Valentine’s Day Special: Six Steps to a Sizzling Subplot

WritersdontcryRomance1Storm the castle, defeat the dragon, rescue the princess, land a proper smooch and—BAM—instant romance and happy endings for everybody! Right? Call me jaded, but I think that story is missing a little something. Sure, the dragon fight might be interesting, and of course I’m appreciative the lady wasn’t eaten by a dragon, but is that really the right way for a hero of that proportion to find a soul mate? And does that mean that once you get married, your heroic deeds are at an end? I mean, either you’re going to have one seriously disappointed second princess, or else your first princess is going to have one helluva surprise! And then, your hero will be engaged in a fight of an entirely different nature—and far less heroic.

But the problem here isn’t that a damsel is being rescued and that they fall in love—the problem is that, for all intents and purposes, there is no damsel. There’s only a golden, damsel-shaped statue in a lockbox of a castle surrounded by the cutting edge security of the day—I mean, it doesn’t get much hotter than dragons, now does it?

And while the damsel-shaped statue may be sparkly, don’t be fooled: it won’t keep you warm at night! (Also, it’s not fooling anyone—seriously.) Take it from me, if you can do a search-and-replace for a love interest with an inanimate object, and the story remains essentially the same, then it’s not love--it’s property. And dating your legos? Totally unsexy.

So, how do you keep your romance riveting and your damsels animate? Here are a few tips, just in time for Valentine’s Day, to help you heat things up for your characters.

1. Play Hard to Get. Falling in love is an exhilarating affair shot through with enough adrenaline to hopefully help you survive the crazy-stupid decisions you’ll make. Add to that the fear-based adrenaline of the dangerous and the forbidden, and you have one hell of an electric romance. So, while most of us don’t pray every night that someday we’ll be lucky enough to be a part of a treacherous love triangle, that's precisely what makes these situations so interesting for a novel. So have an angel fall for a devil, have a woman who craves a rough touch fall for a chaste man, or even turn the whole notion on its head and have a society where love is considered a dangerous disease—and have your character fall for someone. Not only will that keep things interesting, every sacrifice made in the name of love will make the love ring truer.

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