Allow me to romance you while you question your sanity.

28 Jun

by Biljana Likic


Ah, l’amour!

Love, in any form, is pretty sweet. It’s why you constantly see me writing about it. I’m a hopeless romantic. And while I can’t consider myself an expert on romance, I do know a thing or two about it. My favourite part is the tension.

The thing that makes something exciting is the lead-up. You can talk all you want about how you hate waiting, but half of what’s making your stomach flip is anticipation of what’s to come. It’s like when you hear a crush will be at the same party as you. Your mind goes into overdrive. Will they see you? Will they talk to you? Will they, dare you think it, accidentally graze your arm as they reach for the punch they’re getting for your rival? Will you finally be poisoning it tonight?

The wonderful thing about that last question is that it’s only a half-joke.

In writing, it’s no different. If you want the reader to be rooting for two people to get together, make them feel like they’re part of the romance. Make their stomach flip when it looks like the boy will finally notice the girl. I’m not talking about endless woe-is-me from the protagonist, or secret, long-suffering proclamations. I’m talking about subtle things. Things that really show how every moment the girl spends in the boy’s company electrifies her.

What makes it doubly fun, is having her not know if the boy is doing it consciously or not.

She walks into the room with a glass of wine. Her eyes are drawn to him like magnets and she stares at his face. He’s sitting by the cake, already having eaten his dinner. She decides dinner isn’t important anyway and makes a beeline for the three-tiered confection, pretending to be considering the cake whenever she thought he looked over.

She’s there before she wants to be. Her sudden proximity to him is making her aware of every insecurity, from the slight tummy she could never lose to the fact that she isn’t very good at walking in heels. She watches him from the corner of her eye and jumps when he turns to look at her. She makes brief eye contact before taking a drink of wine to distract herself.

“Would you like some cake?”

She almost chokes on her drink. She clears her throat.

“Excuse me?”

“You seem to really want some cake,” he says.

A rush of embarrassment pours through her as she realizes she just spent the last few minutes seemingly entranced by white frosting and pink sugar bows.

She clears her throat again. “Is it any good?” she asks.

He doesn’t answer but stands, taking a natural step towards her, and picks up a cake knife. He’s unbearably close. He cuts a piece and hands it to her on a plate. She has to be careful how she raises her hand to accept it so that she doesn’t accidentally touch him. He’s watching her as she takes it, and she feels his fingers brush hers.

“Thanks,” she says quietly, not looking at him.

“You’re welcome.”

She sits down stiffly. A moment later, he retakes his own seat beside her, and as he pulls in his chair his thigh comes into contact with hers. Her grip tightens on her spoon as he starts to flirt with the girl on the other side of him, and it’s a good ten seconds before he moves his leg.

She sets down her plate, takes up the wine glass, and drains it.

Not once does it talk about how she’s infatuated, and nowhere does it outright say that she’s attracted to him. This is an example of showing instead of telling. Through her reactions, you can see that she’s attracted to him; it never has to be said. And it’s done with the little things, the tiny details: tensing up when he looks at her; staring too long at the cake out of nervousness; skipping dinner altogether for dessert she doesn’t want.

Scenes like these are what makes you want to scream. They make you want to either yell at the girl to grow a spine, or punch the guy in the face.

But, most importantly, when they finally get together, the event makes you squeal with delight.

What I love most about this stuff however is that they can lead to a happy, squee-inducing ending, or they can be the first sign of doom. As it stands right now, that scene can go in two directions: one is amusing, possibly frustrating, but ultimately happy; the other is degrading, miserable, and ultimately resentful. You don’t have to say right away right kind of relationship these two people will have. All you have to do is convey the immediate events. And though I would love for every scene like the one above to end in romance, it can always turn sour.

In the end, when it’s all said and done, the moment you leave the territory of maybe and cross into yes or no, the tension dulls considerably, and the conflict just isn’t as fun anymore. It is, after all, anticipation of the answer that keeps you at the edge of your seat.

And when it comes to romance, there’s nothing more exciting than maybe.


Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She’s going into her second year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog and follow her on Twitter.


11 Responses to “Allow me to romance you while you question your sanity.”

  1. Caitlin June 28, 2011 at 11:41 AM #

    Maybe is a killer. 😉 Excellent example there!

    Also, I must say, that is the greatest blogpost title ever.

    • Biljana June 28, 2011 at 12:57 PM #

      Thanks, I was killing myself over the title haha.

  2. Ellen June 28, 2011 at 11:58 AM #

    I agree with this for the most part. Sexual tension is always fun to write–I’ve done whole books based around that theme alone. But I also love putting a couple together before they’re ready for it, or without them knowing each other as well as they could and watching them flounder to either make things work or break it off. Maybe it’s me; I love romance from any angle. 🙂

    • Biljana June 28, 2011 at 12:59 PM #

      Agreed!! Just having two people in a room being awkward is so much fun. It’s a great way for the overheard “she’s dumb I’d never date her” or “he’s a jackass, screw that” that nobody ever really means :D.

  3. Savannah J. Foley June 28, 2011 at 2:18 PM #

    Whooo, excellent show don’t tell example! I was cringing!

    • Biljana June 28, 2011 at 5:35 PM #

      Haha thanks :). That was the goal!

  4. Sammy June 28, 2011 at 2:47 PM #

    I’ll have you know I baked today because of you.

    • Biljana June 28, 2011 at 5:36 PM #

      I’ll have you know I admire that and expect a care package full of garlic bread.

  5. Mac_V June 28, 2011 at 11:34 PM #

    This is SO true. It does drive us crazy but it really is the BEST part!

    I recently watched 27 Dresses which shows the guy’s point of view, if even for a little bit, and I think that was one of my favorite parts! James Marsden is fascinated by Katherine Heigl. He catches a glimpse of her changing in the cab and just by the look on his face of pure shock, you know he’s going to follow this girl around. I think that is one of my favorite parts in stories, too. Even if it’s just a single point of view, watching both characters become attracted to each other is what makes it worthwhile.

    Like Anna and the French Kiss. (SLIGHT SPOILER IF YOU HAVEN’T READ AATFK) Etienne is totally throwing himself in Anna’s direction, but she cannot and will not believe he actually likes her because he’s St. Freaking Clare! But at the end he throws it all back at her– everything he did for her attention, and you see that Anna hasn’t been crazy the whole time!

    GREAT point. It’s definitely something I need to work on. Usually I’ll write the “love” scene when I’m eager to and then I’ll go back to it whenever I feel like the tension is killing me! 😛


    • Biljana June 30, 2011 at 2:16 PM #

      I LOVE those moments! Where you just see the realization of a guy or girl that the person they’re looking at is incredible! It’s so freaking real and vulnerable…sigh :)… Thanks for the comment, Mer!


  1. Show versus Tell: Macro-, Micro-, and When to Use It « Let The Words Flow - June 29, 2011

    […] while back, we did a QOTW on this topic, and yesterday, Billy did a great post discussing this from a romance standpoint.  That said, I wanted to expand on it just a […]

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