Thedude3445’s Guide to Writing Cute Romance

Hello and welcome to my guide on writing cute romance storylines. After my work in stories like Hands Held in the Snow and “On the Ship” (among many others), I’ve had a lot of people ask me for advice on how to write about love and couples in ways that make readers feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, as well as get them hyped up to start shipping your characters together. There’s a whole lot of advice I’d like to give, so I decided to make an entire article on the subject!

This guide can be for a small subplot in a bigger work just as much as a full romance story It’s all just my own methods and thought process, so a whole lot of the details in here will be specific to how I approach storytelling. There’s obviously no one superior method to how to make your romantic storylines adorable.

But while these are just my thoughts and opinions, not some steadfast rules to adhere to, I think they’ll be helpful to anyone who’s looking for how to enhance their romance. It may be a useful read even if you aren’t interested in romance writing, at least because I will explain some of my favorite story techniques and why I like to use them.

This will be a considerably lengthy post, so for reference, here are the sections I will cover:

  1. The Basics: What exactly is cute? What elements make up a good romantic relationship plot?
  2. Romantic Dynamics: Different types of romantic pairs and how they can be used for cuteness.
  3. Earn That Moment!: How to build up and set up for the most adorable story moments.
  4. Cute Payoffs: The setpieces that will make your romance shine.
  5. Romance Levels: How age, experience, orientation, and other factors can change your approach.
  6. Meta Approaches: Main plot vs. subplot; slow burn vs. quick kissing. How do they differ, and which work best for your situation?
  7. Extra Notes

To help, I’ll provide passages to illustrate the ideas I’ll be talking about. In some places I may provide movie or TV clips, and in others I may paste in a selection from a work (usually my own), but for the most part, I will be writing all-new out-of-context scenes from a fake fantasy-action-romance story that I shall name Sword Battle. It is a placeholder story that I will use with some quickly-sketched characters and settings that will help give an idea of the types of characters and dynamics you could use in your own work.

Obviously, no real context is needed for these scenes, but mostly to help myself, I crafted a mini-world and some characters to go along with the hottest new fake, nonexistent story of 2020. I’ll provide my notes below for those that are interested, but feel free to skip along to the parts of this guide that will help you.


Sword Battle is a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy story where royal women from different nations come together to fight for honor, vengeance, and ultimately the fate of the entire continent.

After the end of a century-long war that wreaked destruction across the lands, the continent of Gamvell has been in a long peace, and its lands have been unified. The four kingdoms of Iuppita, Mahaandas, Chuxa, and Unesdala work together to reach a common good… but they know that peace is tenuous. To keep the balance of power stable, they have created a grand tournament held once every ten years, where the four kingdoms compete to determine who will hold control of their unified government.

Every decade, each kingdom selects one of their Royal Daughters as their designated champion, and then that woman will represent their people. Each champion will select trusted friends, loyal soldiers, and elite tacticians to help, and that forms their Royal Guard. The champions and their Royal Guards fight together in hopes of leading their nation to victory and gaining the ultimate prize: the Queenship.

Once the tournament begins, each of the four Royal Guards is put to the test in a series of rigorous trials designed to showcase leadership, power, and charisma. This includes daring performances, intense mock battles, puzzling tests, and more. The teams work without outside help for a grueling week-long event that will push every single member to the limit. And on the battlefield, anything is fair game. Grudges will be settled, and sabotage is the name of the game (as long as they aren’t caught).

This particular tournament is the twenty-first since the continent was unified; two centuries of peace had given way to a great sense of contentment, and as a result the kingdom of Chuxa has reigned supreme in each of the last seven tournaments with little serious opposition. However, this time will be different, as tensions have grown thick and corruption in the Chuxan government has mired the continent in civil strife. If a suitable woman is not victorious, the union may finally collapse.

Here are our characters (forewarning, don’t make fun of my drawings or I’ll be really sad, drawing is really hard you know 🙁 ):

Princess Marie Elton, of Iuppita

Age: 24

Marie Elton, who goes exclusively by her family name, is a refined and way-too-cool princess who likes to pretend she’s way more suave than she really is. Elton is friendly, got a good head on her shoulders, and has a way of convincing people she’s right, even if she’s not. She often flirts, but never in a teasing way; she’s sincere to the point that ladies swoon at every compliment she doles out.

Likes: Drinking, social events, stuffed animals, swordplay

Dislikes: Strict schedules, fashion, milk, argumentative people

Interesting Trait: Elton was adopted by Queen Hausen, who lost the ability to bear children after having four sons, and is the only Royal Daughter Iuppita has. She does not like to discuss it.

Princess Nitya, of Mahaandas

Age: 25

Nitya is a serious and regal type, who wears ceremonial clothing to even the most casual of events and takes her status as Mahaandas’s champion with extreme reverence. She and Elton grew up together and shared a close bond in childhood, but sometime in her adolescence, they lost most contact, and ten years later she’s seemingly a completely different person. She is clearly hiding a tortured past that she refuses to talk about, and has become so much more reserved. However, she’s not quite as different as she presents—she’s got a bit of a vulnerable side to herself.

Likes: Judging books by their covers, honor, swordplay, cuddling

Dislikes: Horses, reading (she is dyslexic), sweets, loud sounds

Interesting Trait: Nitya was a long-reigning world champion of quick draw sword competitions during her early adolescence.

Katie Ringwell

Age: 18

Katie Ringwell isn’t anyone special, just a handmaid for the Elton Royal Family. However, she’s also a prodigy tactician who REALLY wants to be selected for the Iuppitan Royal Guard and has been training in every field imaginable to help herself stand out. So far… it hasn’t really worked. However, in spending more time in close proximity to Marie Elton, she has fallen into a deep, gigantic crush and pines for her constantly. She knows it’s just a silly crush, but she can’t help it!

Likes: Daydreaming, studying, trying new things, long conversations by the fireplace

Dislikes: Fighting, cleanliness, drinking, herself

Interesting Trait: The other handmaids for the Elton Royal Family have coalesced around Katie’s crush and actively support her in every way possible in her quest to get the princess to notice her. She is really embarrassed by it.

Sword Battle focuses on an ensemble cast of characters across all four kingdoms, but the main romantic subplot is this brewing love triangle between childhood friends Elton and Nitya, as well as Katie’s affection for Elton.


So, let’s take a dive into the various aspects of writing a cute romantic storyline:

The Basics

So if you’re reading this article, your main wonder in life is surely, “How do I write romance that makes people squeal in delight? Where are the rabid followers making fan fiction of my story?” And so let’s first go over the basics from how I see them.

What’s cute, anyway?

“Cute” isn’t the most exact term in the world. It’s subjective enough that I’m sure we can debate for hours about what the term really means. But I’m going to set things straight for you so you know exactly what cute means.

