A Few Things Guys Need To Know About Writing Straight Romances

Okay dude friends, some of you have probably wondered how to write a straight love story that won't make the ladies cringe with agony, or maybe even how you can help your fellow men by write a story that demonstrates how they can handle themselves in a way that women will find appealing. Since Hollywood and most other fiction in general aren't going to be very helpful toward this, here are some things to know and put into practice when attempting to write such.

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A lot of guys overestimate how soon they've made a genuine romantic connection.

A lot of guys think that if they end up merely talking to a girl, they've made a genuine connection with her. In fact, the odds are that they haven't, not by a long shot. If she is looking for a prospective romantic partner (and she might not even be - she might just be looking for conversation), they're probably still in the evaluation phase, where she's sizing them up to try and determine if they're what she's actually after.

Exactly what she's after will depend a lot on her own personal tastes and preferences, as well as whatever other notions she has as to what a good romantic partner will be like. (Worth noting is that what seems romantic to one woman might seem obnoxious to another!) Here are some questions she might be asking herself:

And of course, women have a wide variety of tastes and preferences in romantic partners, and sometimes they want or expect things that aren't exactly realistic. (Just as men do!) And sometimes, one woman won't see a big red flag that another one will see a mile away. Another one might mistake something harmless for a red flag.

But in any case, if a guy starts grabbing for her goodies before he's passed her evaluation, he's failed pretty much forever. Odds are, she's firmly decided that he's a creep, and there's rarely any coming back from that.

So how long does the evaluation phase last? Well, there's no universal length. Some people are very wary and skittish; it takes a lot to make them feel safe and confident enough to move forward. Some are less cautious and are willing to accelerate to full throttle over very little. Some are experienced enough to tell when a guy is probably up to no good in a matter of moments. Many have learned to beware of guys who seem too good to be true, and that if they're moving too fast and seem a little too perfect, he's probably an abusive monster inside.

Women might also move faster if they believe that there are no strings attached (EG, a one night stand). But if they think that there will be strings attached (like, if the guy will be expecting or hoping for this to turn into something more long-term) they'll be a lot more selective.

So how does this translate into writing? Well, here's one example: Joss Whedon believed that the character of Bruce Banner had a great connection with the character of Natasha Romanoff in The Avengers, based on a few short interactions they'd had together. Because of this, he decided to write a romantic subplot between them in Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, many fans found the whole thing to be painfully contrived. Looking at the first Avengers movie realistically, Bruce Banner wouldn't have even made it past the evaluation phase with Natasha Romanoff (if he was even being evaluated at all, which is actually pretty doubtful). This is evidenced by a lack of any genuine chemistry on Natasha's part (she speaks to him courteously, but treats him no differently than she would anyone else), and by the fact that she makes no attempt to initiate any kind of romantic action.

So you want to avoid making this mistake yourself. Be careful that you don't write a story where the only "connection" your romantic leads have is actually incredibly weak to nonexistent if you really want your audience to believe that they really and truly belong together. Be mindful that the evaluation phase exists, and put yourself into the shoes of your female character and ask yourself if your dude is actually meeting her standards.

If a gal doesn't reciprocate somebody's advances, it's probably not because she's simply oblivious.

Another error many guys make is assuming that if a gal doesn't reciprocate or escalate his advances, it's simply because she's too oblivious to notice them. They then assume that they need to just try harder.

While this can sometimes be the case, there's very often another reason for it: she just isn't interested in him. Her lack of response is actually her way of politely telling him that she doesn't actually him that way and that she'd really appreciate it if he'd cool his jets. Failure to respect her wishes is a fast way to end up on her creep list.

If she is really and truly interested, she'll probably respond positively - EG, brightening up, getting a little closer, and maybe even making a flirtatious move of her own. If there's any doubt, the guy can always just ask!

