Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wicked Wednesday - the slow burn

(Today's post was suggested by Heidi at ...then she writes)

The instant or fast moving romances are very popular these days. Soul-mates falling in love at first sight, the werewolf meeting his mate unable to control his instincts, genetically altered humans made only for one another. I've read a lot of these books. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it feels forced and sounds ridiculous.

My preference is the slow burning romance. I love the long build up with all that tension sizzling in the air. These are more difficult to write than the fast moving romances because you want your reader invested in this relationship and not grow impatient or bored. Your reader wants to share that first moment their eyes meet, the first touch, the first kiss. A gentle spiraling of two people falling in love.

Here are a few tips:
  1. Make the characters earn the love. Love just doesn't suddenly happen for most people. It's built on trust, respect and appreciation. All those things take time to build. Yes, physical chemistry is important, but that alone isn't love. Friendship is a good base for building love upon.
  2. Put obstacles in the way of earning that love. Put your characters into dangerous situations. Give them flaws that they might dislike in one another. Then let them find ways of overcoming them together.
  3. Use romantic scenes sparingly. The payoff is sweeter when you have to wait for that first kiss. Yet don't disappoint the reader. This is romance after all. Romance isn't all about the physical. There's a lot of emotion involved as well. You have to have something to carry the reader along to that first kiss. Let the reader into the protagonist's head, let them feel what s/he's feeling.
  4. Let the characters be vulnerable. It's easy to fall in love with someone when they're strong. Yet to experience vulnerability together is something else entirely. It allows a deeper bonding. When a character is vulnerable, their soul is naked in front of the other.
  5. Don't have your protagonist suddenly realize near the end of the story that s/he is in love. "Oh, I've suddenly realized you're amazing." That's cheating in my opinion.
Do you prefer fast paced or slow burning romances? Do you have any tips on building romances?


  1. Great tips not just for romance but for writing fiction in general...if the context is altered.

    Join me at the Rule of Three Writers' Blogfest!

  2. Great tips! I love romances that are slow burning, I think it adds more tension for when they finally get together. :)

    I have a couple of blog awards that I want to pass along to you. You can check them out here:

  3. I agree that I like the slow burn more than the instant love. Of course, there are cases where the instant love is almost necessary (short stories and novellas), but for novels, the slow burn works so much better.

  4. Great tips! Thanks so much for thinking/posting about this.

    I struggle with creating slow burns because I am just so darn excited for my characters to get together. I also really struggle with number five.

    But re number 5, isn't there a point when the character has to realize this? Certainly they don't necessarily state it straight out--but that realization--should it be in there at some point?

  5. I agree with your advice about characters needing to be vulnerable. If they aren't, it's hard to relate to them or root for them. Great post!

  6. Damyanti, thanks! I definitely use them in all my fiction writing.

    Amy, thank you for the awards! Gives me something to post tomorrow. :)

    Cherie, you have a good point about short stories. Sometimes fast has to be the way it is.

    Heidi, I was thinking for that final point that the protagonist couldn't suddenly just realize it. One just doesn't blink and realize they're in love. Yet I can see a character sitting back after a lot had happened, thinking about things, and saying, "Wow, that person is awesome." I just don't like it when that's the trigger to love and it happens just in time to move the plot.

    E.R., I think vulnerability is the key. Strength is easy, but not opening your soul at your weakest moment.

  7. Great ideas! I love the slow burning romance, but it's sooo hard to write and get it right!!!

    I'm working on it...

  8. Nice tips. My current WIP [well one of them] has romance elements. I've been dancing how far to go ... my crit group said I need to learn to write R. My last attempt, they still tease me about. :)

    I like the slower build, too. It's the anticipation that's alluring. yes? And the wooing and courting.

  9. Great advice, and I totally agree with you on that build up. It's so much more rewarding when you have to wait for that moment :)

  10. "The payoff is sweeter when you have to wait for that first kiss." - absolutely!

    I'm definitely into the slow burning type. Love at first sight just doesn't seem believable to me (attraction maybe, but not love).

  11. Absolutely! Slow burners are the best sort of romance. I know some M&B writers who say that if they cut to the chase too soon there is nothing for the reader to anticipate and nothing for your characters to work towards, as long as the tension is beleiveable. Some seem to have ridiculous notions of achieving an almost kiss etc.
    I don't enjoy the typical cliché hate turns to love scenario I want my characters to have something about them that is immediately attractive in their personality as well as some infuriating elements so that the love has something to grow on while the irritations resolve.

    BTW the post text seemed to disappear into the background I had to highlight it to see it

  12. I see your point about using a realization of love to suddenly move the plot ahead. I guess when I first commented, I was thinking about Fight Club, which is a very odd slow burn. I love the point at the end where he realizes that just maybe everything that he went though was really all for a girl. But that isn't so much moving the plot forward as wrapping things together. Anyway--random thoughts. I totally see what you are saying!

  13. Aubrie, I think you do well with romance. You're very poetic. :)

    M Pax, yes, it's the anticipation that's alluring. If you ever want a pair of fresh eyes to look at your R rated scenes, I'll gladly do so.

    Rachel, I don't believe in love at first sight either. Lust, yes, but love is something else entirely.

    Madeleine, I agree. Love needs something to grow on. If you hate someone, you're not going to look too hard for something to like! Thanks for the mention of the text. I'll have to fix that.

    Heidi, first rule of Fight Club, don't talk about Fight Club! Hehehe! ;) Sometimes people don't pick out the romances in movies when other things overshadow them. Yet you're right. It was an odd slow burn.


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