THIS is cute:

THIS is also cute:

So cute is things that make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. They release those pangs of glittery sunshine trapped deep within your gut, brightening up your day and possibly the whole world around you, too.

Cute is the reason humans keep cats, who are otherwise useless animals that freeload off our entire species. Cute is the reason newspapers still print Family Circus strips. Cute is the reason Japan has created an entire industry of stuff like this:

Romance can be cute, too, as long as it gives you those same pitter-patter feelings in your heart that keep that stupid smile on your face. You see two (or more) characters being all lovey-dovey, or admitting their feelings for each other, or growing old together, and it just sparks that something in you that can’t be replicated in any other way.

Our goal here is to replicate, in prose, the same feelings we get when we see two anime characters kissing in a picture (listen, weeaboo or not, you gotta admit it’s some pretty adorable stuff). It’s a lot harder than it is in art, though! In a visual medium, you can indicate character traits just through implication, just with the barest minimum of detail. In a visual medium, you can communicate an entire relationship in just a few key images (like this amazing Twitter post here). And that’s just not something you can do in text quite as well.

“You’re a great pal,” said Elton. “I think I’m in love with you.”

“S-stop teasing me…” Katie batted Elton’s hand away.

“I’m not teasing. I’m not a teasing kind of lady, and you know it.” She put her hand back on Katie’s cheek.

“I know you’re not, but…” Katie gulped. But she didn’t move. She let Elton move in her head closer, let her lean in until the space between them was next to nothing. “Please don’t be in love with me, Princess.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help it.” She put her other hand around Katie’s waist and moved in for the kill. Their lips met. Katie let herself be absorbed by the passion between them.

You see what I mean? Sure, completely out of context, this is still kinda nice I guess, but it lacks that punch, that extra ray of smiley faces and rainbows that will make the reader go “d’awwww.”

As unfair as it may be, prose needs more context. Without it, it’s just pointless filler that’s more a waste of space than anything else. Prose has got to have characters we care about doing things that make us happy and in ways that captivate us. In short, cute romances in prose rely emotional investment and emotional payoff.

A good romance plot in general is going to need these things, but in order to make sure things go into the adorable zone, we have to give readers a reason to care, and that requires these two elements.

What’s emotional investment and emotional payoff?

Emotional investment means creating characters that are fleshed out and memorable. It means creating a pair of characters who work so well together you’re imagining them together long before they ever do anything. It means using your story, the world, and fun literary techniques like “show don’t tell” and “foreshadowing” to plant as much anticipation and excitement in this romance as possible.

Emotional payoff means delivering on the promises you have given. Now that you have made the reader care about the couple, you’ve got to pack that punch of heart-shaped sweetness and jam it right into the reader’s bellus cortex. Show off a moment that shows the reader the best of what romance can be, then implant the memory of cuteness into the reader’s brain that won’t fade for years.

Those are the two guiding principles in… well, honestly in fiction in general, but most especially in developing a romantic storyline that’ll knock the glitter off your readers’ socks! I don’t believe these are principles that you need to really think about often, just internalize to the point that they come naturally in everything you write.

With that in mind, then, let’s move onto the subject of emotional payoff, and the first, most important element of any cute romance—character dynamics!!!

Romantic Dynamics

Character duos are a staple in all of fiction, enough that you probably don’t need to really think about it too hard. Buddy films like Toy Story, Lethal Weapon. and Green Book coast on the charm of the two lead characters paired together. Romance movies, obviously, do the same thing, but with a lot more kissing involved (not that Lethal Weapon wouldn’t have benefited from some extra kissing).

You’ve got to have really good characters to be able to have really good dynamics, but this ain’t a guide on how to create fleshed out characters, so I’m going to assume you know all about that already. The topic here is about taking two characters and turning them into adorable messes around each other.

To even get two characters to get to the level of kissing, they have to have chemistry. The same chemistry that makes The Rock and Kevin Hart come off as if they were actually real-life friends; the same chemistry that inspires teenagers to realize that Naruto and Sasuke’s rivalry would make for a really hot makeout session. You get two people together and sparks fly. Cute sparks, hopefully.

There’s no magic formula I know of that generates excellent chemistry between two characters. It’s not a science by any means; sometimes, despite your best efforts, two characters just never quite jive with each other; other times, completely out of your own intention, two characters have an amazing dynamic and play off each other very well. Even so, I have a few points I think apply broadly to most sets of two characters that you want to see holding hands while blushing:

Friendship & Bonds

Obviously, the characters gotta like each other. They have to show an interest in each other to the point that they actively want to associate. If there is a complete indifference to the two ever interacting, then anytime they do interact, it’s just… OK.

“Liking” each other usually, but not always means that they are friends. They enjoy each other’s presence, do things together, share similar interests, support each other… y’know, that typical friend stuff that y’all humans like to do.

Friendship’s not hard to show in fiction. Give your characters moments to show their bonds and you’ll be well off. This fake scene from Sword Battle should be a nice example:

“Princess Elton!” the guard shouted almost the moment he saw the two girls. “Where in the blazes have you been?”

Elton fidgeted, trying to hide the cuts on her right arm.

“We were just out running an errand for Princess Nievol,” Nitya said. “She’s been with me all day. Didn’t the King inform you?”

“Uh, well, I—Very well, then,” he said. “My apologies. We were getting worried about you, Princess Elton.”

He let the two pass through the gates and back into town.

The moment they were out of earshot, Elton raised her eyebrows and asked, “Why’d you do that? We weren’t together.”

“Yes, well, I didn’t want anyone to worry about what you were really up to,” Nitya said. “I thought you’d like to keep those injuries under wraps.”

Elton sighed. “You’re always looking out for me, Nitya.”

“Indeed I am, Marie.”

In just a few short paragraphs, we get a pretty nice picture of Elton and Mitya’s friendship and already understand some of their connection.

Of course Characters don’t have to be “friends” to have an emotional bond. We’d never have romances like He-Man & Skeletor orAlice & Marisa if romance required friendship, strictly speaking.

Rivalries are a potent and valuable source of romantic tension, where two characters actively compete against each other in many fields, but they wouldn’t abandon each other for the universe. Similarly, enemies can bond as well. Characters who normally are literally trying to kill each other can develop an affection for one another, even caring about their livelihoods even as they clash. The “Enemies to Lovers” tag for fan fictions is extremely active and there’s countless stories that fulfill people’s desire to watch two characters so opposed be brought together in harmony.

As long as your characters have a connection, some sort of bond, then they will have the base level of chemistry needed to develop into a couple. Whether or not it’s cute is another story, but luckily this isn’t the only tool for romantic dynamics we have at our disposal.

Spicy Tension

Once two characters have a friendship or some other sort of emotional bond, you can use their attachment to give us some tension so thick that readers can cut it with a knife, serve it on a platter, and then gobble it up into their imaginations.

