Do you want to create a charismatic, dynamic, love interest for your romance novel?
Then read on!
If you find yourself at a loss for how to create your next love interest, here's my advice: Make them charismatic, dynamic, realistic, and wounded.
Love interests need charisma in order to attract and inspire devotion in your main character.
To write a charismatic character, you need to show them:
Listening A charismatic love interest will give your main character their undivided attention and ask questions. If their head's in their mobile phone all the time, how will they connect with your main character? Plus, the reader will become attached to the love interest, seeing them as a positive, likeable character. And we want our reader to be attached to the love interest as much as the main character.
Speaking Sounds obvious, right? But you need to take your time and think about everything your love interest says. Does everything they say signal interest in your main character, illuminate some aspect of their backstory, or hint at / expose their emotional wounds? Nope? Take your time and get it right.
Smiling Ah, the Duchenne smile! That's the smile that reaches your eyes (and gives you crow's feet!). It's authentic. They don't have to be smiling all the time, but it's a powerful, attractive thing. If your love interest is smiling from within, they will attract your main character and your reader.
Standing Tall Just like real life—wouldn't it be lovely if real life was more like a romance novel?—good posture makes you appear confident, and confidence is attractive.
Spreading the Joy Joy isn't just for Christmas. Making your main character feel important, even when they've messed up, builds your main character's confidence (and I love a main character who doesn't feel confident). Building confidence in others is charismatic.
Making Eye Contact It's mostly/always about the eye contact. Eye contact is suuuper-important. Keeping the love interest's focus on your main character will make them feel like the only person in the room. And who doesn't want that feeling from someone they fancy the pants off, right?
But what about one of those distant/brooding/arrogant types?
Even the distant/brooding/arrogant types can avoid reading like a complete monster if they have charisma. But how can you show that?
Show us how they behave with other characters. If your reader sees them interacting with other characters positively, it'll spike their interest and they'll stick around to find out why they're being distant/brooding/arrogant when they're around your main character. Give them a lovely bestie. I mean, if their bestie is lovely, why else would they hang around the distant/brooding/arrogant type? The bestie knows that deep down the distant/brooding/arrogant type must have a heart of gold.
Some people... just have it. Everyone's drawn to them as though they're moths to a flame. Or nails to a magnet. Or kids to cake. Or [insert your own comparison here—I'm all out.].
Dynamic people have a lot going on. Like their charismatic cousins, dynamic people make eye contact and listen well, but they also have an outgoing personality, dress well, tell marvellous stories, and stay humble. Simply put—they have good energy.
They're curious, passionate, open, optimistic, spontaneous, and live in the moment.
(And, yes, your distant/brooding/arrogant love interest can have these qualities, especially when they let their guard down.)
Your love interest needs to be realistic.
One exercise in my Professional Writing MA required me to go out into the world and listen in on other people's conversations.
Go out and do that.
Pay particular attention to the sex and gender of your intended love interest. (Don't cheat this one—watching fictional versions of those people on TV/movies/YouTube won't cut it.) How do they walk? What expressions do they make? How do they sit? And how do the people you're researching compare to both others and each other? What differences do you see between generations? And how do they behave in different places?
I'm not talking about major injuries here, or even a skinned knee, but I am talking about emotional wounds.
Just like you, your love interest will have experiences in their lives that dictate what we believe, love, and avoid. Some of those experiences will have been bad and others good, but it's the bad ones that transform us. And that transformation gives us fears, flaws, creates the emotional shields we put up, and affects the choices we make.
You, as a writer, must wound your significant characters, especially your main character and love interest, in a way that informs how your story is going to play out.
Let's use Bridgerton as an example.
*** SPOILERS BEGIN ***
Newlyweds Duke and Duchess of Hastings fall out over the Duke's refusal to have children because of a vow the Duke made to his dying, estranged father.
(They've been having sex—lots of sex—but the Duke always pulls out. The Duchess, ignorant of the Duke's vow AND how babies are made, doesn't put two and two together until her maid fills her in (so to speak)).
Once the Duchess gets clued up on the Duke's vow, none of her attempts, including 'forcing' him to come inside her, result in a baby.
The fallout of that attempt ruins their relationship, and the Duke makes it very clear their marriage might continue, but their relationship will not.
Before the date of their separation, the Duke agrees to rock up to the Duchess's family home where he's a hit with the Duchess's young siblings. Later, the Duke's godmother dresses him down for his prideful ways, while the Duchess convinces him of her unconditional love during the obligatory, romantic rainstorm.
The Duke? It's change of heart time!
With the relationship saved, they get it on. The Duke doesn't pull out, and the Duchess finally gets the child she's yearned for.
*** SPOLIERS END ***
Creating a love interest for your romance novel is not as easy as it seems. You need to go the extra mile and create a character readers can relate to and want to get to know better.
So, what's next? Start by thinking of all the qualities your main character's ideal partner would have. Then, make them human—fallible and imperfect—just like everyone else.
In short, draw from reality. Give your love interest depth, personality and relatability. This will make the reader connect with them on a more personal level.
Still need help? Book a free, 30-minute chat about how I could help you.