Slow burn romances follow the characters as they fall in love, gradually giving us a realistic and genuine romantic experience. Since the storyline is slower-paced than insta love or sex, we have time to become invested in the characters and their relationship leading up to their intimacy.
We’re going to talk about how to write slow burn romance using burn scenes, bid scenes, and sucker punch scenes. When it comes to writing Slow Burn Romance, I’ve got one guiding principle that governs everything: Keep it slow, but let it burn. The burn will be the word we’ll use to describe the relationship between our characters changing, sometimes progressing and pulling the characters closer together, but sometimes faltering and forcing them farther apart.
How to write a slow burn romance? (Writing tips, tropes, prompts)
Slow burn romance comes in many different tropes, best friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, love triangles, fake dating, secret dating, etc. The only trope that doesn’t work with slow burn is insta-love because it’s love at first sight and is unrealistic. In most of the scenes, we are writing for our love story.
We want to see a change in the relationship, but a tiny one. This nudge lets our audiences hope for the relationships to be ever so slightly raised or lowered. I will give you my 7 best tips for writing a slow burn romance step-by-step process. Let’s make a romantic story!
1. Take the time to build your characters
Romance is all about each character going on their journey and transforming as a person. That’s part of what makes well-crafted romance stories so good. It’s because it’s not about this relationship being the magic elixir that both these characters have been missing out on their whole lives. That’s a common pitfall that a lot of writers fall into. They think that the story can begin and end with romance!
The two characters have to have their unique internal conflict, preferably separate from each other, so that even if the relationship weren’t a thing, there would still be a story. These characters would still have goals, desires, fears, misbeliefs, and fatal flaws. Also, these are all vital ingredients to creating relatable, three-dimensional characters.
So take the time to build your characters before throwing the romance at them. Here are some more questions to ask yourself at the beginning of your romance.
- What is the internal conflict both my characters are personally struggling with?
- What kind of relationship do they have with each other at the start of the story, and why?
- How long have they known each other?
- How did they meet?
- How much does character ‘A’ know of character B’s internal conflict?
- How much does character ‘B’ know of character A’s internal conflict?
- Are they keeping any secrets from each other? If yes, why?
2. Build a chemistry
The purpose of the slow burn is to make things slow. We have our ships in mind as writers, and we want to see them together. But it’s going fast. So it’s good to remember that as you’re doing those slow burn scenes, we want to build a relationship with those two characters and see how they can help one another. How do they think, converse, and build chemistry?
My favorite part, slow burn, is more than inching towards each other’s faces and then pulling back with red cheeks.
- How do they interact?
- Do they know each other’s likes or dislikes?
- How are they able to help one another?
- What are the conversations they like?
Once you build up that relationship, you get an idea of how these characters can interact with one another. You get to figure out if they’re comfortable or awkward, and if there is either option, why? If this is a situation that they’re processing, then you get to go inside their head and have them figure out the process. Friends to lovers are the best kinds of slow burns you can find. It is because when you met this person, it wasn’t your idea to be romantically involved, but more time to spend together.
3. Leave something to be desired
The whole concept of romantic tension is an unfulfilled desire between the two characters. That’s what we want to build up: the desire, slow-burn chemistry, longing looks, almost touches, most kisses. Those moments are always more powerful and more captivating because we care about these characters and want to see them get what they want. But we know that their fears and their misbeliefs are holding them back.
When I talk about romantic tension, I am not talking about the physical things because you can put all of that same physicality into a romance without any real character building. It is dry, flat, and boring! That goes for real relationships too. So this is less about how sensual you can make your romantic tension and more about the depth of emotion.
- Create conflict between the characters in the social environment.
- Put some angsty moments to get a gap or time from the characters.
These should have the unique internal conflict that they’re dealing with. Also, the romance works to push them outside their comfort zone and make them challenge their beliefs even more. They shouldn’t want something from each other physically. Your stories should focus more on what they want from each other emotionally.
4. Keep the momentum going
When the author confuses slow burn for slow to a crawl and stop, Take one step forward, one step back, two steps forward, three steps back. This is not slow burn romance! That’s because there’s no emotional progress. Nothing is changing. These characters are stuck on this annoying fake tension merry-go-round rehashing the same problem repeatedly, not finding a solution, ignoring the problem, rinse, repeat.
