How do you know if you’re making your slow burn, burn too slowly? If you’re just boring the reader with repetitive back and forth at a certain point

Hi, love!  Thanks so much for your question 🙂  This is hard to define without knowing the story and the characters, but I’ll go off what I’ve experienced as a reader/viewer/lover of romance.

When writing a romance plot, the most important part of the back-and-forth is growth in the relationship.  Typically, people think of romance plots as if they’re a straightforward journey – linear, from Point A (strangers) to Point B (happy ending) – and everything between that, just moving forward or backward.  But this should not be the case.  Every moment of peace, conflict, happiness, or frustration, should do more than move the relationship forward or backward.  They should change the relationship fundamentally.  They should have consequences.

For instance: suppose that your two lovers first meet as rival politicians.  They spew angry words at each other on the debate stage until a brief, passionate affair confuses their feelings.  Then one of them wins the race for [governor/senator/etc.] and they don’t speak for a year.  Then they meet again and begin dating.  By this point, although they’re only at the beginning of their relationship, they have a lot of “emotional residue” from:

  1. the criticisms they made of each other when debating
  2. the sex n stuff
  3. the year of silence and everything that’s changed since then.

These aspects of their relationship, while linearly moving them backward, forward, and backward again, emotionally put them at a completely new place.  Despite being back at the beginning of a relationship, they now have:

  1. sore spots, which will impact future arguments
  2. physical connection and familiarity
  3. secrets and insecurities that have developed in each other’s absence
  4. personal growth and experiences in the year spent apart

So.  Circling back to your question: readers can actually wait a really long time for a couple to get together, but only if there is growth and change in the relationship.  If every fight and fling brings characters back to the same place, of course readers will get bored.  It’s that knowledge that everything that’s happening could wind up having no effect and making no difference – that’s what destroys a good slow burn.

If you need an example to support this, think about the famous slow burn stories we’ve all known and loved.  Think about Ross and Rachel, from Friends; those two went back and forth for ten seasons of TV!  That’s ten years of [SPOILER] Ross wanting to date Rachel, then getting a girlfriend right when Rachel falls for Ross, then the two of them finally getting together, then Ross cheating on her, followed by years of bitterness – and add in a few flings, a drunken Vegas marriage and divorce, a baby, and Rachel’s relationship with Joey, and you get the Friends rollercoaster romance plot that ultimately became the name of on-and-off TV romances!

Now, compare that to Nick and Jess from New Girl, who [less detailed spoilers] have basically been dating and not dating and dating and not dating and etc. etc. etc. for reasons even the shippers can’t keep up with.  And just this last season finale, they… kissed.  And I guess they’re back to square one or seven or something, but as for how all those situations affected them?  Couldn’t tell ya.  Couldn’t tell ya.

ANYWAY, all that to say, as long as the relationship is evolving in new and realistic ways, it should hold the interest of your readers.  Unless the two are just ridiculously toxic or there’s another more interesting romance for one of the characters, readers will be patient.  So think about it, plot it out, plan the consequences, and get rid of anything that feels campy or doesn’t add to the development, and you should be fine.

I hope this answers your question!  If you need any more help, you know where to find us 🙂

– Mod Joanna ♥️

If you need advice on general writing or fanfiction, you should maybe ask us!

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