Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? After all, who wants romance and tension at the same time? You do. I do. And readers do, too.
Romance draws your male and female protagonists together with promises of a happy ending inherent. Tension is what keeps them apart throughout the story, raises questions about whether they should be together, causes them to assess their goals and priorities, offers an opportunity for the antagonist to have a say in the matter, and keeps the story moving forward.
Face it, if boy meets girl, boy gets girl in the first chapter, the romance is pretty much tied in a knot for the rest of the story.
So how do we create the tension in a romance without having the characters constantly fighting, breaking up, and making up? One or two rounds of that in a story is more than enough.
Each character needs to have a backstory. Not about where he went to college or what kind of car she drives. This romantic backstory should include past relationships, the lie the character believes about themselves, their dreams or goals regarding their romantic future, and the obstacles that keeps them from achieving their romantic goal.
For example, Bob had a girlfriend in college who dumped him for a rich frat guy. The lie he believes is that no girl could possibly love him for himself; he needs to make lots of money and be successful. The problem is that the more he works and the more stuff he acquires, the less time he has for a girlfriend.
Sue longs to have the marriage her parents had. They fell in love in sixth grade and were together ever since. But, the guy she fell in love with in high school ended up getting her pregnant and then leaving her before the baby was born. The lie she believes is that there are no happily-ever-afters, and no man is going to want her. She’s damaged goods. So she holds all men at arm’s length.
In your story, you could have Bob meet Sue at work. He’s attracted to her but manages to work through every date he makes with her, which confirms her belief that no man should be depended on. Sue doesn’t tell Bob about her daughter, so she has to work hard to keep that secret, and when Bob finds out, he believes she’s just like every other woman—out to take what she can get. After all, she probably tried to trick some poor guy into marrying her by getting pregnant.
Bob’s beliefs and Sue’s are at odds with each other. If they both stick to their guns, they won’t get together.
Work them through their problems, get them to change their belief system, and get them together by the end of the book, or at least to a point where the reader understands there’s a very good chance they will get together.
Donna writes historical suspense from Denver Colorado. Sometimes she writes contemporary suspense using her pen name, Leeann Betts. You can subscribe to their blogs at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com and www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com. She and Leeann are active on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Check out their websites at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com and www.LeeannBetts.com .