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An Epic List of Romantic Gestures (writing romance)

Just in case it’s useful, here are some romantic ideas to build the heat level in your story.

For fiction, where imagination knows no bounds and the depth of emotion can be explored in unique ways, here are some creative, meaningful, and personal romantic gestures:

  1. Time Capsule of Love: The characters create a time capsule filled with letters to each other, small gifts, and memories. They bury it in a special location, agreeing to open it together after a decade.
  2. Constellation Creation: One character arranges with an astronomer to have a small, obscure constellation unofficially named after their love, presenting a star map as a gift.
  3. Secret Garden: A character secretly cultivates a garden in a hidden urban space, each plant and flower symbolizing an aspect of their relationship, revealing it at a pivotal moment.
  4. A Song in Their Honor: A musician character composes a song that captures the essence of their love story, debuting it in a surprise performance where the other character is the guest of honor.
  5. Literary Quest: A character creates a scavenger hunt based on their partner’s favorite book, leading them through a series of locations and clues that mirror the couple’s journey together.
  6. Moonlit Message: Using a projector or series of lights, a character spells out a love message on the side of a building or cliff face, visible only at night from a place special to them both.
  7. Portrait of Words: An artist character paints a portrait of their loved one, but instead of traditional paint, they use words and phrases that describe their partner’s beauty, inside and out.
  8. Shared Dream Journal: The couple keeps a journal by their bedside where they record dreams they’ve had about each other, exploring their subconscious connection.
  9. Custom Fairy Tale: A character writes a fairy tale book, casting themselves and their loved one as the heroes, with their adventures mirroring the challenges and triumphs of their real-life relationship.
  10. Whispers Through Time: A character records messages expressing their love and hopes for the future, hiding them in places where their partner will find them in the years to come, even if they’re apart.
  11. Interactive Art Installation: One character creates an art piece that requires two people to activate, symbolizing how their love brings color and life into the world.
  12. Message in a Melody: A character learns to play a musical instrument in secret, dedicating countless hours to mastering a piece that expresses their feelings, surprising their partner with a heartfelt performance.
  13. Enchanted Mirror: A tech-savvy character programs a digital mirror to display messages of love and affirmation personalized for their partner, appearing randomly each day.
  14. Key to the City: In a fantastical setting, a character gifts their beloved a symbolic “key” to a city, representing their desire to share everything they have, including the secrets and wonders of their world.
  15. A Hidden Library Nook: A character designs and builds a hidden nook within a library filled with their partner’s favorite books and new discoveries, a private sanctuary for them to escape to together.
  16. Vintage Love Broadcast: A character restores an old radio and uses it to broadcast a personal love message, coordinating the time so their partner tunes in at just the right moment.
  17. Dance of the Auroras: In a fantasy world, a character orchestrates a magical dance under the auroras, where the lights respond to their movements, creating a once-in-a-lifetime display of love.
  18. The Ultimate Playlist: Instead of songs, a character creates a “playlist” of experiences that reflect each phase of their relationship, planning surprise dates that recreate or nod to those moments.
  19. Love Potion Recipe: In a magical setting, a character crafts a “love potion” that’s actually a unique blend of tea, with each ingredient symbolizing qualities they admire in their partner, shared in a ceremonial tea drinking.
  20. Stolen Comet Ride: For a sci-fi romance, a character arranges for a daring ride on the tail of a comet, using futuristic tech to share an unforgettable moment suspended among the stars.

These ideas blend creativity, emotion, and personal touch, perfect for adding depth and enchantment to a fictional love story.

Subtle Romantic Gestures

Revealing your feelings or indicating interest through subtle gestures can be both exciting and nuanced, perfectly suited for the unfolding drama of a fiction story or the delicate dance of real-life romance. Here are more ways to tell someone you like them through subtle flirting and meaningful gestures:

