How Mates Can Undermine Romantic Tension {Writing Analysis & Discussion}


The word “mate” in relatively new in YA fiction, but the soulmate trope certainly isn’t.

While not my favorite trope to write, I don’t actually mind reading about it. I think we all like the idea of knowing there is someone out there who’s your perfect other half.

However, having read a lot of these books I’ve noticed couple of themes and writing flaws that often go hand-in-hand with this trend. I’d like to discuss the two main hangups, and how it plays into the romantic tension and character growth.

Important disclaimer: Though I’m about to get critical, there’s nothing wrong with using this trope! It’s a lot of fun to play around with. This post is simply highlighting some flaws and inconsistencies that I’ve noticed that bring the writing down. Consider this a post to help you think, not to discourage you from using it.

Sections of this post:
+ Why Do We Write Soulmates?
+ Expectations Before Emotional Investment
+ Redemption Through the Relationship
+ Independent Character Arcs

Spoilers: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

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How to Write Engaging Romances

I want to start this post with a quick comment on romantic tension.

When I look up posts about writing romantic tension, I see a lot of talk about tropes and technical definitions, but not much about where tension actually comes from or how to write it.

It’s fine to use tropes like miscommunication, having an outside force stop them from getting together, and personal conflict as a barrier. But none of these things actually create that tension that engages your audience. These are symptoms, not the source.

No matter what tropes you use, the fundamentals of an engaging relationship stay the same. And that’s what this post is about. This is what goes into creating that tension that can be used in various different tropes and stories, and what will hook your reader from start to finish.

Let’s talk about cardboard, spark, and chemistry.

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