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Romantic Tension & Character by Jill Knapp

Writing.ie | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | Character

Jill Knapp

Technically my genre is New Adult, but it definitely falls under the Romance and Women’s Fiction categories as well. It’s just aimed toward a slightly younger audience, mainly 18-25. My main character is 22, turning 23 and she is essentially in love with two men at the same time. Or at least she thinks she is! Amalia has a boyfriend named Nicholas, but her true love interest in the story is a new guy in her life, Michael. Michael is a guy who she describes as intimidatingly smart, mature, reserved and refined. Physically she is floored by how well-dressed he is, his dark eyes, his full lips, his physical strength (this comes a little later in the book!), and the all over electricity she feels when he so much as brushes up against her. Add the fact that he has a girlfriend who lives all the way in Arizona, and you could practically cut the tension with a nail file!

But even with both Nicholas and Michael on her docket, she still manages to meet a third good-looking guy that her best friend Cassandra tries to set her up with. There are a lot of attractive men in New York City, and there’s temptation all around her.

Which brings me to one very important topic. When it comes to writing, Romance, Women’s Fiction, New Adult, or even Young Adult; how do you create romantic tension between the two characters? I’m going to preface this by saying that I read, a lot. I read a lot of all three of these types of book and I can usually tell from the protagonists first encounter with the gentlemen in question if I am going to be hooked on their love story or not. For instance, I recently read a book by a sweet young author who went on and on about how “hot” her main character found her love interest. She would say very simple adjectives, such as; he was so attractive, every girl wanted him, I felt myself melt whenever I was around him. I read this book cover to cover and I honestly couldn’t even describe to you what this guy looked like. So while these adjectives are all very well and good, they’re merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to describing your leading man.

When you’re writing about your “dream guy” ask yourself this one important question; why is he hot? No, really. What is hot about him? It can’t just be that he’s good-looking. The reader wants to know, heck I want to know, what kind of guy is he?

jillknapp_2140x210Is he geeky- I’m incredibly smart, petrified to talk to most women, but also the best kisser you’ve ever known? Does he wear glasses and blazers? Describe him to me! Or is he the Wall Street type- does he wear custom tailored suits, drink single-malt scotch, and will kiss you on the top floor of the Mandarin Oriental over-looking Central Park as the sun goes down and make you feel like you’re going to faint. Or maybe he’s the photographer/ painter / street artist who wouldn’t even know what a hair product was, let alone use one, but still has the most amazingly soft brown hair you’ve ever touched. He has piercing green eyes, and when he looks at you the rest of the world disappears and it’s as if you and him alone are standing on the street corner in Boston as the snow collects at your feet.

But of course, there’s more to it than looks. There always needs to be a touch of the Romeo and Juliet factor to help facilitate the attraction. Having said that, I feel like the path of the two main character’s parents not wanting them to be together is a bit over-done.

Lately, in young-adult novels at least, I have seen a lot of dystopian stories in which the two main characters come from different caste systems. I feel like that can makes for an interesting tale, if it done right. The Selection by Kiera Cass does a great job of this. Another is obviously Divergent. However, I would love to read a dystopian story that sort of flips the love story. For example, I’d love to see something written where the female character is the one from a higher cast or the more powerful character of the two. It seems in a lot of the books, the girls have to prove themselves worthy. I am not a huge fan of the damsel in distress!

If you’re writing for a younger audience, such as Middle Grade, a good tension point could be two students who go to rival schools. Maybe they’re both in the band at their respective schools, and they meet each other at a music competition. They have an immediate connection for each other, but their friends question their loyalty to them, and to their school so it causes conflict. Ultimately, it just makes them want to be together more, and because of this, it makes for a better read.

This is what creates the tension. All of these characteristics, idiosyncrasies, sometimes even flaws. Just saying that your main character wants to be with someone she finds attractive is not enough. Tell the reader what his voice sounds like (gruff and masculine or smooth and velvetly), what his hands feel like, and always focus on eye-color. They’re the windows to the soul after all.

If you really need inspiration, and once again I know a lot of you will make fun of me for this, crack open the first Twilight novel and read how Bella Swan describes Edward Cullen. Tell me you don’t understand immediately why she falls for him.

If you want to find out more about Amalia and the men in her life, and why Amalia is so attracted to Michael, my first novel in the series,What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan? is for sale in eBook form, on both Nook and Kindle. The paperback copies have an expected release date of early October. Book number two in the series is currently being edited, so fingers crossed my editor likes what I have written and doesn’t want me to change too much of it! That book, number two in the series, has an expected released date of late fall 2014.

(c) Jill Knapp

About the author

Jill Knapp is a native New Yorker who is the author of the series What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan? New Adult/ Women’s Fiction. A former adjunct professor of Psychology at her Alma Mater Kean University, she received a Masters degree in Psychology from the New School For Social Research in Manhattan, New York.

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