Romance—Hold the Cheese (Guest Post by Gracen Aldaya)

I don’t care for a whole lot of modern authors. There are a few, but not many. My disdain for contemporary writers stems from a numbers of things, but there is one distasteful, common component that bothers me: sappy romance.

Any book, whether dramatic or comical, can be deepened with romance. If you write romance well, it can open your story into a rich world of intimate relationship. If your write romance poorly, it can cause your book to fall flat. In fiction, characters are a make-it-or-break-it component and so are their relationships. So, specifically concerning romance, how can we be sure to make it and not break it?

Breaking It

Here are examples of how your romance can fall flat:

  • Love at first sight
  • Clinginess/neediness
  • Little to no conflict

Making it

Let’s take a look at how we can fix these common romantic mistakes.


  1. Love at first sight

Ever since Cinderella laid eyes on Prince Charming, the love at first sight myth has been active and, unfortunately, thriving in literature. Your character looks at that tall, dark, and handsome guy or that slim blonde girl with bouncing curls and just knows, “that’s who I want to spend the rest of my life with.”


That doesn’t happen in real life, and if it does, it’s a fluke. The first rule of fiction is to make it believable. Therefore, the attraction must be logical. For example, your male protagonist, still pining over his freckled, red-headed female friend who died in childhood, meets a woman in the marketplace with freckles and red hair eerily similar to his childhood companion. Now, you may not have an instant proposal, but at least you’ve planted a seed.

Here’s another example. Your female protagonist has had a rough childhood. Her father was unkind and abusive. She meets a man at work who treats her with gentleness and respect. He shows her something she’s never seen before. In this instance, it’s logical for the woman to become interested in this man.

Love at first sight is empty attraction. That’s it. You wouldn’t want you character to appear shallow, would you?


  1. Clinginess/Neediness

Nothing is less attractive than a person who hangs their sole existence on you. Of course, emotional attachment is important, but it can be taken too far. If your character is clinging to their romantic counterpart and is acting like she or he will die if they can’t be with the “one they love,” it’s a bad sign. Requiring someone’s affection is not love, it’s a need. It’s using that person as a gross substitute to fill an emotional hole in your character’s life.

This is the mushy stuff that makes readers want to vomit. It often results in one or both of the characters gushing about what they imagine to be “love,” but it turns out to be only a brittle, artificial substitute for true meaning and purpose.

If you aspire to be an average writer, by all means, throw a little neediness into your characters’ relationship, crank up the mush factor… and watch your book melt into the unnoticed oblivion of a dusty bookshelf.

If you want to be unique, put some meaning into your character’s life. Make them independent. Give them something to live for—something real.


  1. Little to no conflict

Your characters meet. They fall in love. They have really romantic moments, ride off into the sunset, and live happily ever after. That’s nice. Sweet. But it’s also BORING. Of course, no one wants to read about someone whose life is perfect, but also:


There are few things worse than watching someone meander across the page (might as well watch the paint peel off your wall). You keep reading because you know SOMETHING has to happen—but it doesn’t. The book is over. The End. I bet you won’t remember that character or read any other books by that author.

Make your characters fight. Make them argue. Tear them apart. >;)

WARNING: DO NOT use petty issues to do this or conflicts that either could be resolved with a simple conversation or result from a misunderstanding. Do not make your characters fight just for the sake of fighting. That’s lazy writing, and readers do not appreciate it.


In conclusion:

There you have it: A recipe for writing rich romance, deep relationships, and that special element that will make you stand out from the crowd of contemporary writers. Bon Appetit.





<a target=’_blank’ href=’’>Derek Thomas</a> via <a href=”” target=”_blank”></a>

Recent Comments

  • Robin
    February 26, 2016 - 1:40 pm · Reply

    Great tips! A huge pet peeve of mine is when a conflict could have been resolved with a simple conversation. Drives me crazy! You’re right. It’s just lazy writing.

    • Elizabeth Newsom
      February 27, 2016 - 2:21 pm · Reply

      It’s one of my pet peeves too 😛 Especially when it’s used for the climax. I agree, Gracen did have some great tips! Thank you for the comment, Robin! 🙂

  • Laraepace17
    March 1, 2016 - 1:21 am · Reply

    I really enjoyed this article. It makes so much sense. I like contemporary young adult romance, but I am getting tired of overused clichés and stereotypes. Thankfully there are still some others out there who take the time to write a beautiful and original and interesting love story.

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