I can see it now: A mob of angry characters jabbing their fingers at this page and demanding, “What kind of a title is that?!”
Okay, maybe “make” is too incendiary a word choice. How about, “How to Guide Characters into Love”?
“Better,” they might concede with a grumble.
Alright then. Before we get into the “how”, we’ve got to talk about the “why”. Why bother putting any real thought into this? Why not just jump in with something along the lines of…
Once upon a time, Boy met Girl, and each became obsessively devoted to the other on sight.
That’s a little something they call “insta-love”, and while it was a technique par for the course in fairytales of old, a lot of readers today won’t go for that.
They want to know why Boy and Girl love each other. What do they see in each other, and how was that discovery made? “One look in the princess’s eyes, and he fell straight into the depths of goodness in her heart” cannot be the go-to. We need more than a look. We need…
Conversation. You want characters to develop emotional attachments among themselves? Have them talk to each other!
What people say to one another (and, often enough, what they don’t say) can reveal a lot about them – their personalities, opinions, and sense of humor, their likes, dislikes, views on life’s big questions. One meaningful dialogue between characters can make all the impact in the world on their feelings toward the other guy. And the more they talk to each other, the longer and more twisted of an emotional journey you can take them on.
“He said this? We’re soul mates!”
“He said that? Ugh, I can’t stand him!”
“Wow, the way she phrased that… Be still, my heart!”
“I don’t know what she’s going on about, but sheesh, what a total turnoff.”
“Not gonna lie, I wanted his head on a platter … until that beautiful, humorous, heartfelt apology. *swoony sigh*”
And the best part? All those hypothetical quotes don’t apply only to the characters doing the talking; the eavesdropping readers get to experience the ups and downs, too!
Environmental Aid. …Or, as Sebastian put it in “The Little Mermaid”, you’ve got to create da mood. (And that crab really had his work cut out for him since, with Ariel’s voice gone, conversation with Eric was drastically impaired.)
While it’s not always necessary to throw your characters into an atmospheric song number (though, as readers of “The Song Caster” and any other minstrel-infested story of mine will come to learn, a song number is totally an option!), there are environmental cheats storytellers can perform to turn up the sense of romance in the air. Stick the characters in inspiring settings – a lovely garden, perhaps, or underneath the stars, somewhere with a breathtaking view… Places like these can work on both conscious and subconscious levels to put the characters in a dreamy or passionate state of mind.
Speaking of passions, take those of the characters into account! Not everyone’s into gardens and stars, but if Boy’s wild about marshlands or Girl’s captivated by some old semi-haunted shack of a cabin or they’re both intrigued by historical ruins or iffy back alleys, these unconventional locations may stimulate their feelings far better than somewhere more generic.
Work Smarter, Not Harder. Want Boy and Girl to fall in love? You can make it leagues easier on everyone if you put in some thought during the story’s planning stages about what kind of person they’d be attracted to. Be a savvy matchmaker. What traits do they admire and value? Do they have a “type”? Which actions can you see turning them on and off?
Remember, not everybody’s looking for the same sort of guy/gal. Plenty of people aren’t looking at all! A character actively against falling in love will need to be handled differently than one who dreams every night of True Love’s Kiss – handled differently by both their author and by the other half the author wants to pair them with. The more strategic you can be from the beginning about how to orchestrate this romance, the smoother sailing you’re likely to have.
Don’t Force It. Truth is, short of a love potion or something (which can be a valid plot device, though I’d use it sparingly, were I you), the angry character mob is right: You really can’t make them fall in love. You can set everything up beautifully, but if they’re not feeling it, they’re not feeling it, and trying to play it off like they are when they aren’t would be a crime against truth in fiction. So listen to your characters’ hearts on this one. If a pairing’s meant to be, true love will find a way.