Slow burn romances are stories in which the romance...burns slowly. Instead of instant kissing and love ballads, it's often more of a will-they-won't-they situation. Sometimes even an emotional rollercoaster.
The slow build of tension and anticipation keeps readers engaged. The delayed gratification can make the final confession even sweeter. Check out the 100-page Romance Writing Workbook or keep reading for my top 5 slow burn romance tips...
1. Convincing Barrier
To get readers yelling “JUST TELL HER YOU LOVE HER ALREADY!”, what you need is tension. Will they? Won’t they?
This means you need a reason for them not to get together right away. Why don’t they just confess already? Make sure it’s a believable, compelling reason, not just something convenient.
Bonus points if this barrier has something to do with the character’s core wounds that they need to work on in order to grow.
2. Near Misses
Speaking of tension, one trick you can keep up your sleeve is the near miss. This is when something (a kiss, a confession, a realisation, etc.) almost happens, but doesn’t.
Why doesn’t it happen? Could be an external factor (e.g. being walked in on) or an internal factor (e.g. they decide not to do it). Here are some ideas:
- Interrupted confession
- Fear of being seen
- Fear of rejection
- Bad timing (“I’m late!”)
3. Body Language
In slow burn romance, characters aren’t shouting their love from the rooftops on page one. So how do we let readers know about the growing attraction? Body language!
The self-conscious grooming (tucking your hair behind your ears, smoothing your clothes, etc.), the shy glances, and so on. This is a great way to let readers know your characters are into each other without having to spoon feed them the info.
Refer to your free Body Language Cheat Sheet:
4. Show Progression
They start off not confessing (for whatever reason) and end up together. But how do you transition between those two points? Show their emotional intimacy deepening.
This means the characters get to know each other more, for example by:
- Sharing vulnerabilities
- Shared goals
- Building trust
- Shared experiences
- Discussing their dreams
- In-jokes and banter
In the 100-page Romance Writing Workbook, we cover how to build realistic emotional intimacy.
5. Slow BURN Not Slow BOOK
Remember that even though the romance is progressing slowly, you’re still trying to keep readers hooked. Other plot points can still happen at a faster pace to keep readers hooked.
A lot of slow burn romances happen as subplots to another overarching story, such as a quest or a mystery. If you make it your main plot, consider giving your characters something else to grapple with alongside their romance.
Sure the characters might want love, but what else do they want? What are they struggling with? You can use your subplots to maintain some pace/tension.