Love and Romantic Tension

Happy Valentine’s day!  I’ve got a short interview up as part of the Valentine’s feature over at Ink & Angst.  Head over to see what a bunch of authors said about getting your head in the game to write good romance.

I just got back from a panel on the very subject over at the Life, the Universe and Everything symposium.  I found I wanted to take notes myself during the panel, because the insights of the other panelists were so fantastic.  Here’s what I gleaned:

Romance is all about anticipation, yearning, and tension.  It’s easy to slip into cliche when talking about physical description, but a lot of attraction is about personal qualities that can show in action and in dialogue.  If the readers are falling in love with the characters because of their traits and their actions, they’ll feel the romantic tension better than if it’s all mechanical description.  It helps to use details that are specific to your characters–if you know your characters and what makes them unique, it’s easier to replace cliche detail with specific detail.  Every part of romance–meeting, kissing, touching, sex–is a tool that can be used to build or relieve tension, and we have to be careful to use the right tools at the right times to keep up the pacing and build romantic anticipation.

One thing another panelist mentioned that I do is go ahead and write cliches in the first draft and then replace them in revision.  I think sometimes as I’m writing, “that’s a placeholder sentence.”  Those sentences can be important when I’m plowing through a revision trying to get the shape of the book done, but then I have to go back and be original before I hand the book out to readers, or they won’t feel the tension because I’m using generalizations where I should be using specific details to build romantic tension.

May you love to simplify the lives of the people you love in real life, and to complicate the lives of your characters, but never the other way around.    Happy Valentine’s Day!