Romantic Novelists' Association

Ann Evans: Hints & Tips For New Writers #11

27 April 2021

Building relationships between your characters is a vital part of writing romance – or any genre of fiction in fact. How two people relate to one another really matters, and it will be what keeps readers reading.

 You only have to watch dramas on television to realise that people are hooked by characters’ behaviour, whether they are falling in love, killing one another – or any shade of emotion in between. That spark between two characters is what keeps people tuning into their favourite drama – or reading books by their favourite authors.

If you can’t find a way of creating an atmosphere and emotion between the two key characters involved in your story, then you’re not going to convince anyone that they are falling in love; or that they despise one another. You may tell the reader that’s how they are feeling. In fact, you can say it over and over again, but unless you show it, and prove it, you will never fool the reader into believing in the story.

So how do you ignite that spark, make it flare and continue to smoulder and burn?

I tend to think that firstly you need to create two believable characters. Make them fully rounded individuals with strong opinions and beliefs. Let them have their own goals in life and their own ambitions.

I’m not saying that the character has to be a go-getter, or a powerful businessman or woman. An elderly granny could be just as determined – for example, not to have her routine messed about with. It’s cocoa at 9pm, lights out by ten. So, when granddad takes up ballroom dancing, sparks are sure to fly.

So, let your characters have goals in their lives. And what they are fighting for really does need to matter. As you know, conflict is vital to any story. Without conflict you don’t have a story. So why not help your story along by giving your two main characters traits that are likely to clash at some point; or the opposite, are likely to bind them together eventually.

For example, two people who might clash could be:

Those who always think they are right.

Those who can never say sorry.

Those who always like to have the last word.

Those who are very argumentative.

Two stubborn people.


And for those who might bond together, could:

Both have similar deep-rooted dreams.

Have similar interests.

Have shared similar experiences.

Or they are so opposite that eventually they attract (but it’s up to the writer to make that work!)

In fact, everything depends on the writer getting it right.


You would think that soaps like Eastenders and Coronation Street would get it right,

but time after time you see married partners who were so lovey-dovey the week

before, now battling it out with real venom and hatred. Personally, I think that is

totally unbelievable, because two people who love each other and then have an

almighty fall out perhaps because of betrayal, will also be terribly hurt, and that hurt

and vulnerability should come across as they shout at each other. Very often, TV

dramas make it too black and white.


As writers, it’s actually a little easier for us to get across emotional scenes in stories

rather than on screen because we can say what’s going on in the character’s mind.

And that is where the writer can win the reader over – by letting them in on how the

character is really feeling. But remember don’t tell the reader their heart is breaking,

show it in physical ways by their actions, words and thoughts.


You might want to have your characters behaving in a contradictory way. They want

to hide their true feelings, so they put on an outward show. But remember to reveal

their most intimate thoughts and feelings to the reader if you want to gain their



To make that relationship grow – or disintegrate, you need to have your characters

together in scenes. And when they can’t be together, then make sure their thoughts are

constantly on that other person.


If they are apart and the story must continue with action that doesn’t involve the other

person, then drop in little reminders which bring that other person to mind. For

example if your main character is a soldier, away at war. Let the reader be reminded

perhaps by letters; or maybe she’s packed something poignant away in his kit bag; or

let her be his last thought as the bullets fly.


Let your characters talk to one another, and when they talk, let the words be

meaningful. You only have a certain number of words to get across the fact that they

love/hate each other, so make sure this comes across in their dialogue. Don’t waste a

good opportunity to get a meaningful message across.


Use the senses as you write. Let the reader live every moment through that key

character’s head and heart. Don’t tell when you can show.


Body language is another useful tool for you to show how characters are feeling. They

say actions speak louder than words, so be sure your narrative as you describe what

your characters are doing, is there for good reason.


For example: What do these gestures say to you?


Top Tips on Building Relationships


Happy writing and stay safe everyone.



Ann Evans writes romance under the name of Ann Carroll, she also writes thrillers, books for children, YA and reluctant readers and has around 40 books to her name. She is also a freelance feature writer for various magazines.






Read more writing tips in Ann’s book, Become a Writer – A step by Step Guide. Available as a paperback and as an ebook.