One of the biggest things I struggle with writing romance/ love in my stories is reality. How do you make love believable?
Certainly, it's not the circumstances. I've read books/ seen movies where the young/hot/gold-digging girl falls for the older/clumsy/poor guy, and believed it. Usually, theirs is a somewhat farcical relationship. But I still believe it, within the context of the work.
It's not the actions. Again, I've seen examples where two people couldn't be more in love, but we never see them kiss, or perhaps even touch until much later in the story.
It's not the dialogue. People never say what they mean when it comes to love, at least not until they know it's safe.
So, how do you make love real for your readers? I can't say I'm an expert. Usually, I cringe away from writing romantically-tense scenes because they always seem forced to me. My characters don't love like I do. So I try to keep that to a minimum and instead focus on other things.
Like what they don't do. What they don't say. What circumstances they don't have. Somebody's fingers clench into fists at their sides because they want to reach out and brush the other's hand, or cheek. Someone starts to say those sweet little words and changes mid-stream to "I. . . want a cupcake." Someone comes home late from work to avoid seeing the other because they can't stand the tension between them.
There are whole scenes that don't happen between my characters that I've written in my head. Whole other possibilities that no one else will ever see; infinite places the story could go if only they'd let go of their inhibitions and love each other. But if they did before they were ready, it would be a completely different story.
I'd like to think I've managed to make the love of my characters more real by doing this, but I guess time will tell.
How do you make the love in your story seem real?