Let's take a very basic conversation surrounding the card game Go Fish and add a little spark.
The following characters are completely made up for this exercise. So I'm not going to get in depth on background etc, because it doesn't exist. But for the sake of basics, they are sixteen and playing Go Fish in a rec room of sorts.
Kara: "You gotta an Ace?"
Gauge: "Nope. Fives?"
Kara: Hands over card.
Gauge: Laughs maniacally.
Kara: "You're cheating."
Gauge: "You're cute."
The dialogue by itself isn't anything to write home about. There isn't anything spectacular about the scene. So, how do we take an everyday scene and make it romantic?
We add body language. Beats. Rhythm. Voice. Tension.Because I like writing first person POV, I'm going to use the dialogue above and attack it from Kara's POV.
I pretend to consider the cards in my hand like this game of Go Fish is important. Like I really care about winning. Um, hello? Gauge Myers is sitting across from me. My childhood, never got over him, crush. Breathe normal. Don't blush. I worry my lip. "You gotta an Ace?"
He grins and shakes his head no. "Go fish."
My bangs brush across my forehead as I lean down to grab yet another card from the stack. I lean back into the bean bag and try to find a natural looking position that is also flattering.
He leans in toward me. "You gotta five?"
"Ugh." I snatch the five from my mountain of cards and toss it over.
He throws his match down and I swear his eyes sparkle. The dimple in his chin shows as he makes a come-on motion with his fingers. "Hand over your seven."
Gauge throws back his head and laughs so hard his face is red. He wipes tears from the corners of his eyes.
Incredulous, I laugh and whack at his leg. "Cheater."
Then I realize I touched him. I pull back. Heat flushes across my face. It starts with my cheeks and spreads to my ears. I duck my head, hoping my bangs will hide my blush.
He reaches over and brushes them out of my face.
Every inch of skin he touched is warm and I try to focus as I hold my breath.
He tilts his head and says, "You're cute when you're nervous."
This new and improved scene shows how you can take something very basic and make it come alive with details, pacing, and beats. Sometimes it's more about the beats surrounding dialogue and what you don't say that creates tension.
Beats - The action connected before or after dialogue.
If I had a bunch of exposition before, "What?," the natural pacing of the reaction/scene would be off.
Body language - thinks about what people do when they're nervous, flirting, having fun etc. People naturally lean into conversations/people they are attracted to etc.The fact that she holds her breath adds tension. It ups the stakes. We can feel her nervousness.
Voice - what makes this writing and these characters yours
Rhythm - is showed through syntax, grammar, and diction. It is what creates the flow of the scene. In a fast paced scene, Jane Austen length sentences don't normally match the pace. There are of course exceptions to this, but in general, quicker pacing can sometimes demand pithy sentences. But variety is also necessary...
Tension - is critical to scenes. It can be emotional, physical, unspoken, or verbal etc. At the end of the day, it needs to exist.
The use of little details like the dimple in his chin helps the reader picture him naturally in the scene without a laundry list of description that takes us out of the moment.
When writing a romantic scene, it helps to consider the following questions.
· Is there a back and forth?
· Where is the tension?
· What's unspoken?
· How does this add to the plot?
· How does this advance/impede their relationship?
· Is this necessary?
· What does this reveal about my characters?
· Does the tension build?
It's fun to play around with making the mundane romantic. If you were to take this scene, how would you make it your own? What would you do to make Go Fish romantic?
What are your fave tips for writing believable/fun romance scenes?