If you are writing a romance or have a romantic subplot, you must create at least one love interest. Romantic relationships can be challenging to write about. We have to balance these two or more unique individuals with their interpersonal conflicts, the conflict of the plot, and their own needs and desires.
If your love interest is mediocre, it can ruin the story. You want to build up a character that people want to read about, and they deserve as much attention as your main character. If you want to write a good love interest, stay with me till last.
How to write a good love interest?
Relationships are a two-way street! A healthy relationship is based on equality. That means both parties put an equal amount of effort and commitment into the relationship. It doesn’t mean both parties are identical, but the characters should be equally there for one another. The idea is to make the relationship seem mutually beneficial.
Do you want to know more about a love interest and learn more advice? I will discuss my top 15 tips for writing a good love interest. However, these tips apply to all romances, whether between a man and a woman or LGBTQ.
1. Make your love interest a multidimensional character
It’s not enough that your characters are hot or lovable. They need to serve a purpose or have a life. Aside from being the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, creating the book sexy rich guy, the knight in shining armor or the damsel in distress is easy. Sometimes these cliches do sell. Most of us are attracted to people who are unapologetically themselves, making them different or special.
- Your love interest needs to be wholly unique.
- Make them funny/charming or intelligent.
2. Make your love interest flawed
This is where a lot of newbie writers go wrong. The love interest is either perfect or flawed. You’ve got to find the balance. You can’t make the person flawless. The nerdy male hero who’s in love with the beautiful charitable supermodel genius. No one’s going to buy that!
When you make the love interest seemingly perfect, the reader will think you’re writing about your dream guy or girl. If you pile on the baggage, readers will be turned off. Many writers do this to make the love interest appear misunderstood and brooding. They try to rationalize serious character flaws as being sexy or complicated.
- The whole point of giving a character flaws is to make them feel authentic.
So if you try to gloss over them by saying they’re attractive or dangerous, you’ve only negated their purpose. My recommendation would be to consider flaws that could be endearing to the protagonist. Maybe your main character is a very structured and rigid life, and the love interest is more irresponsible. Those are legitimate flaws, but they’re ones that the protagonist might find refreshing.
3. Make your love interest believably attractive
The keyword here is believable. It’s okay if they’re hot, but they shouldn’t be the embodiment of physical perfection. Aside from the fact that a mind-blowingly hot love interest is cliche. That makes it difficult to pass them off as likable in real life. Moreover, it’s not so common to meet someone humble, not to mention attracted to your protagonist.
Writers often default to one of two strategies to rationalize their love interests, rampant sex appeal and likability strategy. If the character is a guy, he’s desperately searching for a woman who likes him for who he is. That’s a noble quest, but it’s not super believable.
If the love interest is a woman, she’s insanely beautiful, but she has no idea. The writer attempts to imply that she’s humble. Have you ever met a gorgeous girl but didn’t know it in real life? They are the most painfully insecure women alive.
- The easiest way to get around this issue is to physically imperfect the character.
You don’t have to make them a troll or list any physical flaws. But shouldn’t it be enough that they’re moderately attractive? Why do they have to be the sexiest person alive? So think about those questions before writing your love interest.
4. Don’t write an insta romance
No one likes an instant romance. Let your characters get to know one another and let them date. Readers may only hurl all over your book if they’re throwing the L-word around by chapter three.
So, it’s not romantic for your characters to be attached at the hip right from the get-go. Do you know what that looks like in real life? Readers are still going to see your characters as creepy.
5. Develop a connection
Love is a feeling you need to translate into your writing. The first thing you need to do is create a series of incidents that help your characters form a connection. You have to give your protagonist a reason to believe that this person is waiting for love.
- The easiest way to do this is to set up situations where both your protagonist and love interests are forced to be raw and vulnerable around one another.
They should go through experiences that bring them close together and build trust. It is essential because developing that deep connection is what gets readers rooting for their relationship.
6. Create conflict
Friction in a romance can only be reflected in infidelity, betrayal, manipulation, gaslighting, and abuse. A love interest isn’t hot unless the romance is dysfunctional. Conflict is necessary to a plot, but conflict doesn’t mean toxicity.
- You can write a strong love interest without making them a poisonous leech.
Many of the biggest issues in romantic relationships are outside forces, things like financial standing, conflicting customs, distance, or dysfunctional and disapproving families. These issues are 100% valid and even better. You don’t have to write a dirtbag love interest to make them happen.