"But wait, what about people who are playing hard to get? Those exist too, right?" some of you might be asking. Well, yes, they do. But in reality, it's very messed up to send people "no, get away from me" signals and expect them to somehow discern that they're supposed to charge on ahead anyway. Anyone who wishes to pursue a relationship ought to understand the importance of clear and unambiguous conversation and understand that people aren't mind-readers. And no matter what, someone is never wrong to try to err to the side of caution. Failing to realize that someone is playing hard to get doesn't make someone defective; it means that this person, like everyone should, assumes that no means no and acts accordingly.

In any case, it would be truly wonderful to see more romance stories where this reality is depicted and acknowledged, because right now there are too many people who legitimately do not realize that a woman's hesitance is a yellow light indicating that it's time to slow down and make sure everything's okay before proceeding.

And let's talk about "nice guys" vs. jerks for a moment.

Many guys have done their best to try to be good boyfriend/husband material for someone they're interested in. They try to be supportive, try to make themselves useful, and try to treat her with all the respect they can muster - but then she goes and gets with a guy who seems to be a total jerk! What gives? Do women just actually prefer to date jerks or something?

Well, not really. It's not that girls want "jerks." It's that jerks tend to display characteristics they find attractive. They're usually assertive and confident. They don't let others push them around. Furthermore, unhealthy jealousy is sometimes mistaken for healthy protectiveness.

And with the "nice guys," sometimes "nice" is all they are. They have no confidence, no self-assurance, and don't have any dreams - or if they do, they don't have the guts to follow those dreams. So it doesn't really matter what they do, or how long they do it.

What most women actually want is someone who is reasonably assertive without being a bully. Of course, anyone (guys and gals alike) can miss early warning signs of trouble ahead, and people get go into relationships believing that they'll be able to smooth out someone's rough spots or that they'll be treated differently because of true love. Once they realize how awful these guys are, it might be too late for them to get out easily. If/when they do get out, they might learn that guys like this are actually not worth the trouble and avoid them in the future, or they might not. Some people just never learn!

Here are a few examples to hopefully distinguish the difference between a guy who's pathetic, a guy who's reasonably assertive, and a guy who's just a jerk:

Pathetic: "Would you like to go out? Anywhere you want to go is fine..."
Good: "How about a date? What do you think about lunch at that new place?"
Jerk: "You, me, the coffee shop around the corner, at noon. Drop anything you already have on your schedule."

Pathetic: "Ever thought about going on vacation? Like... anywhere you wanna go, you know... if you wanna..."
Good: "Hey, I was thinking that a vacation sounds nice - maybe someplace up in the mountains. What do you think?"
Jerk: "I've decided we're going on vacation up in the mountains. Get packed, now."

Pathetic: "Oh, yeah, that's nice. Everything you do is so wonderful."
Good: "That's very good. I really love the detailing on it. Very bold."
Jerk: "It's good, but I've seen better."

No matter how useful or helpful a guy might be, hovering in the Pathetic zone never stops being a major turnoff. Some guys assume that the way to fix their problem is to start behaving like the jerks they see the women they want with. In reality, they'd do themselves far more favors if they got therapy for their self-esteem issues (or even just read some self-help materials on the matter and applied it to themselves), worked on strengthening up their nerve, and maybe upped the quality of their grooming habits.

Another problem with many self-proclaimed "nice guys" is that their behavior is just plain weird. While attempting to act "respectful," they often behave in a way that's obviously contrived. They lay the compliments and praise on too thick while putting on a "chivalrous" act that bears very little resemblance to what's considered respectful and proper behavior in this day and age. The effects are less than charming, particularly when they get upset and blame the woman when it doesn't work. They'd do much better to try to simply have normal conversations where they see the woman as a fellow human being rather than as a goddess to be worshiped or a monster to be conquered, try to avoid behaving inappropriately, and to stop viewing polite behavior as simply how one treats people by default and not as a means to get a relationship.