I’ll talk more in a later section about the ways to build up tension and between characters in ways that can enhance the emotional payoffs down the line, but for now you probably should already know generally how that goes.

“Here you are.” Katie handed the bathrobes to Elton, then quickly turned around and headed in the opposite direction.

“Why so quickly?” Elton asked.

Katie halted in her tracks. “Why so… what?”

“I don’t know. I thought we were friends and all, remember?”

“Um, well, I thought you were going to take a bath, so I might as well leave you in peace and… I better get going. I have things to do.” She said that, but she turned back around and approached Elton anyway.

“The bath can wait,” Elton said. “I’d rather chat with you.” She sat down on the bed behind her and crossed her legs. “We haven’t talked in a while, Katie.”

“I’d rather—” Katie cut herself off. “Okay, let’s chat.” She reached Elton’s bed and stood directly in front of her.

“Yes, let’s.”

“Just the two of us, in your room, with the door closed… Princess Elton, I didn’t know you were so scandalous.”

“Lean down and I’ll show you scandalous,” Elton said.

Katie grinned. She started to lean in—then turned away again. “I’m a bit busy. Sorry about that.”

Katie left the room. Elton should have felt disappointed. Instead, she couldn’t wipe the smirk off her face.

Tension is great. Not necessarily cute, but still great. The idea that these characters could, or even should get together is planted in the readers’ minds and persists like the most annoyingly adorable ladybug latching onto your finger.

You can utilize these two elements, friendship and tension, to create some super spicy romance plots that’ll fog up the glasses of anyone who so much as skims your story. However, it can be used for some extremely cute purposes, too, especially when combined with the next element of good romantic dynamics:

Pining

Oh boy, pining.

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it. And your fictional characters can do it, too. They are starting to like this character as more than just a friend (or rival or enemy or trusted confidant or whatever), and those feelings are stirring. They’re thinking about the other person, wondering how they’re doing, imagining them here right now next to them…

It’s a crush, folks.

Having the characters pine for another is a real way to make their dynamics strong. Even when they aren’t around each other, the other is still an important presence. Their spirit energies reside no matter what.

This does NOT have to be an open and obvious thing; oftentimes even the characters won’t realize that they’re pining for the other character. But readers can pick up on even the slightest hint of pining, which is how the Captain America x Bucky fandom became so utterly rabid despite the absolute lack of in-movie supporting evidence for it. Just thinking about the other in an empathetic way is a pathway that leads straight to shipping. After all, if the characters are starting to imagine a life together, surely so will the readers.

There’s also one more element that can work as cement glue that solidifies this whole heart-shaped statue:

The Dreaded Nega-Tension

It’s a minor one, and not something that ALWAYS appears in a story, but it’s very important when it does.

Just as vital as it is to show the tension between two characters, to tease the possibility of them pairing up, it’s very important to show the possibility of them NOT pairing up. Nega-tension, as I’ll call it (because I’m a very silly kid).

A lot of romances in stories become extremely boring thanks to being extremely predictable. There’s a meet cute, they flirt a couple times, then they kiss, then they go further, then they break up at the 2/3rds point until they get back together at the end and get married. Honestly this is the formula you may very well use in your own story, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But in the execution of these predictable story beats, you can introduce an extra layer of tension to help throw things off: maybe they won’t get together after all! Maybe they genuinely might end up apart!

With the underlying current that the two characters may not actually end up kissing, the tension is heightened, because the stakes are higher. The emotional investment for the reader raises, and it could actually end up pushing them into caring about this couple.

We can see a very clear example of Nega-tension in the dynamics for Sword Battle. Princess Elton and Princess Nitya are childhood friends who have a deep emotional bond, but ultimately they are opponents from opposing kingdoms. They are competing in a grand tournament to control the fate of the continent, and only one of them can win. I imagine marriage is probably off the table, too, unless one wants to lose their inheritance. It’s exactly the kind of tension that makes their path to an endgame relationship so tough—and in effect, even more appealing.

In the same way, the introducion of a love triangle acts as another source of Nega-tension. When two characters are in a budding romantic subplot, it can really mess things up when there’s other characters involved who could tear the two apart.

That’s why Katie in Sword Battle, a girl with a furious crush on Princess Elton, even exists. She’s cute and silly in her own right, but the fact that she’s a potential love interest for Elton aside from Princess Nitya means that the Elton x Nitya pairing is not a done deal. Unlike Nitya, Katie has no barriers to an endgame relationship, and while her path to kissing Elton is a much longer one, it’s a much more straightforward one as well. It’s genuinely uncertain which couple will prevail, and that can solidify any romantic dynamic you’re trying to establish.

Of course, with love triangles (or any love polygon) in particular, you run the risk of formulaic drama that can kill the tension you want to build, so you have to be careful. Also, a good chunk of the time, love triangles that get too intense end up with avid OT3 supporters that just want all three to make out with each other. Unless you want to specifically tease that element, you should be careful.

But with these four things—friendship (or other bonds), spicy tension, pining, and nega-tension—romantic dynamics can easily take hold in any couple you want to develop. Take time to consider each one and how your story does or doesn’t utilize these things. Think about how your favorite romantic storylines utilized them, too.

“Hyaah!”

A clang of metal. A glint of shining silver flying through the air.

Then, after a moment, the soldier’s sword hit the ground, and he knelt down.

“I’m no match for you,” he said.

“Don’t worry about it,” Elton told him. “It’s only practice.”

Princess Elton had been practicing for the past two hours, besting every opponent who came her way, and doing so with grace and poise. Every move she made was deliberate and measured. Every step she took was a maneuver in a grand dance.

Katie had watched the entire practice.

She had work to do. She knew she did. But sometimes she would come out to the courtyard, see Elton, and just…

How the Heavens could have created such a being, Katie did not know. Why the Heavens had allowed her to fall for such a being, she also did not know.

Princess Elton was not only completely out of her league, she was the damned princess of Iuppita. Daydreaming about someone this far above her, thinking Elton could even give her the time of day… it was absolutely pointless.

And yet, after watching the entire morning’s practice session, she realized it was pointless. Elton was right there in front of her, and she was crazy about her.

It was hopeless, and yet she continued to hope anyway.

Types of Relationship Dynamics

While the approaches two characters with good chemistry and spicy tension are many and there is no real correct path to take, the actual dynamic of any character duo is pretty easy to sort through.

Any and all character duos rely on contrasts. Two characters, no matter how similar they may be, will have differences, and those differences will bounce into each other. They’ll clash, crash, and thrash their way into their overall dynamic and come to define their relationship.

For romance, the contrasts will serve to show how the characters can come together regardless, or how those contrasts will shrink (or grow) along with their love.

A while back there was a good meme on Twitter and elsewhere about the best ship dynamics, and what kinds of characters paired together make different people feel giddy about a relationship. While I won’t go into detail about stuff that specific, you should check out the above article and more to see what kinds of character duos strike your fancy. Combine the natural elements of character chemistry with one of these and you’re well on your way.

