We are continuing our February romance articles with a guest article from the lovely, C.A. Farran. She is fresh off of two releases. In January, she released her debut novel Songs of the Wicked, and just a few days ago we released the Forbidden Delights dark fantasy anthology.
C.A. Farran writes such beautifully vivid and intriguing prose. It has been an honor to work with her and the other talented authors in the Forbidden Delights anthology.
One thing we two authors have in common is our love for ooey-gooey slow-burn romances! This article pairs nicely with last week’s tips to create a swoon-worthy love interest and plays with several of my favorite romance tropes.
Writing A Slow Burn Romance
By C. A. Farran
I asked a few authors in the community for their thoughts: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a satisfying slow burn?
- “Sexual tension. The almost kiss but not. The interrupted sex scene. Fighting attraction.”
- “When I think of a slow burn, I think of smoldering embers and darkened corners. Lingering glances from across a room and tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.”
- “Something very real needs to be keeping them apart — something seemingly insurmountable and something that strikes right at the heart of the MC’s character arc.”
These answers pretty much sum up my thoughts on crafting an effective slow burn. But let’s take a closer look.
A slow-burn romance is characterized by a slow, well-developed pairing. It can be incorporated into a lot of different tropes, apart from insta-love. A slow burn is marked by prolonged tension, and then finally, finally, a culmination that readers will find satisfying and earned. We achieve this with the right amount of tension.
Tension arises when conflict prevents characters from getting what they want. In a slow burn, the ultimate goal is for readers to root for these characters to find each other and come together.
The marks of a compelling slow burn romance include:
All that glorious tension. The air between them is thick and ripe with possibilities. A breathless moment pulled taut between two characters. A heart in your throat, desperately waiting for that moment of triumph sort of feeling. Readers will want to feel that tension between them. Everything unsaid, every touch resisted. Unfulfilled desire is the cornerstone of gripping tension.
Something must keep them apart, whether it’s circumstance, their own weaknesses, or whatever perspective they need to overcome to be together. We need a compelling reason why they can’t be together or haven’t gotten together, otherwise, all that incredible tension will translate into frustration for the reader.
Another detail that’s important to note is how aware of each other’s inner conflict they are. It can help shape the arc of their slow burn to ask yourself if they are oblivious or aware, and how it affects the way they relate to each other.
The individual journey and transformation
The relationship will follow its arc and slow trajectory — that’s to be expected. But both characters should undergo their own arc as the two find their way to each other. As the relationship develops and transitions into a romantic pairing, so does each individual as they grow toward each other and toward that end goal.
How do they overcome their inner conflict? What obstacles or preconceived notions must they transcend to complete the arc? All of this works in tandem to create character growth that fuels the momentum of their journey.
Create chemistry by striking the balance between traits that complement each other and traits that conflict with each other. Conflict creates tension, that million-dollar word in a slow burn. These are two individual characters; they can’t share a brain. What is their common ground? What personality traits prove their compatibility? Identify this, and then balance it with their conflicting ideals.
Reward the reader
You’ve just put your reader through however many chapters, (or even books if the entire series follows the arc) of waiting to see these characters come together. Reward your reader with a culmination worth their patience. Depending on the genre, age category, and story type, calibrate accordingly. But don’t make your readers suffer for a glossed-over moment. You’ve built this incredible tension and climbed to this pivotal climax. Make it count!
To sum everything up
Tension, withholding gratification, inner conflict and growth, and a satisfying reward all form an effective slow burn.
Now go and make your readers weep over their love of your pairing!
More about C.A. Farran
C.A. Farran is an emerging author of dark fantasy. She’s addicted to video games, Kit Kats, and energy drinks. Farran grew up by the sea on a steady intake of fairytales, renaissance fairs, and mythology. She’s always felt a profound connection to horror and dark fantasy, spending her childhood searching the woods for monsters and magic.
Now, she spends her days photographing nature in Maine with her two cats; Commander and Demon, her husband, and their wildling.