  1. Curated Playlists: Create a playlist with songs that subtly hint at your feelings or songs that you feel represent the kind of connection you share, and share it with them as a casual gift.
  2. Thoughtful Comments: Pay close attention to the details they share about their life, preferences, and stories. Make thoughtful comments that show you’ve been paying attention and value what they say.
  3. Book Exchanges: Share a book that means a lot to you, especially if it contains themes of love or relationships that reflect how you feel. Include a note highlighting a passage that resonated with you, indirectly expressing your feelings.
  4. Prolonged Eye Contact: Holding eye contact a little longer than necessary can be a powerful way to communicate interest without saying a word. It’s intimate and can convey a lot of unspoken emotions.
  5. Light Touches: Find natural moments to make light, casual touches, like a gentle touch on the arm when you laugh at their joke or a brief touch on the shoulder as you pass by. These small gestures can signal interest.
  6. Personalized Gifts: Give them a small, thoughtful gift that is connected to an inside joke or a shared experience. It shows you remember and cherish the moments you’ve spent together.
  7. Compliment Subtleties: Instead of overt compliments, focus on the subtle aspects of their personality or appearance. Appreciating the little things about them can show you’re paying attention in a way that’s different from others.
  8. Exclusive Invitations: Invite them to an event or activity as just the two of you, making it clear you’re looking forward to spending time with them alone without making it feel like a formal date.
  9. Handwritten Notes: Leave them a handwritten note that compliments something specific about them or thanks them for something they’ve done. It’s personal and shows effort.
  10. Shared Laughter: Share a private joke or find moments to laugh together. Laughter creates a bond and shared moments that only the two of you can appreciate fully.
  11. Protective Gestures: Display subtle protective gestures, like guiding them through a crowd with a hand on their back or offering your jacket when it’s cold, showing care without being overbearing.
  12. Highlight Similarities: Casually highlight similarities in your interests, values, or experiences. It shows compatibility and can make them see you in a different light.
  13. Unique Nicknames: Come up with a unique nickname based on an inside joke or their personality. It’s a playful way to create intimacy.
  14. Social Media Engagement: Engage with their social media posts in a meaningful way, such as leaving thoughtful comments or sharing something that reminds you of them, to show interest without being too forward.
  15. Offering Help: Look for opportunities to help them out in small, personal ways. It shows you care and want to be involved in their life.
  16. Frequent Smiling: Smile often when you’re around them. A genuine smile is contagious and can make you seem more approachable and interested.
  17. Active Listening: Be an active listener, showing genuine interest in what they’re saying by nodding, asking follow-up questions, and mentioning details they’ve shared in past conversations.
  18. Creating Traditions: Suggest starting a small tradition together, like weekly coffee at a favorite café or a nightly text exchange to share how your day went. It creates a shared routine that’s just yours.
  19. Open Body Language: Maintain open body language when you’re around them, facing them directly and avoiding crossing your arms. It signals that you’re open and receptive to them.
  20. Sending Morning or Night Texts: Send them a good morning or good night text, showing they’re the first or last thing on your mind each day. It’s a sweet gesture that can convey interest in a low-key way.

These subtle gestures and flirting techniques can help express interest and affection in a gentle, non-invasive manner, perfectly suited for both the nuanced interactions of fiction and the delicate beginnings of real-life romance.

More Romance Writing Tips

Building romantic tension in a romance novel is an art that keeps readers engaged, flipping pages to find out how the characters’ relationship will unfold. Here are some writing tips to help you craft compelling romantic tension:

