Love is but a form of madness.
The Bard has spoken.
Whether or not a story has a large emphasis on the role of love, odds are there's going to be a little bit of it. Humans are naturally inclined to form attatchments to one another - in fact, as are most Higher Mammals, several birds, and a large proportion of the animal kingdom (though the entailments of "attachment" range from mating for life to a one-night stand that ends in the male having his head eaten). Love isn't something that's easily ignored and - unless your character is some sort of android or psycopath (not that there's anything wrong with that!) - odds are they'll form some sort of loving attachment at some stage in their lives.
One problem - romance. I can't do it.
I'm sure I'm not alone here - many young authors like me simply don't have the life experience to write a convincingly realistic sort of love that doesn't morph into Super Friendzone or an awkward, clunky, sickeningly cliche series of embraces and snogging sesssions. That, and I personally have little passion for romance - it's alright, as long as it gets out of the way for good action scenes, character development, an engaging plot, a few tears and a giggle every now and again.
And from this logic, I cunningly went and got one of my own plots tangled up in a love triangle.
Captain, I hear you cry, that was most illogical.
You're telling me. This one isn't the only occurence of this sort of complication either - a good chunk of plot in my 2009 NaNoWriMo hinged on a relationship breakdown, and many stories I write collaboratively have a romance element to them.
Never mind shooting myself in the foot. I just sent the co-ordinates of my exact location to a sword-happy nazgul.
They say you should "write what you know". Normally I'd say "Bah!" to that and continue to write out-of-this-world adventures that I could just as easily perform in real life as I could walk on the surface of the moon or speak fluent Klingon, but with romance ... I'd almost advocate it.
Romance is tricky because, odds are, if you don't know what you're doing and hope you can pull it off convincingly anyway, someone who does know what they're doing will pick up on it. That, or your inexperience will completley mangle your plot. I've seen a few moments in a relationship turn even the most likeable characters into 1) pathetically obsessed individuals who spend their whole time snogging or bewailing the absence of their other half, 2) deluded idiots who do incredibly stupid things for people they've only known for ... two chapters, and counting, or 3) ridiculously weak characters who, despite being perfectly competent before, now cannot function while knowing their significant other is in danger / missing / angry with them for behaving in this daft manner.
On the other hand, if you do learn to do it correctly, it's also spectacular for heightening the personal stakes for a character, showing another dynamic to individuals, providing motives for various actions (both in the lovers, their friends, or the jealous third wheel), as well as the usual "awww!" or "nooo! You were so cute together!" moments for the readers.
Unfortunately, other than clambering into the TARDIS and whizzing back to a 60s hippie commune, there aren't many ways to brush up on your skills with romance. There's the usual way of going through life until you experience it but, as one can never be sure when / if / how this will occur, it's a bit of a gamble.
Or, we can do what authors do best. Read each other, and learn from the experts. For young or inexperiencd authors, reading love scenes from other books and learning about what makes a good / bad / downright weird love scene or sequence is probably the best approach. You don't have to read romantic books per se, just put your Author Hat on - you know, the orange one with the ear flaps - and look critically at the technique as you read. That is, if you're not already crying or laughing too hard to do so, in which case its effect is probably rather clear already.
In the meantime, fare thee well dear readers. And let there be love!
- Charley R