I’m all for having conflict in the relationship, having misunderstandings, secrets, lies, and betrayal. Yes, all of that is good, vital, and delicious, but you have to keep a sense of momentum going.
- So, don’t let things stagnate for too long.
- If the romance starts to feel stale and boring, throw something in to spice it up: a lie, a secret, a betrayal, angst, and consequence.
The possibilities are endless, but don’t let slow burn slow to a stop. If you’re writing a series and want the slow burn romance to burn slowly over several books, you can still keep that sense of momentum going by letting the relationship change over time.
Keep the two characters in the friend zone for a while before they start to feel more for each other, or you can take several different romance tropes and use them all.
5. Story structure is your friend
The cool thing about story structure is it gives your characters, plot, romance, a sense of direction, momentum, cause, and effect. Story structure is a valuable guide to keep you on the right track and your romance on the right track.
For example, if you’re writing the best friends to lovers arc, that will look different from an ex-lover’s rebuilding their broken relationship arc. There are similarities, but there is no one size fits all structure. However, you can still use the three-act story structure for romance.
- You have to ask yourself the right questions and make sure that you are letting the structure work for you, not trying to make the story work for the structure.
For example, the moment when character A realizes that they are in love with character B might be the inciting incident plot point. Or, it might be the game-changing midpoint or plot twist halfway through your story. These options are great, and they’ll be different for different types of stories.
6. Write what you like and what your readers like
I am not into following trends. You should always write the book that you want to read. Make your story matter to you, but there is value in paying attention to what your readers like. I SAVE THAT POST whenever I see a social post or a blog with random readers talking about their favorite tropes and scenarios in romance or any story. Then I keep many of them on a dedicated Pinterest board, and I look at them once.
I don’t follow them like a guidebook because that would be silly and non-imaginative. But I do remember the ones that I genuinely love, and I keep an eye out for opportunities to include something similar in my writing, putting my unique twist on it.
That’s a trope, which can be a fake dating scheme between two friends or something more specific. Your two characters are trapped in a dangerous situation, and they have to escape and help each other survive.
This is also a great way to gather inspiration and writing prompts that might lead you to your next great idea, but write what you like. The thing about trends is they’re always changing. It’s impossible to write a book that everyone will love. So don’t try to do that.
7. Don’t take too long
When your ships take too long to get together, you start to lose the interest of your readers. It’s fun to throw obstacles their way and have tension and drama, but it will get annoying eventually. When the main characters break up again, you can’t do slow burn with these characters anymore because they’ve been on and off with each other so much that you’re over it.
Even when they did get back together, it was a long time before people honestly were over it. So what’s the point of even hoping? Why do you keep ending up here with me? They keep teasing us that they will get back together again, but they still can’t break it up. It’s hard to do a slow burn scene with a couple that keeps breaking up all the time. So keep in mind and don’t take too much time for romance.
Slow burn tropes
Before starting your slow burn romance, make a list of some tropes. These will help you to generate ideas and enhance your story quality. Here are some slow-burn romance tropes you can follow:
- Angsty, fake relationship, cheating, a dark moment of confusion.
- A recovery, forgiveness, a greater understanding, and empathy between the two characters.
- Enemies to best friends, best friends to lovers, the cliffhanger of a betrayal that ruins everything.
- An ex-lovers rebuilding their broken relationship arc, or maybe they end up being rivals and enemies, and they kill each other at the end.
Slow burn plot ideas/writing prompts
Your story is incomplete without your focusing point or prompt. So set main prompt and sub-plot ideas to make your romance easy to read. At the end of your slow-burn romance, it is time to ask yourself some more questions:
- How have both my changed and evolved due to their journey or their relationship with each other?
- How much have character A affected character B’s internal conflict?
- How much has character B affected character A’s internal conflict?
- Are they still keeping any secrets from each other? Why or why not?
- What does the future look like for these two characters?
That’s it, my best tips for writing a slow burn romance that will make your readers fall in love and ship your characters so hard. Comment below and tell me what your favorite idea is? What was the name you threw out at the beginning of this article? I want to know, is it a slow burn? Is it best friends to lovers, enemies to lovers? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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