to was fanfiction. I’ve never been much of a fanfic writer myself, but I’m an avid reader of it. Because here’s the thing about looking for queer media - it’s hard to find. And you’re not going to find it if you’re not actively looking for it, which means you’re shit out of luck for any casual reading/watching/enjoying.
So let’s go back a few years, to the height of Harry Potter, to when Teen Wolf was new on TV, and those of us who are queer quickly began our own pairings as we saw them through the lines - Harry and Draco, Ginny and Luna, Stiles and Derek, Malia and Kira. But where are you going to find material for these ships?
So, long story short, my first trick to writing romance - look into the relationships that you find yourself enjoying in other media, even if those ships aren’t quote on quote ‘real’. What is it about, for example, the chemistry between Stiles and Derek that inspired 58k fics on Ao3? Why are you attracted to the pairings that you are? I’ve even seen people that ship characters who barely share any screen time together, not because of the interactions they have, but because they feel like their personalities would mend well.I rarely ever ship heterosexual pairings, and yet I just finished Six of Crows and my heart literally bleeds for Nina and Matthias. Why? What is it about the way they interact? What guides my interest towards them?
Trick two - fall in love with your characters as separate people. Find out what quirks they have that the other might find attractive. Is Character A the kind of person that calls up their partner at 2am just to ask what their pornstar name would be? Does Character B find that ridiculously adorable? Does Character B run their fingers through their hair in a way that is stupidly hot? Figure out the puzzle pieces they each have, then work on putting them together.
Trick Three - if you’re going into your book without an established relationship, like many do, then establish them off screen. Take a look at the romance prompts you can find on tumblr or reddit, and force your characters in them. Decide how they would react when they’re made to suddenly take care of one of their nephews, or even toss them in a fantasy situation where they have to save the other from death. You’ll be surprised what you learn about them when you force them into a relationship. And, as a bonus, these little snippets of writing come into handy when you want Extra Content for your readers.
Sometimes, it’s just not going to work out, and the characters don’t fit, and you may have to rework something. It sucks, but don’t be discouraged. Go with the flow, and trust your gut. Because if it’s fake, the readers will know.
Anyway, that's all I have for now, I hope you enjoyed my Ted Talk. Let me know in the comments if you have any tips yourself, or any questions you'd like to ask!