10 BEST TIPS FOR WRITING A STRONG LOVE INTEREST
We've got a spicy topic to cover! The love interest, in my opinion, is one of the most important characters in a book, and it's really frustrating when they're written like shit. Thus, I am breaking down the 10 most important tips for writing a compelling, swoon-worthy love interest. I covered this topic eons ago, but I have way more tips to add to the bunch, so we’re goin’ over them today! These tips apply to male love interests, female love interests, non-binary love interests, all kinds of love interests. Let's break down my top ten tips for writing a complex love interest in three, two, one, go!
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Number 1: Give Them a Life!
There are few things more annoying than a love interest who exists solely to tantalize the main character.
“But Jenna, isn't that the point of a love interest?”
Bitch, did I stutter? As a reader, the love interest is usually my favorite character in the book, and I am hardly alone in this. 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–not just some blow-up doll for your main character to fondle. Not only will this make it easier to write them, it'll also make them a lot more interesting to the reader, and interesting characters are likable characters!
Number 2: 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 just 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, which makes them not so interesting to read.
But the most important reason is the plot. If the love interest matters to the plot, that means they will serve a vital purpose to most of the scenes, if not all of the scenes, in the story. This gives you so many opportunities to flesh out their layers and promote a deeper bond between them and the MC. 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.
Number 3: First Impressions Matter
I'm not saying the first time your couple meets needs to be special . . . Okay, that's exactly what I'm saying! They don't call it a “meet-cute” for nothin’! It doesn't have to be perfect. Lord knows the universe adores enemies to lovers. It just has to be memorable. Something that will stand out and make readers excited for future interactions. It's very frustrating to read a book, be introduced to a character, and then realize six chapters later, “Oh, they're the love interest? Okay, I guess?” Be mindful and strategic when writing that introduction, because it could very well dictate whether or not readers root for that couple.
Be mindful and strategic when introducing the love interest, because it could very well dictate whether or not readers root for that couple.
Number 4: Make ’Em Flawed
Perfection is not realistic or attainable, which means it's not likable. Flaws and mistakes humanize your love interest. It makes them realistic, and potentially endearing.
“But Jenna, what if their flaws make readers hate them?”
That's a valid concern, but it really depends on the depiction of the flaw. If a love interest makes a forgivable mistake and appropriately apologizes, that's humanizing. There are also plenty of flaws that can be seen as cute, quirky, or even lovable. Maybe the character is a chatterbox, or socially awkward? Maybe they're clumsy or fickle? All of these are considered flaws, but many times they're adorable–or even funny! Ultimately, the goal is to make the character an imperfect person trying to do their best.
Number 5: But Not TOO Flawed
I know I told you to make them flawed, but that doesn't mean you have to turn them into a dumpster fire!
“I know! I'll make them a cheater!”
Maybe dial it back ten notches . . .
“What if they're abusive?”
Are you okay? Do I need to call someone? I know the “damaged love interest” is on trend right now, but that's only because people have shockingly low standards. At the end of the day, the love interest is supposed to be the spot of joy in the story–the character who makes readers happy and believe in love! Don't fuck it up by turning that character into a pile of garbage. Readers with self-esteem won’t appreciate that.
Number 6: We Get It, They’re Hot
It's perfectly fine to create a physically attractive love interest. In fact, I encourage it! But there's a big difference between a “snack” and cartoonish self-indulgence. Your leading man is 6’7”, with ocean blue eyes, jet black hair, and bronze skin despite being 100% caucasian! He also has a chiseled eight-pack, adonis lines, and muscles straight from a bodybuilding convention. But he lives in 19th-century London, and I'm pretty sure they didn't have CrossFit back then . . .
The one exception would be erotica. Erotic fiction is a sexual fantasy, which means the characters are often hyper-sexualized. But for all other genres, calm down. There's nothing wrong with creating a sexy love interest, but the leading lady doesn't have to have circus tits, I promise!
Number 7: Consider Complements
Opposites may attract, but compliments complete one another! “To complement” means to bring to 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. This could be a pairing that clashes or the traits can complement one another, making the pair stronger together. 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 or improve your main character and vice versa. Your couple should be better when they're together. The relationship should have a positive influence.
Number 8: Understand Romantic Tropes
There are a million romantic tropes, and it helps to understand them when you're writing your love interest. Enemies to lovers, forbidden romance, arranged marriages, love triangles . . . I could go on.
This isn’t so you can copy or regurgitate a trope. We're not about cliches in this house! It's about understanding your likes and dislikes, what you want to convey through your writing, and what you want to avoid.
For example, I'm not a fan of love triangles, but I love subverted cliches. Thus, it could potentially be a fun project for me to write a subverted love triangle. Similarly, I also enjoy enemies to lovers, but not if the enemies start off 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 who to market your book to.
Number 9: Make ’Em Step Up!
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 stupid and wrong. It doesn't matter if they're male, female, or somewhere in between, the love interest should get a hero moment.
This doesn't mean they have to be an actual 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 MC's life, but maybe they save them from getting bullied or fired. Maybe they throw a huge romantic gesture that sweeps the main character off their feet. Give ’em a “wow factor,” and it'll add that extra oomph that makes the character super appealing!
Number 10: Relationships Are a Two-Way Street
A healthy relationship is based on equality. That means both parties put in an equal amount of effort and commitment into the relationship. That doesn't mean both parties are identical. Again, we're looking for compliments, not mirror images of one another. But it does mean the characters should be equally there for one another.
Take for example the hero moment. If my love interest saves the main character's life, I like to make sure the main character returns the favor in some way, shape, or form. The idea is to make the relationship seem mutually beneficial. You don't want one character dragging the other throughout the entirety of the novel. Make sure both people are putting equal amounts of love and care into the relationship. It'll make the story a lot more enjoyable, plus the couple will be very easy to root for!
Make sure both people are putting equal amounts of love and care into the relationship. It'll make the story a lot more enjoyable, plus the couple will be very easy to root for!
So that's all I've got for you today!
I hope these tips start you out on the right track for writing your main character’s love interest(s). Remember, readers love it when a relationship is healthy and equal, so be sure to take these points into account when you start cooking up your story. Now go ahead! Make your readers get all starry-eyed and warm and fuzzy inside.
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