7. Give freedom to express themselves
The opposite of a dysfunctional relationship isn’t a relationship with no conflict. People argue, disagree, and upset one another. It is the reality of all relationships. But many writers assume that to write a healthy love interest, they need to be a bootlicker. They agree with everything the protagonist says. It isn’t a partner, it’s a servant!
This advice is very prevalent among writers who want to write healthy romances. But this is not a healthy love interest! Agreeing with everything their partner says isn’t realistic. When it does happen, it’s usually because the person is afraid to speak their mind, either due to insecurity or intimidation. Your love interest isn’t currently capable of maintaining a healthy romantic relationship, or your main character is confused.
8. Make a male protective character
This advice comes up a lot regarding male love interests. Whether we’re talking about straight or queer romances, the male partner must be protective. A protective partner is both endearing and sexy. Plus, people are naturally protective of those they love. The problem is protective is not synonymous with possessive.
- Your love interest can show care and concern for your partner without being a stalker.
If you’re unsure about the difference, it’s time for some self-reflection.
9. Add an evil partner
Adding an evil partner is a trend I see in every gender, subgenre, and species among all love interests. The heroine’s got an evil boyfriend, and the main character has to save her from him. Many writers recommend this trope because it causes conflict, and every story needs a conflict.
Also, it gives the emcee a hero moment, and it juxtaposes them against the villain. I’m a massive fan of hero moments and character foils, but you can do this without painting the love interest in a negative light.
10. Make it a triangle
The love triangle is a decades-old cliche, and people are tired of talking about it. But when writers claim their fictional romance is getting stale, what’s the number one piece of advice given? Throw in a love triangle! We’re still doing this. Look, trends have peaks and valleys, but the triangle is still very much in a valley. The way it’s usually presented doesn’t make any sense.
Men are competing for the affection of one woman, a thing that has never happened in real life, at least not within the last century. Many people wouldn’t tolerate it if their girlfriend didn’t know if she loved them or not. So keep that in your mind.
11. Give them a life
Few things are more annoying than a love interest that exists solely to torment the main character. That means you should craft them with the care required of an extremely valuable character.
- Understand their backstory, their likes, and dislikes.
- Know their personality inside and out.
- Make them a real living person.
It will make it easier to write them, but it’ll also make them more interesting to the reader. Also, exciting characters are likable characters!
12. Make them matter
Unless you’re writing single genre romance or erotica, the love interest needs to play a bigger role in the story than only being the love interest. They have to do more to the plot than give the main character heart flutters. For starters, it’s clunky. The character will feel shoehorned in for the sake of a romantic subplot. It’s also boring!
As we already covered, characters who exist for the sole purpose of being the love interest typically lack depth, making them less enjoyable to read. But the most important reason is the plot. If the love interest matters to the plot, they will serve a vital purpose in most scenes.
So, it’s an asset to you as the writer to make the love interest vital to the plot. It increases their page time, endears them to the reader, and gives you ample room for cute moments in the story.
13. Consider compliments
Opposites may attract, but compliments complete one another! ‘To complement’ means bringing perfection. It’s being opposite in a way that suits or supports one another. For example, say your main character is an introvert, and your love interest is an extrovert. It could be a pairing that clashes or the traits can complement one another, making the pair stronger.
Maybe the extrovert helps bring the introvert out of their shell. Maybe the introvert gives the extrovert some peace and understanding. Create qualities in the love interest that enhance your main character and vice versa. Your couple should be better when they’re together. Moreover, the relationship should have a positive influence.
14. Add romantic tropes
Enemies to lovers, forbidden romance, arranged marriages, and love triangles are the popular tropes that you can use as your love interest. We’re not about cliches in the house! It’s about understanding your likes and dislikes: what you want to convey through your writing and what you want to avoid.
I enjoy enemies to lovers, but not if the enemies start in a violent or abusive space. This type of analysis will help you craft a love interest you adore and will also help you determine the marketing.
15. Make wow factor
If a love interest doesn’t get a moment to shine, are they even a love interest? People will say this step is antiquated, but they’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female. The love interest should get a hero moment. It doesn’t mean they have to be a real hero. Not all stories involve death or danger. But there needs to be a point where the love interest showcases how special or important they are.
They certainly can save the protagonist’s life, but maybe they save them from getting bullied or fired. It’ll add that extra wow factor that makes the character super appealing.
As a writer, you’re obligated to develop them as much as you would your main character. Please give them a personality, a history, flaws, struggles, and desires. Give them something to strive for, something vital to them besides their partner.
Make sure both people put equal amounts of love and care into the relationship! It’ll make the story more enjoyable, plus the couple will be effortless to root for!
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