  1. Create Obstacles: Introduce internal and external obstacles that keep your characters apart. This could be anything from personal insecurities, societal expectations, to physical distance. The struggle to overcome these obstacles will heighten the tension and make their moments together more poignant.
  2. Use Close Proximity: Force your characters into situations where they must spend time together, especially in close, intimate settings. This proximity can amplify unresolved feelings and spark unexpected interactions, adding to the tension.
  3. Employ the Push and Pull: Fluctuate between moments of closeness and distance. Have your characters experience moments of connection and understanding, followed by misunderstandings or conflicts that push them apart. This push and pull create a dynamic tension that keeps readers guessing.
  4. Delayed Gratification: Delay the characters’ fulfillment of their relationship or physical intimacy. Build anticipation through near-misses and interrupted moments. The wait makes the eventual coming together all the more satisfying.
  5. Deepen Emotional Intimacy: Before physical intimacy, cultivate a deep emotional connection between your characters. Share secrets, fears, and dreams in vulnerable moments that bond them emotionally, making readers yearn for them to bridge the physical gap.
  6. Utilize Dual Perspectives: Write from both characters’ perspectives to reveal their mutual attraction and misunderstandings. This allows readers to see the depth of their feelings, even when the characters themselves are unsure of the other’s emotions.
  7. Incorporate Subtext: Use dialogue and action loaded with subtext. What characters say (or don’t say) and how they act around each other can convey volumes about their feelings, adding layers to the romantic tension.
  8. Harness the Senses: Describe the characters’ physical sensations in detail when they’re near each other or thinking of each other. The awareness of the other’s scent, the electricity of a touch, or the sound of their voice can all heighten romantic tension.
  9. Play with Jealousy: Introduce scenarios where one character feels jealousy or insecurity about another person’s interest in their love interest. This can force characters to confront their feelings and add tension.
  10. Unresolved Sexual Tension (UST): Build UST through lingering looks, accidental touches, and moments charged with sexual chemistry. The key is to prolong these moments and the characters’ acknowledgment of their desire.
  11. Contrast Characters: Develop characters with contrasting personalities or backgrounds to create natural tension. Their differences can cause friction and misunderstandings, which adds depth to their interactions and development as a couple.
  12. Foreshadowing: Use foreshadowing to hint at potential relationship developments or obstacles. This keeps readers engaged, looking for clues to how the tension will resolve.
  13. Use Humor: Light, flirtatious banter can add a layer of tension. Humor can be a way for characters to express interest without making themselves too vulnerable, creating a playful form of tension.
  14. Setting as a Character: Use the setting to amplify tension. Isolated, intimate, or romantic settings can intensify feelings and interactions between your characters.
  15. End Chapters with Cliffhangers: Keep readers turning the pages by ending chapters at moments of peak tension or just before a resolution, making them eager to find out what happens next.

Employing these techniques can help you craft a romance novel that’s not just about the destination but the journey—filled with tension, anticipation, and the delicious thrill of wondering what will happen between your characters.

PS – here’s a bunch of love poems!

How to self-publish a book (my personal journey)

I started this site, Urban Epics, when I began writing fiction in about 2016.

I’d already worked as a book editor and book cover designer, plus I had a PhD in Literature, not that it helped when I started writing. I kept getting stuck in the middle, revisions were agonizing, and my stories were bigger and more complex than my skills or experience.

Still, I self-published a handful of “book 1’s” to see whether or not anybody wanted to read them, and then did my best to build an audience and promote them. The nice thing about self-publishing is that you can control all the elements, test everything, and change or pivot when things aren’t working… but with the vast sea of competition, visibility is a never-ending fight and challenge.

I’ve neglected this site, because I’m much slower than anticipated, only recently finishing my first ever series (working on the 2nd!) and I have a whole bunch of stalled out projects. But I’ve also sold a lot of books, and have an average of 1000 reviews across all my titles.

Self-Publishing (the process)

I’m not sure if I’ve really talked about self-publishing here, on my fiction site, because I like to keep things separate, but just in case you’re a writer and you’re curious, this is a very short version of how to self-publish a book.

#1 finish the story. I have a 24-chapter plot outline and a ton of writing resources.
#2 self-edit as much as you can or find a book editor. This isn’t just about editing; the craft of telling a satisfying story, is something you can discover on accident or study on purpose.

#3 book cover design is critical, but not all that hard. It can be expensive or cheap if you DIY, but I recommend some templates or premades. After your book cover is sorted, you can format your print and ebook with formatting templates or use something like Vellum or Atticus.

That’s basically it!

Write, Edit, Publish.

It’s tempting to overthink it and try to make everything absolutely perfect, but that can mean spending a lot of money, and until you get your book out there, you won’t really know what to expect or whether readers will even like it.

Book Marketing is something else entirely

I change my covers a lot; I spend a ton on ads and barely break even; and the occasional BookBub deal pushes me into the top 100 or so of Amazon. It’s incredibly hard to make your books stick and stay visible, and I don’t like spending the effort to promote or market my books, so instead I focus on organic SEO and passive marketing strategies.

It kind of works. But mostly, I focus on writing more books, because when a completed series is ready, along with ebook, print and audiobooks, then there’s more of a change to push your meagre earnings into profit, in a way that makes advertising a really viable option.