But, as you may see, almost every example is about highlighting the differences between two characters. They play off each other, they grows together, and they fall in love—it’s a recipe for cuteness all around.

Here are some of my personal favorite character dynamic tropes:

Straight Man and Wise Guy

(TVTropes) I love this stuff. You take two characters, one who’s a snarky sarcastic jerk, and the other who’s a serious, easily annoyed jerk, and they get into constant comedy gags. The Boke and Tsukkomi Routine was made for this duo. Almost every story I write will feature a ton of Straight Man/Wise Guy pairs, and my most famous is surely Morgan and Karina from ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture.

As seen in The Social Media Killer – Chapter 2:

—-

Karina gasps, and a noodle falls out of her mouth back into the paper cup. “Are you… are you the Social Media Killer?”

I… I… Karina…

“Yes, I’m the Social Media Killer.”

“Really? Wow!” I’ve heard all about that stuff, it’s pretty exciting.” Karina offers her left arm to me. “Here, you can use my portable PC if you need.”

I push her arm back across the table. “I’m lying, Karina.”

“Oh… But it would have made a lot of sense, wouldn’t it?”

“Have you ever known me, Morgan Harding, as someone who uses the internet often?”

“Exactly. If you have nothing to hide, you can get away with a lot more.”

That’s actually pretty solid reasoning. Wrong, but solid nonetheless.

It’s of course very easily extended to romance. Straight Man/Wise Guy dynamics are so, so ripe for flirting that it’s crazy. Plus, the characters are constantly snarking at each other, correcting each other, being mean to each other, that any moment of sincerity suddenly becomes that much more sweet. It’s beautiful…

Vitriolic Best Buds

(TVTropes) This is another good dynamic for me that works super well in an adorable romance context. This one involves two people, absolutely inseperable, who are in a constant war with each other. They’re the best of friends, and eventually the best of lovers, and yet there’s barely a moment they get along, even a little bit.

This is typically a trope found with male/male friendships thanks to men being very good at constantly ragging on each other, but when extended to romance, you’ll find it pretty commonly in both male/male and male/female couples. The more they fight, the more likely it is that they’re gonna kiss in one of the biggest explosions of lovey-dovey smoochery the world’s ever seen.

One extremely specific subset of this dynamic I love is the Female Flatfoot and Snarky Guy trope. It doesn’t have to be a male/female duo, despite the name, though that’s the most common way; it’s usually an idealistic yet far too self-serious young woman, colliding up against a skeevy fast-living loser who’s secretly super cool. And they bicker constantly.

This one is so closely related to Straight Man & Wise Guy that I wasn’t sure which one to put it in, but I think the arguments and fighting are the big selling point for Flatfoot & Snark duos.

One amazing example of this dynamic is David Addison and Maddie Hayes from Moonlighting, the best detective drama-comedy of the 80s. They bicker, they snark, and they come dangerously close to making out just about every scene. Here’s one very nice clip that illustrates every bit of that:

Bifauxnen and Ladette

(TVTropes) Obviously, this is exclusively a woman/woman dynamic, but it’s one that I think is super great for its ability to turn very cute very quickly.

One side is the “Bifauxnen,” a dashing, handsome woman, often androgynous or masculine, who is the epitome of beauty and has the personality to match. She usually has “Prince” in her name somewhere and her ability to seduce pretty much anyone she desires. But with an aloof and sometimes mysterious personality, she’s also a hard nut to crack and probably a real softie on the inside.

The other side is the “Ladette,” who’s an aggressive jerk, a rough and tumble gal who’s usually pretty feminine except for the fact she can and will punch people in the face at any given moment. She’s really abrasive and hard to get along with, but usually an open book emotionally, so it’s clear she’s a softie on the inside too.

Throw these characters together and you can see some real sparks fly. Both character types fall into the stereotypes of butch lesbians; since they are so similar, they’ll inevitably run into some rivalry situations, but don’t let that fool you. Those personality differences are just stark enough that they’re bound to clash and inevitably end up making out once they’ve let their softie sides take over. It’s just the way things work.

For Sword Battle, Princess Elton is clearly the ladette and Princess Nitya is clearly the bifauxnen in their romantic dynamic. Neither reach stock character status, but one energetic girl with an affinity for alcohol with another quiet and charming girl is a recipe for a lot of nice moments.

And that’s all I gotta say on the character dynamics of romantic couples for now. It’s beyond clear that this whole guide is going to be way longer than I ever wanted it to be, so let’s hurry up and get to the next section, which is on building up to cute romantic moments with One Weird Trick…

Earn That Moment!

As I’ve mentioned several times already, cute moments on their own just do not work in prose the same way they do in visual mediums. We as authors of written work must strive to emit those same wavelengths of saccharine love! It requires more work for the same result, which is unfortunate, but there’s a few tricks we can use to create extra emotional investment in our romantic storylines.

The most simple way to put it is that we can earn our cute romance just by developing the characters. More character development, more romance. Remember, the goal is to take the characters, use the natural chemistry that comes from their romantic dynamics, and flesh them out until readers fall in love with their love.

How to develop characters in a way that will specifically enhance the romance? Well, there’s plenty of ways to earn it, but here’s four specific methods I like to use:

Cute Tension

We already covered all about how spicy, thick tension is the perfect way to increase interest in a romantic couple. It’s an essential element of a romantic storyline, much like wearing aviators in the daytime is an essential element of a smug asshole.

But there’s a way to take that tension and turn it super cute! I’m calling it, creatively, “Cute Tension.”

What you do is you take these scenes of heart-stopping, lip-biting steaminess, and you just kinda…

“You’re a great pal,” said Elton. “I think I’m in love with you.”

“S-stop teasing me…” Katie batted Elton’s hand away.

“I’m not teasing. I’m not a teasing kind of lady, and you know it.” She put her hand back on Katie’s cheek.

“I know you’re not, but…” Katie gulped. But she didn’t move. She let Elton move in her head closer, let her lean in until the space between them was next to nothing. “Please don’t be in love with me, Princess.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help it.” She put her other hand around Katie’s waist and moved in for the kill. Their lips met. Katie let herself be absorbed by the passion between them.

Then—

“Hehehehehe.”

“…Katie?”

“Hahahahaha!”

“Katie, why are you… laughing?” Elton let go of her and Katie fell down, holding her sides. It took her a good minute to get ahold of herself.

“I don’t know…” Katie said as she finally caught her breath again. “Why in blazes did I…”

“Oh, Katie.” Elton kneeled down and hugged her.

See what I mean by “Cute Tension?” You turn something that’s filled with emotional intensity, and you add in something silly, heartwarming, or even flat-out embarrassing.

Just extending the scene a little further from when I shared it originally, you take something a bit steamy into something really cute.

