How To Write Romance For Web Comics

RoxySteve

It can be difficult to write romance into a web comic. You’re updating your readers based on a set schedule and the story can always feel like it’s stuttering along to you because of this. At times you really just want to get a whole situation out there but you’re forced to wait for those release dates you’ve set. In the sense of writing romance, this can get draining on the audience if not done right. After all, unless your stories are specifically romantically related, it can feel off track from your regular story line. So what do you do?

Obviously Valentines Day inspired this entry in our weekly Friday Artist Talk updates. Also one of our Web Comic Wednesday updates Wootlabs recently (spoilers after link, you should probably start at the beginning of the comic) tackled a very direct romantic approach which was done after a long period of character growth. This is a solid approach that can be taken to romantic situations that fits well with web comics. You give the characters time to get to know each other but you don’t keep it in everyone’s face. If romance isn’t the main topic of your stories, readers will tire of seeing unrelated content week after week.

One thing you want to avoid is alienating your readers too quickly with a new character to be a romantic interest. You do want some time at least to introduce this new character. If you do indeed want the characters to like and trust this new interest. Stories that drop in a new cast member and have a fan favourite fall for them run the risk of readers feeling distrusting of this newcomer. After all, they feel an attachment to your current established characters. Who knows what this new character is up to. Maybe they’re trouble!

Taking your time works well. Little things build the readers trust in either a new character, or just a new relationship between established characters. Sure it sounds silly, but expressing that care and concern can really show to the readers that these characters have a connection. Who does the other run to save first when things go wrong? It doesn’t even have to be anything that drastic. Picking their love interest for a game or partnering up activity, giving of gifts, even holding a door for the other. Play it out like a real relationship beginning to blossom. Make them shy and awkward around each other. Even if they’ve known each other forever, they’re hoping the other cares for them as much. Play it up!

If you do want to go off on a big dating tangent that can feel awkward to your story, you could try splitting up the action. One week, focus on the date. The following week, get back to the other characters. It’s an apt comparison to say that soap operas do this all the time. The show always skips from story to story to keep things interesting. The alternative is to keep a date or romantic ongoing scene true to the nature of your story. If the characters are heroes or adventurers maybe they’re even discussing their concerns at the same time. “How can anyone love when the world needs us in this time of darkness!”

Look at Final Fantasy 7‘s approach to meaningful character interaction. The cast was always on the go, but they found time to relate to one another. Not that the entire series hasn’t had moments like that, but offhand FF7 had those moments where you did take a breather. If you’ve played it, think back to those moments. How was that magic captured that made you care about that cast so much? Things were still wrong in the world, but the characters could talk time out to talk about it still.

It’s sometimes tricky to find a balance. You want your readers to feel the same way you do about the relationship you’re forming. The main thing you need to keep in mind is that they need reason to. What gives these characters a passion for each other? You always need to step back and think of things from your readers perspective. Especially if you’re adding a new character. Remember that alienating feeling your fans may experience. Ease them in and gently grow that relationship. Don’t forget, even some of your cast may even feel jealousy over new budding love. Play with that. Love is a complex and powerful element to add to any medium. Just don’t let it take over the lime light of your comic and ruin the main reason your readers come to see your story. Odds are if you’re reading this, you’ve been writing for a long time. You know what your readers enjoy. If you can get away with changing the focus, go with it. If your story is too far focused, make it a gradual focus, or split it up as suggested above like a soap opera.

How about you? Have you experienced anything like this in your comics? Let us know in the comments section below! Your TWC login you use on the front page of Top Web Comics to vote also works here on the blog. Just go to the front page, log in, and come back here to comment.


10 Comments

  1. DemonDan February 15, 2014 8:43 am 

    This is a good and timely topic, and something I am actively thinking about for my story as well. I have 2 characters in mind for each other at some point far down the plot path, but I actually don’t know if they are going to end up together. I’m just planning on writing them interacting chapter after chapter, and seeing how it goes, how they work.

    I guess I’m trying to make it organic by not forcing it, and letting it be real, based on the personalities I’ve developed for these people.

    • Les Major February 15, 2014 12:10 pm 

      And here I was hoping for Tenzin and Jane. ;)

      Good stuff! You certainly have a lot of opportunity to build emotional connections between the characters, romantic or otherwise. Looking forward to it Dan!

      • DemonDan February 15, 2014 1:54 pm 

        Hehehe. While there will be a lot of relationship building between T and J, I have distinctly planned to make that one NOT romantic.

  2. JFD February 15, 2014 3:29 pm 

    Great article :) Romance is definitely an element I want to play with in Heroes (or not).

    It’s true that it’s easy to be too eager when planning a relationship between two characters and being too eager can make the relationship seem unnatural.

    • Les Major February 15, 2014 3:52 pm 

      Thanks, and thanks for joining the conversation!

      I do think that is one of the difficult things. Seeing our creations from the perspective of the readers and building in the elements we want without getting carried away. Don’t be shy too, feel free to link to your comic as well. :) We’re all about promotion here.

  3. Coyote February 20, 2014 12:52 pm 

    I always believe it is best to let the characters surprise you, and don’t get tied to the idea that any one character is destined to be the love interest. Sometimes an intended love interest gets plopped down in a story, only to have her go off in another, more interesting, direction. They may even end up as adversaries– adversaries with undertones of mutual interest, which actually makes things much more interesting.

    • Les Major February 20, 2014 2:27 pm 

      Very good advice, and thanks for joining the conversation Coyote! That’s a very good and open perspective to have. Plus it would definitely keep things more interesting for the creators of the comic as well. :)

    • DemonDan February 21, 2014 7:56 am 

      It’s hard to top enemies that started out at friends/love interests. That’s good drama there if done right.

    • JFD February 21, 2014 9:55 am 

      It’s a good idea to let the story surprise you as a writer, but only when the story is written somewhat in advance in my opinion.

      Otherwise, lack of direction can hurt you if you end up stuck with story elements that turn out to be dead-ends or steer the story in an undesirable direction.

      I have about 30 pages of my comic, http://www.heroes-or-not-comic.net already roughly planned out for just that reason :)

  4. Coyote February 21, 2014 10:47 am 

    Yeah, nothing is more awkward than a forced pairing with no chemistry… basically the meat of the article.

    Did anyone else watch “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and feel that there really was no on-screen chemistry between Keiko and Chief O’Brien? To me it seemed that they were together because the script said so. But the actors had no chemistry between them, and the character writing ended up “forced”… although others may disagree.

Leave a comment