I have tons of resources about marketing, but it mostly all depends on whether you’ve packaged and positioned your book to appeal to readers, and whether your story actually satisfies them.

To that end, I do have some free books and courses to help authors who want to self-publish.

I also talk about writing and publishing on my YouTube.

Not everything is a freaking love triangle (AKA: why your presumptions about young adult literature prove your bias)

I’ve made it no secret that I’m writing YA literature based on a template. Yes, a lot of YA is formulaic. Yes, there are some tropes that get annoying when they’re repeated. And you don’t want to annoy readers.

However, I maintain that writers shouldn’t just try to avoid all cliches. Writing popular fiction, like crafting any powerful story, is based on fundamentals of story construction that go back thousands of years.

Books need conflict. And a lot of bestselling young adult fiction really aren’t that innovative. They’re the same old stories, but retold in a fresh way. I want to give young adult readers what they’ve come to expect of the genre, while delighting or surprising them by remixing common themes in a way they haven’t seen before.

So it’s a little annoying to have all my future works criticized (as I know they will be) for merely having a “love triangle.” It’s as if a love triangle is a superficial thing, incidental to the story, that can easily be removed.

Most of the time, it isn’t. Because stories are built on character, not just plot events. In just about every cop show, ever, there’s a girl and a guy in a platonic working relationship. That’s so each of them can have multiple other partners, which opens up more plot events. In young adult fiction, the number is usually three. In my estimation, it’s because you need a representative of two warring races/classes, and a hero who is the medium between them. It allows for maximal conflict.

Sometimes the heroine is a girl. In The 100, (if you’ve been watching season three) Clark is sort of split between Bellamy, who represents the SkyCrew, and Lexa, who represents the grounders. She needs to make peace between them.

In the Shannara Chronicles, Amberle is a princess elf, the last of her kind. Wil is a halfblood. He alone has the power to use a magic weapon. Eretria is a human orphan with a mysterious background. She has visions and “her blood is the key.”

In Shades of Blue, Jennifer xxx plays a dirty cop, pinned between an FBI agent who is trying to bring down her ring leader, and Wozniac. Neither, incidentally, is her love interest – she’s actually banging the lawyer who can keep her violent ex locked up for good. So sex isn’t necessarily part of the “love triangle” at all – although there’s something creepy and sexual brewing between her and the FBI agent, Wozniac is more like a father figure to her.

Yes there is some romance and dramatic tension happening between all the characters, which keeps things interesting, but they’re really not that important compared to the racial warfare happening around them.

So I find it a little flippant to discount any book since Twilight with the complaint that it has a “love triangle” anytime there are three main characters representing necessarily diverse points of view. The conflict shouldn’t just stem from petty jealousy, but the fear, distrust, hatred and desire should be structured around the more important stuff that has calamitous consequences for everyone else.

Twilight is an excellent book, because it did the love triangle well. Which is exactly why I think the phrase “love triangle” needs to be assigned a new definition. As is, it has come to represent amazing, well told stories that should not be discounted out of hand – where the alleged love triangle is really a necessary and interesting center of conflict between three major players.

This is simply good construction.

Love Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Three decisions.

Peace, War, or aligning with either team.

It’s not fair to say, “Oh look, there are three characters, that must be heading towards a love triangle because they’re there” and then discrediting the book for that reason. If a book has a romantic interest flippantly, for no reason at all, which isn’t connected to the larger circumstances, then yes, that should be criticized. But that’s bad writing. It has nothing to do with the love triangle.

And I hate comments like “the love triangle was well done” or “poorly done”. Not everything is a fucking love triangle. If a girl has a love interest and another friend who likes her, but she doesn’t like him back in that way, is it still a love triangle? If she finds out one is her brother? If he’s actually an assassin sent to kill her or a prince in disguise? The story matters, not how many main characters there or how they feel about each other or whether they’re male or female and might develop feelings for each other.

Readers, stop hunting for love triangles and enjoy the story. If it’s poorly told, say so. Don’t discount it out of hand because some other critic says there’s a love triangle in there.

Authors, don’t avoid love triangles just because you think readers are sick of them; and don’t write them just because you think readers want them. Write what’s necessary to tell a great story, fill it with as much conflict as possible, and do things that readers have never seen before.