It doesn’t have to be so direct as this; fake-outs can get old and aren’t really recommended. But a good philosophy to go by when building up the cuteness meter between your characters is to take what would otherwise be a pretty heated scene and turn it into something heartwarming. You get to build up the romance AND help get that warm and fuzzy feeling going.

Slice of Life

I’m not saying, like, turn your story into a slice-of-life novel or anything like that. But adding in slices of life into your story can go a LONG way in developing the cute moments.

Every story will have quiet moments, so don’t shrug this one off! Even a movie as unstoppably energzied as The Lego Movie has time to wedge in a couple bits of life into its jam-packed runtime. These quiet moments are opportunities to flesh out the characters with each other and help readers see them in a situation wherer, yes, these two really do exist in a real world together, maybe even feeling emotions towards each other.

Daily life can be very cute. Just seeing your characters living their daily lives can be cute. It makes no sense, but it seems to work.

So even if your story is a post-apocalyptic dungeon crawler about hot vampire boys, there’ll still be moments where you can add in slices of life like seasoning into a hearty soup. Don’t add the whole jar of bay leaves, but… maybe one bay leaf is OK.

Some examples can include things as plain and simple as… having the characters eating together. Watching a movie. Getting ready in the bathroom in the morning. Exercising. Browsing the magazine aisle at the supermarket. Sharpening swords. Checking the computer logs on their starship.

These kinds of moments are great for self-reflection, and they’re just as good at building up your romance in a way that’ll pay off really well later on.

Banter & Flirting

Ah… Banter and flirting. My two favorite story elements of all-time. Don’t you just love reading long conversations between two characters who are totally into each other but aren’t directly saying it?

Flirting is… hard to describe. I don’t know, read a WikiHow article or something. But in prose, it’s the most effective way to seed interest between two characters, and it can be made extremely cute if you play your hand right.

Using long conversations filled with snappy lines and veering through multiple subjects, AKA banter, is my go-to method for having characters flirt with each other. I already love long conversations (hence my interest in Straight Man/Wise Guy duos), and adding in some spicy romantic tension is a great way to give conversations a nice edge.

When you have banter and flirting together, you’re basically creating an entire winding conversation where characters probe each other for interest. Without directly saying it, they’re trying to communicate what they feel, while also trying to figure out if the other person returns those feelings.

It can lead to a lot of stupid misunderstandings, which is of course the best way to add cute tension and silly embarrassment into the scene.

Here’s one example of one of my stories of flirting that isn’t necessarily cute, but indeed communicates the possible romance going on:

From ATL: Trials of the Cybermancer!, Chapter 12:

“I swear we had this conversation just a few minutes ago,” I say.

“Crap, I think we did,” Karina says. “I think I’m getting delirious.”

“You work too hard.”

“I don’t work hard enough.”

“Do you have stuff tomorrow?” I ask.

“Orchestra practice again, but that’s in the evening. We can go to the Data Farm anytime we want.”

“So sleeping in is an option…?”

“Well…” Karina starts.. unbuttoning the top two buttons of her shirt. “I was thinking of going to bed soon. Maybe change into pajamas or something.”

[…]

“It’s been a long week, hasn’t it?” I ask.

“I really wanted to play Genesis Crush,” she whines.

“But this is nice too.”

“What is?”

“Hanging out with you all day,” I say. “Waiting on you to come home like a puppy. I much prefer days where I’m guaranteed to see you to days I’m not.”

“That was the most lame way to phrase that compliment you could have ever come up with.”

“Try it yourself then.”

“Here’s my way of phrasing it,” she says. And then she reaches out and grabs my arms. With one sudden motion she pushes me down on my back. She keeps hold as she leans over me.

“Hey, that’s kind of rude. I’m technically still injured you know,” I say.

“From your broken arm? That was a month ago.”

“Well, for normal people I should still be in a cast. You shouldn’t treat me differently based on things I can’t control.”

“Oh, I’ll go over to see if you’re okay.” She leans in close.

[…]

I liked writing this conversation a lot because their banter was so obviously flirting that the whole thing turned into a completely different scene than just some heartfelt dialogue.

But there’s a way to make it much cuter.

When you combine banter, flirting, and cute tension all together, you can reach a scene like this passage from another one of my stories:

From Hands Held in the Snow, Chapter 25:

Emi scooted closer to Beatrice. “What do you think we should do now?”

“Compliment each other?” Beatrice suggested.

“I like that idea.”

[…]

“So, compliments? Me first. I love the way you walk,” said Emi. “You always move around like you have a place to be, and you want everyone else to know.”

“I… do?” Beatrice had never in her life thought the way she walked as something that could be liked or disliked.

“And I love the way your eyes look at night, through the glare in your glasses. They’re like two miniature moons.”

“They… are?”

“You’re the most beautiful person in the world,” Emi said. “The Gods envy you.”

“You’re making fun of me, right?”

“Not in the slightest. Your turn.”

“You’re really hot,” Beatrice said.

Emi’s composure broke down and turned to gelatin in an instant.

Banter-filled conversations are a great way to get characters to play off each other and really let their differences shine in interesting ways. The romance builds up, the readers will be invested, and the whole shebang turns into a great opportunity for cuteness.

I have one more item I think will help you earn yourself a cute moment, and it’s actually a bit of a contradiction with the idea of flirting…

Honesty & Shared Moments

If flirting is all about being indirect in communicating your feelings, then honesty is the exact opposite. However, it can be equally as useful in building up romantic relationships.

There’s so many tiny ways for characters to establish better connections with each other without playing coy or hiding their interest. Sometimes honesty and frankness are a really nice thing!

Here’s some of the ways:

  • Compliments: Genuinely just complimenting a character and saying, “Wow you’re really beautiful,” or “Gosh, I haven’t ever had a co-op partner for Army of Two: 40th Day as good as you.” Obviously you can turn this into steamy flirting too if you add some teasing and sarcasm, but it doesn’t have to be anything but honest.

For this way, I’ll provide another passage from our favorite fake novel Sword Battle:

Nitya swung her blade. It collided into Elton’s and sparks of fire and electricity burst forth. Elton hopped back, but not in time to avoid Nitya’s hilt that came and slammed into her chest.

Elton screamed out in pain and dropped her sword.

The fight was over.

“Well, well well,” Nitya said. “You aren’t as fast as you used to be.”

“Even my speeds can’t match your quick draw,” Elton said. “You’re too good.”

“The point goes to Princess Nitya!” the announcer shouted. The crowd erupted into a sea of cheers and jeers.

Nitya extended her hand. “Let’s go.”

Elton took it and pulled herself up. “You really are amazing.”

“You’re serious?”

“I’m one hundred percent serious,” Elton said. “You’re the best swordsman I’ve ever seen. I wish I were half as good as you.”

“Really?”

“And half as pretty.”

