Twelve steps to create a romance from the inside of the characters instead of the outside of things happening.
1. Start at the deepest point: for every character, find that person’s core need.
2. Look for what happened in that character’s past to give that character that need (motivation)–when looking discard the first two or three ideas (they’re almost always cliches).
3. Set up a potential mate for the main character who can’t provide that need quite the way that character wants it met.
4. Decide if your characters recognize their needs and motivations (the reasons why they need and want the things they need and want), or if a character is lying to self, or ignoring the past.
5. Know each character’s sexual history.
6. Go beyond he’s hot and she’s sexy for characters who can click emotionally, mentally, and on levels beyond the physical.
7. Layer–add ‘wants’ on top of the core needs, and add traits to each character that are strengths and ones that are weaknesses, and make them compliment and contrast for all characters.
8. Give every character a secret. Maybe even one that stays hidden in the entire book.
9. Leave room for characters to surprise you.
10. Focus the story on one character’s specific growth. That person’s growth is at the heart of the book.
11. Put in clear goals for each character that force the characters into action to reach those goals, and put them in conflict with others. So there can be conflicting goals, or different approaches to achieving the same goal, but everyone should want something in every scene.
12. Play the “what if” game to keep coming up the worst thing that can happen to the main character — use the “what ifs” that most resonate with you, and then come up with something even worse to keep raising the stakes, tension, and conflict.