Romance: What Works and What Doesn’t

Feb 12, 2013 by

This is partially my opinion so take from it what you will; but I’ve discovered that even when the romance in a story isn’t my favorite part it can both give me one more reason to love the story or completely ruin it for me. So here’s some of my best examples.

What works:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, got to love the couples that hate each other first. Because of misunderstandings at first all they can see are each other’s differences; but through the story they begin to like arguing and even like the one they’re arguing with.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, the romance isn’t very prominent in this story but it’s very important to some of the characters. Elrond tells Aragorn that his daughter won’t give up her immortality for anything less than a king, so despite his fears and doubts he has to keep fighting for her. And when Sam thinks he’s going to die it’s Rosie he’s thinking about.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Cinder and Prince Kai feel a connection when they first meet but she tries to deny it, he’s got girls all over the country fawning over him and she’s a cyborg; what chance do they have? But after more encounters they begin to trust each other, and someone they can trust is something they both need. The romance didn’t move very slowly but we do see it grow; and then there’s the added suspense with a big secret she’s hiding from him and the fact that he might have to marry someone else.

What doesn’t:

The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn, this one might not be completely fair since I didn’t finish it, however the romance is the reason I gave up on it. Rowena and Bedivere  are in love from seeing a glimpse each of other once in a vision; interested or attracted I can get but actually in love? Then they kiss and promise to see each other again the first time they meet. It moved so fast it was boring and ridiculous.

John Carter, Disney movie, I don’t know anything about the books. Now I like the characters and the pair seems to work but I find it hard to believe he can move on from his dead wife to marry a girl he met yesterday. What do they really know about each other? Other than what they look like, that they can fight and that she cares a lot about her kingdom, nothing.

My conclusion is that romance works better when it’s slow; now I have a tendency to drag it out longer than possibly needed but that’s because I’m tired of seeing it move too fast. And that it doesn’t have to be obvious. So take your time developing it.


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  1. Great article! I totally agree that romance often becomes silly in movies and books. I would rather see it teased at, like the first Star Wars movie (before Luke knew Leia was his sister. We all thought we knew how that would end up, but we were wrong!), than just happen all of a sudden. The first movie that came to my mind while reading this was Prince of Persia. That’s an awesome movie and it’s my favorite way to set up romance. The two main characters have a lot of time to get to know each other, but they completely hare each other and fight throughout the whole story. The problem is, after they’ve gotten to know each other time reverts back to the beginning of the story for everyone except the main character. Then, the two get married as an arraigned marriage. They had a good setup, and then killed it.

    • hannah C brown

      Thanks for commenting!

      That’s my favorite setup too! I wish she could’ve remembered too. Note: You can’t retcon something like romance and expect it to still fit.

      And I agree with seeing it teased at, my favorites are where it’s in the midst of the adventure and important to the characters but not really what the story’s about.

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