“Now you’re just teasing,” Nitya said.

“I never tease.”

“Then why aren’t you letting go of my hand?”

Elton’s smile grew. “Might be another reason for that.”

Aren’t honest compliments just so moving sometimes?

Here are a few more examples:

  • Nicknames: Having characters nickname each other is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be… unnaturally sweet. If your fantasy elf character is named Aria, if her love interest Michael calls her Ari or A-chan or something, that’s real nice. She can call him Mikey in return and double the sweetness factor.
  • Gifts: Exchanging gifts, even if it’s not explicitly for a romantic purpose, is a great way to openly communicate the emotional bond between characters, especially if it’s something the characters will have on them for a long time, such as a clothing accessory or a weapon.
  • Secrets: One character confiding in another something that they wouldn’t have otherwise known. A sad backstory, a childhood memory, a quiet illness… It doesn’t even have to be anything that directly affects the plot—a secret shared is a bond deepened.
  • Promises: Making promises links characters together and can be used for great cuteness. You can make a deal between characters (e.g. “after the end of the war, let’s go on a vacation together”), or a vow of bond (”I’ll stick with you to the end”), or even something spicier. With this one, I’ll provide another example from one of my stories where a promise between two characters increases their romantic tension and ends up with a cute scene ending:

From The Glory of Bowsette, Chapter 44:

Princess Peach ran over to the tub and gave Bowsette a tight embrace. Bowsette felt warm from the bath already, but this was a whole new feeling. Peach let go and looked at all of the water all over her dress. “I probably should have done that… And Brighton, you’re hot. What, are you bathing in lava- Oh.” Peach noticed the fact that Bowsette’s bath was literally boiling.

[…]

Peach groaned. “This castle life stuff is… hard.”

“Tell me about it. That’s why I abdicated.”

“Maybe I will too,” Peach said with a straight face, before laughing. It was a beautiful laugh. Too shrill, a little too high-pitched and feminine to be taken seriously… exactly how it should have been.

That’s just who Peach was.

“So… you wanna go get some ice cubes, and then come back here and join me?” Bowsette asked.

Peach chuckled and shook her head. “Not today, Bowsette. But don’t worry, you’ll get your chance.” She leaned in and pecked Bowsette on the cheek.

“You know,” Bowsette said. “It almost feels like you’ve fallen in love with me.”

“I have, though.”

You don’t always have to keep your characters flirting and never revealing their true feelings. You don’t always have to make your characters frank and open about their true feelings. Humans are a weird mix of contradictions, and our characters should be the same way.

With so many options for emotional investment, you’ll surely find a way to build up your romance in a way that works for your story. A combination of all these methods is the best way in my opinion, but you can focus more on certain methods than others. I’m sure that, say, a young adult crime thriller will have a lot fewer opportunities for silly and embarrassing cute tension than a romcom about two lonely retirees (though, why are you trying to put cute romance in your crime thriller anyway? Just to emotionally torture us when you inevitably kill the characters off?!).

So…

Now that we’re done with character dynamics and ideas on how to build emotional investment, let’s get to the juicy part…

Cute Payoffs

Yeah! This is the best part, the part we’re all aiming for in the first place with all this malarkey. We want to replicate, in prose, the same cute scenes that have made our hearts flutter so many times!

As long as you have enough emotional investment, you’ll stick the landing with the payoff. You’ll already be far enough in that you’ve mastered the relationship, so all you have to focus on is… what kinds of moments work?

It’s fun because there’s practically limitless options for setpiece moments to use. It depends completely on your story and your own interest, but you should know that almost any one-to-one, heart-to-heart scene can be a massive fluff-fest if you make it that way.

Here’s the most standard examples:

  • Holding hands for the first time: Maybe it can be an accident, maybe it’s filled with apprehension and nervousness, but those aching moments leading up to the couple linking fingers for the first time (and then washing their hands shortly afterwards because we don’t want to spread viruses) can be sickly sweet.
  • Deep, meaningful chats about important stuff: Maybe it can be a campfire chat. Perhaps they’re laying in the grass watching the stars. Maybe one character is nursing the others’ wounds after a battle. However it’s caused, the result is the kind of conversation that cements a relationship, that comes with some of the cutest and most romantic moments a story can provide. Go crazy! Make it really long! Put some banter in there! Talk about secrets, make some loving promises, go wild. This can also easily lead into the most common setpiece of them all…
  • Love confession scene: One character admitting their love to the other. You gotta nail this scene because this is where the romance is finally, FINALLY official. Unless there’s a rejection. But we are aiming for cute scenes, so rejections are (usually) not a good idea here.

Here’s a really important confession scene midway through the fake story of Sword Battle:

“You threw that match!” Elton shouted. “Nitya, you know that’s going to ruin the whole tournament. You can’t play nice. We’re fighting for the sake of the damn continent!”

“I didn’t throw that. I don’t know what in blazes you’re saying.” Nitya said that, but she couldn’t bear to meet Elton’s eyes. “Marie, you have to believe me.”

“Look at me,” Elton said.

Nitya raised her head and instantly, tears formed. She looked back down and wiped her face.

“Look at me, Nitya.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I messed up!” she shouted, still looking down. “I helped you and now Chuxa is going to win and we’re all going to go to war.”

“I—You can’t blame yourself for something like that.”

“Why not?” Nitya grabbed Elton and wrapped her arms around her. “I threw the match because I love you and now everything’s going to go wrong.”

“Love…”

“Yes. I love you, Marie. Nitya wanted to cry and scream and throw things into walls. But instead she continued to hug Elton. “I love you,” she repeated.”

Nitya expected a slap, a shove, something violent and sudden. But instead—

She felt a gloved hand scruffing her hair.

“Marie… Do you…”

Elton leaned in close and whispered a response in her ear. Too quiet for anyone but Nitya to hear.

There are so, so many other types of cute romantic setpieces that I’ll never be able to make a dent in listing them all, so here are just a few notable examples that I enjoy:

  • Playing music: One character plays an instrument or sings while the other watches; two characters sit on a piano bench together and play and/or sing; the characters sing or play a duet together. Lots of options with music that will make readers’ stomachs fill up with the butterflies of affection.
  • Really long hugs: A hug described in great intricacy, filled with sensory detail
  • Introducing a hobby: One character introduces their hobby to the other, trying to explain what’s so neat about it, and all the while the other person gets to learn more about their partner, maybe fall more deeply in love with them.
  • Cuddling!!! Everyone loves cuddling!
  • Going new places: The couple goes somewhere for the first time together. They experience new things and see new sights, both taking it all in side-by-side, hand-in-hand.
  • Trying weird foods together: Tasting a new, strange food can be a big risk for your tastebuds. Doing it with your lover turns it from risky to a challenge.
  • Competing in a video game, sport, or other challenge: A little friendly competition can rile up characters and get them way more interested in each other… even if it’s beating each other rather than kissing each other. It’s especially cute when one character absolutely wallops the other, but then tries to go easy on them to make them feel better (it invariably fails).
  • And one more… Pillowtalk/afterglow: Listen, yeah, sex scenes can be made really cute, but I’m not about to talk about that because this is a strictly PG-13 guide. Instead, I’ll talk about a much better chance for adorable interactions—the aftermath! Two characters, moments ago involved in a very romantic act, are now relaxing and resting together, now more open than ever for true intimacy.

