The No. 1 Rule of Romance

Writing romance can be hard. Authors worry – is the relationship is moving too fast? Too slow? Is the chemistry there? Is it believable?

There’s a lot of advice out there but if you really want to know if your romance works you only need one simple rule.

If they have to kiss to show us they’re in love then they’re not in love.

This may seem contradictory as kissing, not to mention steamier scenes are a staple of both the romance genre and any romantic subplot, but it’s genuinely the best advice out there.

Ignore for now the arguments about the importance or unimportance of physical attraction in relationships and focus on the romantic element.

We don’t believe in the love between two characters based on the intensity of their passionate kisses. We believe in it because of how they act towards each other. We believe it if they show care and compassion and kindness. If two characters are at each others’ throats the whole book but the whole thing is neatly tied up in the last chapter with a single kiss we’re simply not going to buy it. We’ll acknowledge they’re attracted to each other, but that doesn’t mean we believe the ‘romance,’ and this is where the rule comes into play.

Consider your romantic storyline or subplot. If the characters never kiss are their feelings still clear? Or does it begin to look more like a friendship? If the relationship hangs on something as trivial as two pairs of lips meeting to exchange salvia then it’s clearly flimsy and the readers will pick up on that. It might be time to consider a few tweaks to make sure anyone can see the relationship is as strong (or weak) as you need it to be.

A quick list of ways to show their love without kissing:

  • Supporting each other
  • Kind words
  • Laughing together
  • Going out of their way for the other
  • Gifts
  • Treat each other with respect
  • And hundreds more of course…

If your romance is sturdy then you should be able to tell just by imaging removing any kissing. I’m not saying you should completely cut them from the book by any means! People enjoy writing and reading these kinds of scenes and they are a natural way for people to express themselves. This is merely a tool to help you check how strong the relationship is so you know your readers will believe in it as much as you do.

There’s kissing in A Grey Valentine’s, (it is a romance after all) but none of it is central to the plot. Everything would still work without it and I hope readers would understand Chrissie and Lucas’ feelings for each other just as well if they never did. It’s there because it felt like what the characters would want to do, because of the underlying relationship they had already built up. That’s what kissing scenes should be for. Not the foundation of the couple but the cherry on top.

How do you feel about kissing in books? Are you a fan or not at all? Do you enjoy writing romance? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget! A Grey Valentine’s will be completely free in the Smashwords end of year sale from 25th December to January 1st! Find it here or read the first chapter free now.

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