Some of this weird behavior makes the guy come off as desperate and clingy, too. Sending flowers on the first date is a good example of this - flowers are something that are more appropriate when the relationship has been going well for awhile. The same goes for offering the gal massages and the like right off the bat. Likewise, those over the top proclamations of how he plans to respect and honor her don't make him stand out as a desirable mate, but rather as a clingy creep.

And one final problem with "nice guys" is that they never succeed in establishing synergy and rapport with women... which is what a lot of them are really and truly looking for. It doesn't matter how "nice" he is - if the connection just isn't there, she won't want him. The reason for this is simple - they want to have emotional support as well as material support, and it's pretty much impossible to get it from someone you don't have synergy/rapport with.

Avoid these tropes like the plague!

Guy proves his worthiness through sheer persistence. In real life, people think that this kind of thing should work tend to be creepy stalkers, or people who have seen this trope way too many times in the movies and think that this is how it works. Realistically, guys who try to do this are usually setting themselves up for some serious disappointment, or even a restraining order. And even if these guys do succeed, there are decent odds that the gal isn't even all that happy. The reason is that she probably never truly came to want it, but instead got into the relationship because the repeated pressure made her feel a sense of guilt or obligation, or because she doesn't quite know how or doesn't quite have the nerve to explain that while she likes a guy as a friend, doesn't mean that she wants to be in a relationship with him. (If you're still having trouble imagining how this works, think about what it's like when a younger sibling badgers you into playing a game or something. You don't want to do it, but you don't feel like you can say no, either.) So, not only does using this trope help bad ideas about how romance should work persist, seeing it can be very uncomfortable for people who know how this thing tends to play out in reality.

Guy liberates gal from her own repressions and hangups. This trope can feel very condescending, as it implies that men know better than women what they really want. It can also be very uncomfortable to see play out, because people who act like this is how things should work in real life are creeps. In reality, pushing people into things they aren't comfortable with, especially where sex and suchlike are concerned, tends to be more traumatizing than liberating. If people have hangups to get over, they need to be able to get over them on their own terms and at their own pace.

Progressing the relationship requires violating her boundaries in some other way. This includes the guy pulling her into a kiss when she's mad at him, him coming onto her property without her consent or knowledge, or anything else described on Tips To Create & Write Creepy Characters & Situations.

The gal is a shallow love interest, or is weak in character. It's not terribly hard to avoid this - just make sure she has a life and interests of her own, and make her capable of getting things done that don't always involve the guy, and don't contrive situations to make her require heroic rescue. See How To Avoid Creating Shallow Love Interests & Shallow Best Friends, On Writing Empowered & Empowering Characters, and Simple Tips To Avoid Making Your Character A Damsel In Distress for more.

The gal just needs to get to know the "real" guy. This narrative tends to be about guys who fall into the Pathetic zone, and may even involve tricking a gal into interacting with a guy that she's otherwise paid no attention to until now. Problem is, in reality she's going to be just as bored and uninterested with him once she gets to know him as she ever was - maybe even moreso, because now she's seen for herself just how dull he is.

Gal needs guy to teach her basic life skills. If their levels of knowledge are this imbalanced, they aren't good romantic matches for each other due to the power imbalance creates. Furthermore, if he's teaching her basic life skills, this puts them into a teacher/student dynamic, which again creates a power imbalance that renders a romantic relationship inappropriate.

The gal is always right. This is a terrible trope to use. Women also have personality flaws and personal biases, and showing guys that they must always do what their girlfriends and wives want is how you set them up for emotional or financial abuse. What you should do instead is show your characters talking about their differences and disagreements and making compromises for each other like mature adults.

In summary!

If you liked this, you might also be interested in:

Things To Avoid When Writing Romance Novels
So You Want To Have An Attractive Character?
What Romantic Chemistry Looks Like
How To Build Up A Believable Romance

Couple Development Questions
How To Avoid Creating Shallow Love Interests & Shallow Best Friends

Basic Tips To Write Healthy Relationships
More Tips For Portraying Believable, Functional, & Healthy Relationships
Yet More Tips To Portray Believable & Healthy Friendships & Romances

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