Let’s take a look at one more Sword Battle scene to see what I mean:

It was so beautiful.

Elton had stared at Nitya’s bare back for minutes now, and that was all she could come up with: it was so beautiful.

She wasn’t sure if Nitya was asleep, or if she was simply basking in the moment. Elton was fine with either one, as long as they were here together.

Here in the moment. Not here in the tourney grounds, where just days from now they would face off in the final battle to determine the fate of the Queenship. Just here in bed with each other, at this very second.

Elton reached out and, with her finger, traced a swirling line across Nitya’s spine all the way down to the small of her back.

The woman shivered. “Marie, stop. That tickles.”

“I’m sorry,” Elton said. “I couldn’t help myself. Every second I look at your back, it’s like a whole year goess by. I can see my whole life flashing before me. A life with me and you.”

“Then perhaps you shouldn’t keep looking,” Nitya said. She rolled over to face Elton. Her back replaced by her dark, shining face. Then she kissed Elton’s neck.

“Nitya…”

They stared into each other for a while longer.

“Say,” Nitya said. “Do you remember our last day at the Academy?”

[…]

So there you have it. We’ve learned what exactly cute romance is, we’ve learned about the romantic dynamics that make a love story work, we’ve learned about buiding up emotional investment for readers, and we’ve learned about the best payoffs to send hearts aflutter. It’s a lot of details and a lot of ground covered, but hopefully my advice has been pretty useful to you.

There will be two more sections involving some more details that people specifically requested me to cover. They’ll talk about more specific romantic quandries you may want to consider when making your stories, so if you’re ever starting a story from the ground up, it may be good to consider these things.

Romance Levels

One other thing to consider is the “level” of romance you want to target. Not all romantic storylines are the same! Age, experience, and orientation all matter in a big way. All are covered by the same basics, but they have key differences you might want to look out for.

Let’s go over a few kinds so you can get the gist and so I can give out a few tips for each.

Young Love

This is by far the most common level of romance in popular media, and in web fiction in particular it’s almost overwhelmingly dominant. It makes sense though; just about everyone on Earth has fallen in love or will fall in love, and every single person has to do it for the first time.

Romance among inexperienced teenagers, awkward young adults, or even more awkward adults is a near-universal constant in fiction and it’s some of the cutest stuff ever! First kisses, second-guessing about feelings, silly crushes, overdramatic declarations… I’s a learning experience for everyone involved, and it’s all so adorable.

Two of my favorite movies of all-time, the Studio Ghibli film Ocean Waves and the sublime coming-of-age comedy Lady Bird, both deal significantly with young love. If you want to find out what kinds of cute stuff you can do in a romantic storyline, those two movies are it for sure.

I love socially awkward interactions and think that they can be a source of simultaneous second-hand embarrassment and sympathetic “awwww how sweet”s. Young love has so much of that that sometimes your heart can explode from the intensity of feelings.

One thing that’s also extremely useful in making cute young love storylines is the tendency for young people to make rash, bold, and stupid decisions in the name of romance.

Remember this iconic movie moment from Say Anything…:

It’s the kind of thing in real life, if you were an adult, could get you a restraining order, but in fiction with teenagers it makes you swoon.

Adults Are Also Adorable

Once characters are established and more experienced with their dating lives, the awkwardness can settle out, and the amount of silliness may sadly lessen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a very cute romance.

Because mature adults have already been through a lot in their lives, they don’t have to grasp for straws to figure out how to make romantic moments happen. A couple can form based off directness, honesty, and shared histories in a way that young love almost never can.

Take Princesses Elton and Nitya from Sword Battle, for instance:

Elton set down two mugs of beer on the table and slid one across to Nitya. “C’mon, let’s catch up on old times,” she said. “I haven’t seen you in years. How in blazes are you doing?”

“That’s…”

“C’mon, Nitya. You look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s wrong?”

“Marie—er, Princess Elton,” Nitya began, “We’re enemies now. Champions for opposing kingdoms. We can’t be like we used to.”

“You mean like we used to be at the Academy,” Elton said. “You know… nobody calls me Marie anymore.”

“Would you like me to?”

“It would make me really happy.” Elton chugged the rest of her beer and let out a loud burp.

“Wow, Marie.” Nitya still hadn’t started on her beer. “I’m sorry. I don’t want this.”

Elton nodded her head and took Nitya’s beer “Y’know, when I first saw you, I thought you’d changed. You seemed so different.”

“Perhaps I am.”

“But… I see through you, Nitya. You’re just the same as ever.”

Nitya lowered her eyes. “You’re flirting with me already.”

“You know it,” Elton said. “I haven’t forgotten the promise we made.”

“Marie, I’ve dated a lot of women since I left the Academy… I’m not a giddy schoolgirl anymore.”

“I know that. But… you might not be a giddy schoolgirl, but I know I still am.” She finished off her second mug of beer and wiped her mouth with her sleeve.

“I can see that.”

They are both still young, but they have gone through the trials and tribulations of youth and have come out the other side stronger for it. Both have had romances in the past, both flings and serious relationships, and that helps them figure out the extent of their feelings for each other.

Romances with mature or experienced characters have so much more potential for a deep and meaningful storyline. Young love tends to follow a coming-of-age format to the point that it can fall into formula quite easily. Mature love, in contrast, relies to heavily on the characters’ backstories that they can reach much greater depths.

The level of honesty and frankness can also be refreshingly high, as well. Tired of waiting for characters to realize they have a crush on their co-worker for sixteen chapters? Mature characters, while not immune to being oblivious and confused sillyheads, are a lot more able to discern their feelings and act on them without all the misunderstandings and poor communication that come along with inexperience.

It’s cool stuff!

Established Romances

Regardless of young or mature, inexperienced or experienced, romances aren’t just about getting together and making love for the first time and getting married. Relationships are often longterm things where two (or more) partners build a life together.

One thing a lot of writers worry about is keeping a romance alive after the vows have been exchanged, after the kisses have been had. The Shipping Bed Death is a trope so prevalent in fiction, at least as a myth, that stories often go to extreme lengths not to have characters get together until the last minute.

Don’t do that.

Please have your characters get together long before the end of the story. Yeah, nega-tension and the constant worry that they may not actually end up together can keep readers invested, but it only works to a certain point. It’s such an annoying trope for all the romance to be put off and procrastinated on until the very end, and you lose out on so many cute moments thanks to that!

