This guide gives you some tips on dropping hints of romance without explicitly stating it, or having your characters shout it from the rooftops.
Focus on the Small Things
If your goal is subtlety, start by focusing on the little things rather than sweeping clifftop declarations of love. This could be:
- Eye contact
- Accidental touches
- Shared secrets
- Thoughtful tokens
- Shared smiles
- Unspoken understandings
- Memory of their scent
Also consider spacing these out if you’re trying to hint at a budding romance. Too much all at once means you’ll lose the subtlety.
“Show, don’t tell” is a handy trick when you’re trying to be subtle when writing a growing romance. Think about what your character will unconsciously (or consciously) start doing when they have a crush.
Tucking their hair behind their ears? Avoiding eye contact? Smiling to themselves about a memory? I made you a free body language cheat sheet if you need some help with this!
A lot of writers use conflict as a shortcut to romantic chemistry. I love banter between romantic interests, but remember that they should have things they appreciate about each other too, such as:
- Their bravery
- Their wit
- Their values
- Their kindness
- Their looks
- Their laugh
As they get to know each other better and crush grows, they may find new things to appreciate, or see old flaws in a new light.
If you’re going for subtlety and hints, I’m guessing that’s because there’s a lot of other elements going on in your story. Throughout all the other subplots, see if you can find a way to weave in that these characters are each other’s special person, even if they’re not together yet.
For example, after a catastrophe, maybe character A’s first instinct is to check on character B. Maybe when B hears a secret, they instantly wonder what A would think. Readers will pick up on this.