Writers in the Storm

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April 16, 2012

13 Ways To Show (Rather than Tell) in Your Love Story

by Charlotte Carter

When romance writers create a Happily-Ever-After tale, there has to be more to the relationship than simply LUST between the hero and heroine. As many a woman has discovered in real life, lust doesn’t last forever. (Shh, don’t tell my husband!)

Whether you are writing an Erotic Romance, an Inspirational Romance or anything in between, you need to deepen that relationship to make the ‘forever’ believable.

Here are some of the elements you can show to convince your readers.

  1. The hero is great with kids; we’d all want him to be the father of our children.
  2. If there are simply no children around, you can fake the same message by having the hero be kind to dogs, cats or assorted other animals, particularly if they’re injured.
  3. The hero protects/defends heroine from her enemies.
  4. The hero’s actions are mentally heroic; he is a truth teller and/or has integrity in spite of possible negative repercussions to his own life.
  5. The hero has the ability to have fun, or enhances the heroine’s sense of fun.
  6. The heroine empathizes with the hero’s past, his problems, or his possible future; she senses his emotional needs and wants to fill them.
  7. The hero and heroine share either common interests or values, or both, often in spite of apparent or superficial differences.
  8. The hero intuitively understands and meets the heroine’s needs, both emotionally and in a sexual way (at the sensual level appropriate for your book). (Remember, we’re talking fantasy here.)
  9. The hero talks to the heroine, revealing more of himself than he ever has before. That makes him vulnerable.
  10. The hero admires/respects what the heroine does/is, and lets her know it, either directly or through his actions.
  11. The heroine learns from others that the hero is a worthy person.
  12. In terms of personality or emotional strength (not in a materialistic way), the hero/heroine provides what is lacking in the other.
  13. The hero puts the heroine first and is willing to sacrifice something important for her – and she will sacrifice for him.

While all of these elements lend themselves to one or more scenes, they don’t have to all be in every story. Nor can you simply throw one or two in just for the fun of it.

Every element in your story must be integrated and evolve from the characters and plot.

Your readers want to believe this relationship you’ve created will last forever. Give them good reasons to keep the faith–and your book.

Did I leave any tried and true methods off the list? What is your favorite way to employ "Show Don't Tell" in your writing?

Happy writing,

Books that leave you smiling

Big Sky Family, Love Inspired, 10/19/2011
Montana Love Letter, Love Inspired, 10/2012 2011
Book Buyers Best Finalist

0 comments on “13 Ways To Show (Rather than Tell) in Your Love Story”

  1. #1 and #2 are usually cliche in my book...but how would you say both of them items can be treated originally, as opposed to being just "likes children/animals=good"?

    1. That's a really interesting question. In my wip (tentatively titled Montana Homecoming, probably a 2012 release from Love Inspired) involves a hero with PTSD who has become a drifter. In his drifting, he 'adopted' a stray dog that is now obviously devoted to the hero. So that's a little different for the 'loves animals' bit. Of course, the single mom heroine has a 9-yo son who quickly attaches to the hero and the hero responds. Hero takes the boy fishing on a father-son event even tho hero has never fished previously.
      Hope that helps? Char......

  2. God, how i wish i had this list when I was writing my book 1. This a thriller but there is a romance sub-plot. (It's going through "final" edits now - do I have to think about this and go write in some more back story? Aaaaggghhhrrr. I mention this post on my blog. Thank you Charlotte

  3. Glad to meet you, Charlotte. What I believe is the basis for what you are saying here (and very well BTW) ... is that our characters need to be a bit more than one dimensional. Hardened detectives with a soft underbelly, small vulnerable women who can kick a$$ ... how to show these elements is how we do our characterizations. They are not a list of demographics; dark hair, blue eyes; but more the things that help them lift off the page and come to life for the reader. Great post and thanks again for being here at WITS 🙂

    1. Nicely said. I think we've all read novels when we wondered why on earth the heroine would fall in love with that jerk! Readers are much happier if they're convinced they'd fall in love with the hero too.

  4. I don't write romances however I do follow this blog because of all the great advice, and the way it crosses genres so often. I have read romances in my time, and I enjoy a romantic element to stories. I'd say that it's important to see that the hero (& heroine) aren't superficial as so many people are these days. So it'd be a matter of showing them doing something like say, reading, or being able to have an intelligent opinion about something, or communing with nature somehow (through tending trees, or a farm or whatever)....
    Nice list of tips Char!
    Yvette Carol

    1. Thanks, Yvette. Yes, it is important to flesh out our hero/heroine as real people. Of course, in the romance genre it's hard to sell a wild-eyed conservationist. Writing for the market is definitely PC - particularly with any of the Harlequin lines. Which I don't think takes away from the basic story of h/h dealing with their internal conflicts and reaching their HEA. Enjoy! Char......

  5. Char, I think just about ever story has an element of love and romance in it - I enjoy your posts so much because they make me walk away thinking about my stories. 🙂

    Thanks for posting with us!

  6. Hi, Charlotte! I do write romances, so HEA is a must for every story. I write novel length historicals and very short contemporaries for magazines. I use psychological profiles when I create my characters and, despite their differences, they always are able to merge together to fight for a common goal. But a lot of little things happen in between to pull them beyond attraction to true love.

    Great post!

  7. Great post and awesome advice, Char.

    Many of those elements work in other types of fiction too. For example, the hero of my Shinobi mystery series is a ninja - a trained assassin, which makes him an atypical protagonist. One of the reasons he has a cat (technically a kitten) is that it softens some edges to know this hardened killer still has a soft spot for furry, helpless animals. Unfortunately for Hiro, the cat turns out to be more than he bargained for - but that's another story altogether.

    James Rollins uses that technique too - as do many successful authors in various genres.

    Point being - this is excellent advice for romance, but it also transcends genre boundaries and is great character-development advice for all types of fiction. Great post!

    1. You're right, Susan. Heroes......and heroines.....need to project something about them that can make them loveable even if they're assassins. Gulp!

  8. Great list, Char! I can tick off some things on the list for my hero. Now I have to work on the heroine!

    1. Yeah, Barb, the heroine kind of needs the same aura of being a worthwhile person, someone the hero could love. Tough, strong and loveable. That works for me.

  9. I think another great "show" is the couple's tolerance for things that normally bother them, but they're accepting of the other's bad habit, annoying best friend, mean dog, *fill in the blank*. If you can put up with what you hate because you care about the person you're doing it for, that says a lot about your relationship.

    It's the little things that reveal the most, IMO. Like he buys her a new pair of shoes after his dog chews hers to ribbons. Or she's sick and can't go to the store but really needs a box of tampons, so he goes out and buys them for her. Or she's pregnant and he paints her toe nails because she can't see her feet. Those are all hallmarks of affection and can be very touching if handled the right way. 🙂

  10. I write for a living about people. However this is for the court for sw assessments. When i write for creative expression i found it difficult not to 'tell the tale'. I begining to learn to show and dump objective anslysis.
    I found your tips useful in my aim

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