Established relationships can easily be kept alive by just continuing to be cute. Don’t let a couple stagnate into mundane status quo; the characters may be happy with each other, but readers still need the continuing emotional investment to stay interested. Keep throwing in cute moments, cute tension, and as much banter as you cna possibly include, and your characters’ relationship will stay strong.

One very cliched way to prevent the Shipping Bed Death by authors is to throw in contrived drama in to keep the nega-tension alive far past its expiration date. Subplots like cheating, misunderstandings, wishy-washy feelings aren’t cute. They’re usually poorly done and I recommend avoiding them if you actually want to keep this couple’s romance alive.

The show Moonlighting, which I highly praised earlier on in the guide, is the worst offender for killing off an established relationship. Afraid of the romance dying, the writers literally separated the couple and had them physically apart for almost the entirety of its fourth season. Ratings crashed, and by the time they returned to each other’s sides, it was too late and the series was cancelled halfway through the fifth season.

Don’t do that. Stay cute.

Queer Cuties

LGBT fiction has a few special tricks up its sleeve that allows it to be even cuter than a typical heterosexual romantic storyline.

The entire coming-out narrative, while often confusing and scary in real life, can be used for maximum adorableness when it comes to gay characters!

Think of it. In romance, you have a character fall for another, start pining for them, then finally realize they’re in love. With a gay man in a coming-out narrative, not only is he realizing he’s in love, he’s realizing he loves men. Confronting both of those facts at once, and then being accepted in both of them by his partner, is something really special in that sugary kind of way.

There’s also bisexual characters who are apt to fall into love polygons. When every single character around them are hypothetically a romantic option, and when every single character around them happens to be a handsome man or a dashing woman because this is a Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel, this character can collapse into a mess of pining and heartthrobs.

Queer characters have other options too, such as trans characters being supported by their partners. Having a queer romantic storyline opens up several new avenues for cute moments, which may be a big factor in why gay pairings are so popular in fan fiction and other fan works.

Right now in the world of prose, both web fiction and traditionally published fiction, there is a big dearth of queer romance. Very little exists that is particularly notable, even in web fiction where authors have so many more freedoms to write what they want. I’d like to encourage authors to try out more queer romance that ends up being super cute.

And along with that, I think romantic storylines with established couples are also far too uncommon. We’ve seen countless couples get together in popular stories and, yeah, I’ve swooned plenty of times from those, but how about we get more stories where the couple is together from the start, and stays together? Sometimes to me that’s even MORE romantic.

Let’s just go ahead and combine these two recommendations, then: If you’re reading this, you should try to add in a romantic storyline featuring an established, rock-solid queer relationship. You will have so many opportunities for cute moments and you’ll be doing the entire world a service.

Of course, you’ll have to decide exactly how much romance you want in your story to begin with. Let’s talk about that next.

Meta Approaches

All of this talk about cute romance isn’t relevant if you don’t know exactly how you want to do the romance in the first place.

What kind of romance do you even want to do?

Main Plot vs. Subplot

Most people reading this probably aren’t writing a full-on romance novel. And that’s perfectly okay; it just means that you’ll have to make do with a compressed version of the buildups and payoffs I’ve mentioned here.

If your romance is the main plot of the story, you can focus so much more on the characters and their relationship together, since that IS the story. If it’s a subplot, you’ll have to sprinkle all these elements together and disperse them into the rest of the plot. You’ll have to be more economical, but it’s not impossible by any means.

Slow-Burn vs. Quick-Kiss

This is a consideration you’ll have to make based more on the length of your entire story than anything else. How long can you afford to keep the romance growing before it is finally consumated? How long do you WANT to keep it growing?

Slow-burn is a solid option for longer stories and ones with bigger casts. As I mentioned in the “established romances” section, you don’t want to procrastinate so long that readers lose interest in the couple, but you can keep it cute and keep teasing it for quite a long time before people start getting anxious. Nega-tension and pining are your friends here.

Quick-kiss romances are a personal favorite of mine. Why not just get the characters together as fast as possible so you can spend the bulk of the story with them already involved in a relationship? Romance movies tend to do this so they can have the couple consumate shortly before the halfway point (then break up at the 2/3rds point and get together again at the end), but novels are perfectly valid ground for that as well.

You’ll also need to do a quick-kiss path if you’re doing a romantic subplot that needs to grow without the ability to take a long time.

For a romantic subplot you need to develop as tightly as possible, I recommend the Three Scene Method: After the characters meet, give them three cute, heartfelt moments together to show their connection growing, and eventually build up to a full-on romance.

For example:

  1. The characters get in an argument that turns into a huge banter-fest.
  2. The characters have a quiet and deep chat while sitting around a campfire.
  3. Confession scene!

This works well with main characters who really deserve a romance but when your story is too jam-packed with plot to take your time. Don’t forget to put other, smaller cute moments in besides the setpieces, though!

If you REALLY want to develop a romance quickly from start-to-finish, and this works almost exclusively with minor characters, you can use the Two Scene Method:

  1. The characters meet and interact with each other for the first time, immediately hinting at an attraction (or, as a joke, a significant lack of attraction).
  2. After some time is passed, show them again, but already having gotten together and being lovey-dovey.

Pretty cute, ain’t it?

And that’s the end of my Guide to Writing Cute Romance.

Extra Notes

Nothing here yet. I’ll expand this later if anything comes up.

The End

Katie handed Elton two towels. “Good practice,” she said.

Elton laughed. “Not good enough.” She handed her second towel to Nitya.

“No, if you fight like that, Marie, I’m probably going to wipe the floor with you,” Nitya said.

“Probably.”

“Well, I think you both did well,” Katie said. “You’re wonderful fighters.”

The three of them sat down on a bench in the courtyard. Aside from chirping birds, a gentle breeze, and the three of them, the entire area was silent. Just how they liked it.

“The tournament’s tomorrow,” Elton said. “I’m not ready one bit.”

“You’re too hard on yourself,” Katie said.

Nitya laid her head on Elton’s shoulder and clasped her hand in hers. “She has to be,” she said. “That’s the way princesses live.”

“I’ll never understand that kind of life,” Katie said. “But… maybe I’ll still love you anyway, Princess.”

“Thanks.”

“Thanks…” Katie giggled. “So, do you want to go to the mess hall after you change?” she asked.

“Yeah. We’ll go change right—” Elton cut herself off. “Nitya? Are you… Oh, she’s asleep already.”

“That fast, huh?”

“She practiced really hard,” Elton said. “You know what? I guess I could use a nap too. I guess we’ll catch up with you when we wake up.”

“No, I’ll wait for you,” Katie said. “No big deal.”

Elton smiled. “It’s a big deal for me.”

Katie laid down on the grass in front of the bench.

The three of them took a wonderful nap.

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