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How to Write a Complex Love Interest

It can be tough to make sure all the facets of a love interest come alive, especially if none of the story is told through their point of view. While, especially in romance, we want to create someone who's beautiful inside and out for our main character to love, we also want to make sure they come across just as three-dimensional and without the pitfall of seeming to exist solely for that character.


Follow me, gremlins, as we chat some ideas for how to do that!



How to not objectify book's love interest Coffee, Book, and Candle


WHAT ELSE IS THERE?


Writing Love Interests Without Objectifying Example

The animated movie The Swan Princess may be slightly obscure (is it? I'm never sure) and geared toward children, but it teaches a fantastic lesson: dig beneath the surface.


Plot overview: Princess Odette is betrothed to Prince Derek. The two meet as children, but neither seem interested in the other. Derek makes it clear he does not find her attractive, which becomes the basis for his refusal to marry her. Until...bam! She grows into a hot blonde with curves like damn. Now she’s got his attention. He tells her she’s beautiful and that he will marry her. She puts a screeching halt to his hasty acceptance by replying, “Thank you...but what else is there? Is beauty all that matters to you?”


This, my writerly friends, should be the question we apply to all of our love interests. It's always fun describing that initial attraction, the wow moment when the two characters lock eyes and there are instant butterflies, but we also want to make it gradually clear that beauty's not the only thing they've got going for them.


Whether you're the type of writer to do this before you get started or you like to discover your characters along the way, don't be afraid to explore this character's backstory and interests to the same extent as your main character.


What was this person's life like before this story? How has that influenced their beliefs and behavior? What are their goals, skills, fears, faults? Do they have any quirks or specific mannerisms?


The physical attraction might spark interest, but it'll always be the personality that solidifies and keeps it.


WHY ARE THEY ATTRACTED?


We become attracted to people for a number of reasons. Sure, the first thing we notice is often appearance. We might take in information about a person based on their clothing, how they carry themselves, their accent. Like anyone, your character may have certain appearances they're personally attracted to, and there's no shame in mentioning how unbelievably sexy they find the love interest.


Now that we've got initial attraction out of the way, what about the love interest's personality captivates the main character? Are they kind? What does the MC witness that proves this? Does your character admire the love interest's humor, life philosophies, or spontaneity?


To add layers to that, what makes your characters compatible for one another? Common ground is a good starting point. Maybe they share a hobby, a world view, or they both like cats. Are they complete opposites who balance one another out? Or are they perhaps very alike and find harmony in a kindred soul?


So long as we know each genuinely enjoys the other’s presence, that they bring each other happiness and growth, readers will root for the relationship.


GET (SPECIFICALLY) DESCRIPTIVE


There's a neat trick to making someone sound oh-so-gorgeous without repeatedly hinting at their nice ass, detailing every rippling muscle or curve, or mentioning their breasts nonstop (you know the ones). Again, there's nothing wrong with adding these details for sexual tension! But we want to make sure the love interest is a complex person and doesn't come across as a sexy reward for the main character.


We do this by describing the physical characteristics that don't belong to just any hot stranger; tell readers more about the aspects that make the love interest unique.


Does the love interest have a smile that makes your main character melt? Maybe it’s a little crooked, or hesitant, or a full-blown goofy grin. Whatever it is, it lights up the main character’s day because it belongs to the one they love.


Maybe the love interest has dimples the main character thinks are adorable, freckles in just the right place, or an interesting birth mark. Maybe it's their voice and laugh. Explore traits that don't fall under narrow beauty standards and/or less-noticeable mannerisms that are specific to that character.


People in love will notice more and more details about their partner, from their unique expressions, to the ways they move, to how cute they look in their best and messiest versions. All of these will make the love interest unbelievably attractive and realistic.


IMPERFECT PERFECTIONS


We've got attraction (both physical and personality), some common ground (or empathy for differences) and compatibility, and we've got unique traits that stand out to your main character. Now it's time to show the love interest's faults and imperfections, which may or may not cause tension in the romance (your call).


Readers are all over a love interest the MC finds attractive in every way (that's what we all want for ourselves, after all), but they won't be perfect. They will make mistakes. They will say the wrong thing. They can have a vise, limitations, weaknesses, or a growth arc they need to complete.


Believe it or not, these imperfections will make the love interest more appealing. We feel closer to people after we've seen them mess up, because it means they’re human like us. This is also an excellent opportunity to test the characters' relationship and how they handle differences, which will further invest the reader in the love interest as a person.


Showing your love interest in their element can entice the main character, but it’s the mess-ups and vulnerable moments that will ultimately make them decide, “This is the one for me.” If all the curtains have been drawn aside and your character still loves this person, then it’s a relationship built to last.




Who are your favorite love interests? What quirks did they have that made them irresistible? Drop a comment below!

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Unknown member
Feb 01, 2023

This helped me with a lesson I needed to plan on love interests for my club. Thank you for the insight!

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Jordan
Jordan
Feb 01, 2023
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Oh, that's amazing! I'm so glad it helped 😊

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