There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.
Firstly, read a lot of stories that you know cause readers to weep, cry, tear-up with joy. Ask questions about why that happens.
How do you write a short romantic story that will make the reader tear up with joy?
Read “Love Story”, then, “Oliver’s Story”, by Erich Segal. These two evergreen romantic, teary stories that came spinning into the world in 1970. Without internet, or much promotion, swept through the world like a whirlwind. Readers just had to tell each other about the book it was so good.
A love story tugs at the heart strings in the same way a damned good thriller does. It’s highly emotional content causes a reader to sit on the edge of their seat, stay up all night, and miss their bus stop just because what’s in the story becomes important to them.
The thing about love stories is that they deal with one of the most misunderstood of human emotions, yet an emotion that everybody wants to deeply understand.
Love offers fulfilment, and happiness. The idea of love in Hollywood is that if you can just find your true love, you’ll also find everlasting happiness.
In real life, this seldom turns out to be true. Many people find their love, and live happily. But also they deal with all the problems of life as they wander along hand in hand.
You have to become a master of understanding the emotions that cause people to want something badly — something worth having. Love is worth having, especially if it promises happiness.
Just as in comedy there is also tragedy. In love there are high hopes, then disappointments, tragedy, deception, love-hate situations, misunderstandings about who the other person really is, and all the other emotions that drive our fears, are involved, and functioning on high-octane levels when we fall in love. No wonder people love a good romance.
Writing romance is a tough business. There’s a lot of competition out there. great writers are students of human nature, and think deeply about what motivates people to love, to deception, why do people betray their lovers — betrayal can only come from within, so it’s always a person close to you who betrays you. There are some great stories about betrayal which are really all about love.
If the characters don’t have individual desires, and goal to accomplish, apart from falling in love, you end up with a soppy romance that makes people feel like they have walked through a field full of syrup.
There must be a serious goal to reach that enhances the character’s life more deeply than the love angle. The goal will be so important, it’ll get in the way of their being with the person the character has fallen in love with.
This creates tension. And it allows you as writer to start cranking up the emotional content with two people who are wrenched from each other, against their will. There’s nothing worse than an outside force that prohibits two people being together.
In the past such things as forbidden love were high on the list of romance stories. Today, class structures in the industrialised countries, don’t play much of a role in forbidden love. Only when it’s two distinctly different religions that forbid them being together. But not many readers take an interest in religion when they are looking for a romance story.
Not to say that forbidden love won’t work anymore. Think of what situations readers can identify with while two people are falling in love.
2019, a couple who have been emailing each other for one year have fallen in love, finally, they organise a trip to meet each other in person. It takes them both a couple of months to prepare the long trip, where they will finally be together. December 2019 is the date; one of them has tickets to visit the city of the other person, then the Pandemic hits town and destroys everybody’s travel plans. They have to lock-down, and stay at home.
Bit by bit they get over it, but are so desperate to see each other. Emotions don’t wane so easily when it comes to love. One of them decides to risk it and travel to the other person’s home town. The glee rises, the hopes soar, finally they will see each other. The driver is stopped at a Police check point where they are asked for a legitimate reason why they are away from home.
The situation turns sour, he loses his temper when he is told that he will be fined, his quick temper leads to him being arrested and put up in the cells overnight, the courts are slow now; the Pandemic has made it all but impossible for a Judge to sit in a Hearing… the story continues. The night in the cells could develop into a complicated sub-plot as he is unfairly kept locked up until the courts open again. That could take two months.
Love makes everything sweet in life — especially when it works out. Life itself often has other plans to test that love, see if it’s legit, and if the newly beloved are determined to climb over hell or high water to see each other and close the circle of feelings that led them to each other.
To get readers to weep and sit on the edge of their seats, writers must work on their emotions.
The skill of cranking up the emotional side of a love story is precarious. If a writer over does it, it won’t ring true, if it’s too conservative, it’ll become bland and boring.
Remember, writing is hard work, no shortcuts to a bestseller, or a wonderful story that rocks the world. Just hard thinking, and hard work at the keyboard, and you’ll find the story you want to tell.