Hi, friends! Here’s a post about how to “show, don’t tell” in writing, and in romance novels or other fiction that contains romance in particular. In my book Master Lists for Writers, I have a list of 50 ways to show attraction between characters, but this goes into a few in more detail.
I didn’t post last week because I had a vacation in Miami to attend a friend’s wedding. That inspired this post! I don’t usually post about friends, but I’m hoping they don’t mind, since their wedding was a ridiculously beautiful, joyous, and romantic occasion.
First, a little backstory! I first met my friend’s now-husband at a party. They hadn’t been dating long, but immediately, I noticed how he was staring at her in rapt adoration.
As a romance writer, I looove this kind of thing. So I basically started staring at him staring at her. And at one point, I thought to myself, “He is going to notice me staring at him like a creep.” But then I realized that he wouldn’t, because he was too busy staring at her.
My friend is Colombian-American and grew up in Miami. Her beloved is a white guy from Kansas. My conversation with his mother led me to believe that he didn’t grow up doing a lot of dancing. On this wedding weekend, it quickly became apparent that my friend and her family love to dance… and her groom had learned how.
Seeing them dancing together the night before in a club in Little Havana where we all did shots of some kind of liquor I didn’t catch the name of, and seeing their choreographed first dance to a medley of Latin music at the wedding reception, was a beautiful thing. So was hearing the vows he’d written for her, which included a little Spanish.
This brings us to the first great way to show that your character is in love.
1. They learn about something that matters to the other person.
It could be more than one thing, like in my example above. He could be learning about and adapting to her whole culture. Or it could be more simple, like a woman learning a little about yoga or 18th century literature because her new girlfriend is into it.
This isn’t to say that people who love each other need to have all the same interests. For instance, Mr. Donovan knows that I’m never going to become interested in American football, and I don’t expect him to watch Supernatural with me. I do respect his game-watching time, and he accepts that the cast of Supernatural are more or less honorary family members of ours, and it works out fine.
2. They notice and remember little details about the other person.
Let’s say he has a crush on the new guy at the office. He might happen to tell a co-worker, “He leaves at 5:10 every day.” The co-worker wonders why this guy is so dang observant.
Or your hero might notice that the woman he loves has several items of green clothing, and that her perfume smells like lilacs.
3. They make life more convenient for the other person.
This is such an overlooked way to show love. Maybe he arranges for a carriage to pick her up or take her home so she won’t have to ride on the omnibus.
Or maybe she lives in the apartment across the hall. When she bumps into him on the stairs, she mentions that she’s on her way to the store and asks if she can pick up anything for him.
This is an especially great way to establish a happy long-term relationship. He might remind her that she needs to order more contact lenses, or when he’s having a busy week, she might do one of “his” chores.
It can be especially fun to show that your character has a crush when he or she doesn’t even realize it yet!
Do you have other suggestions for showing that your character is in love? Share them in the comments! And if you aren’t following the blog already, you can do that so you won’t miss future writing posts — there’s a place to sign up below. Thanks for reading, and happy writing!