Dear players of distinguished taste who enjoy slowburn romances, I would love to hear about your favourite ones and what you like about them! I’ve been thinking about them a bunch, would like to think about them more, and consider what gives them that special magic. Do you prefer when there are external factors pushing you apart, or emotional turmoil, or simply obliviousness on either side? Which ones have really sparkled for you and why? What aspects of the journey to resolution and the resolution itself stuck with you?
My favourite is Finch from A Study in Steampunk - a romance which is both infuriating and marvellous - but I confess I’m not a huge connoisseur of this romance structure so I would love to hear what others think. I’m especially interested in stories where the romantic storyline is contained in a single game - a lot of the most discussed slowburn romances are from unfinished series so it’s hard to see the big picture of how they’re structured! Still, if you love some slowburn romances that aren’t resolved yet, I’m interested in hearing about it too.
I assume it depends on what one considers a slowburn romance; for me, the most enjoyable thing would simply be to getting to know the RO first, and the slowburn part coming from the romantic feelings developing down the line. If that makes sense?
I don’t have specific examples, and honestly the reason I enjoy slowburn romances isn’t one of the ones you mentioned. I just enjoy it when I get a chance to get to know a character as a person rather than being thrust into some high adrenalin whirlwind romance. Nothing better than being able to explore if your character and the character from the story actually fit together when it comes to things like (romantic) expectations, opinions, and general worldview before having to sign on the proverbial dotted line.
Complete ‘obliviousness’ is a huge turn off for me personally. I think that I really enjoy slow burn when it is used as a slow build up instead of it being a back and forth series of teases with little meaningful progression towards anything. I really like how slow burn allows for a stronger established relationship before romantic things happen. A lot of more fast paced romance can end up feeling like Romeo and Juliet where it’s more about sexual attraction and hormones than actual mutual interest in one another as people.
I think that it is exceptionally difficult to write slow burn well, because there is so much to keep into consideration, but overall I think it’s getting to see a person more as whole than just as a ‘romantic option.’
In terms of slow burn done well… I am a bit at a loss for describing what I myself like in particular with examples. I tend to just know it when I see it, if that makes sense. I think that all of the romance options in FH are handled incredibly well, but whether they count as ‘slow burn’ or not I am unsure.
As @vera has said, what works for a slow burn will end up being dependent on the types of characters being written. All in all if slow-burn, or rather slower paced romance, feels fitting rather than using it as an excuse to pad words, than I think it’s good.
Now that I think about it, Obren from I the Forgotten One comes to mind as a slow paced romance that feels very character appropriate due to all things considered.
I have very bad associations with this poor word. I can appreciate it, but it often turns romances into an exercise of patience if it isn’t done right. Turning every romantic moment into lingering looks and longing glances, treating the kiss as the great end-all to the relationship, slow-burn often poorly fitting the character in question…
I could enjoy it, but good slow-burn should be character-appropriate, explore their perception of romance, should be something more than constant lingering looks and inability to hold hands for seven books straight. There should be a feeling of progress, building up trust and rapport, it should not be incredibly annoying and arduous to get a glimpse of genuine affection or interest. It should develop the character, not serve as an excuse to show no romantic development for many long passages.
Like you I’m not familiar with the term itself. I know peoples like to use label and buzzwords like that, but to me a romance is a romance. Period.
I heard the term used in Wayhaven. @EvilChani Legendary whine about A and M romance, and labelled them as ‘Slow burn’ romances.
Assuming that’s what they really are…
I would say it’s because it match the personality? I don’t know if that make sense.
Let just say romance isn’t easy to write. You have fast romance, sex only romance, slow burn…etc.
Slow burn is close to real life? I don’t like romance where it’s ‘Hi’ to ‘Lets go down and dirty babeh’. It’s very Unrealistic for me, and I like to see more of a character before I jump to that kind of mindset. And yes, even if I know this X character is for me. Like…Carson? The Gardener in Creme de la Creme?
What slow burn romance does for me, is the build up. I get to see more of the emotions rather than the physical. I ain’t some horny Teenager lol even if I’m a Legend when it come to nag about Smoochies
Definitly this. Thats what make it good. The others reasons you named, both ‘external’ and ‘Obliviousness’ bring frustration mostly and that ain’t my cup of tea. I wouldn’t find those kind of thing ‘Endearing’. External would frustrate me to no end because that’s similar to me trying to kiss the Gardener and you kept writing interruption, damnit Hannah! Mah Smoochie! Lol
Obliviousness would mean I have to pretend and I play as self-insert. It’s harder for me to get into that mindset. Well I actually can, but if I had to pick…I take the emotional Turmoil. Because it is something we cannot control. Where the others two can be solved with some reality check.
I wouldn’t really call it unrealistic, just not much of a romance.
I’d categorize that as a fling rather than a romance, like flings from Whiskey Four. If you label something or someone as a romantic option than the ‘romance’ is hoping into bed with them as a demi person I’d be quite peeved. That isn’t a romance, that’s just sleeping together. Feelings can come with that but they certainly won’t with somebody you don’t even know.
Some of them go down that route, where you just me the character and the author is already giving you the option to blush and Flirt with them. That is way too fast.
It’s why I like slow burn, with the caveat of the slow-burning being less of a ‘will they won’t they’ and more of a ‘we need to trust eachother before doing anything romantic because that is how relationships tend to work.’
I like slow burns because every milestone is given specially attention. The first date and the first kiss aren’t close together. You build the tension, then get a milestone. Then you build up tension, and get the next milestone.
I particularly like A from Wayhaven and Daemir from the Sword of Rhivenia. You can see they have feelings for the MC, and you can see the romance progressing, but it’s slow and painful (making it oh so romantic)
I do quite like a slow-burn with a lot of tension, so long as it’s more about the characters themselves rather than it being a bunch of contrived problems around them. [By which I mean the characters themselves are unsure of whether or not they can trust one another, like I said prior, rather than it being about being interrupted as someone had stated earlier.] Most of my ROs are probably going to be categorized as ‘slow burn’ because they cannot immediately be flirted with [though there is one exception] since it wouldn’t fit the MC or the ROs themselves. Part of me was tempted to include flirting options with negative reactions but I felt that would feel punishing to the reader.
My favourite example of that is womanizer not initiating the romance route and blushing furiously, getting stammered or confused if MC flirts with them as furiously as they do with them. Sarcasm is implied.
The only way I could see this working is if the womanizer is ‘straight’ and doesn’t know how to respond to the fact that they are interested in someone who isn’t a woman [assuming MC isn’t a woman] or is not used to having the control swept from them so they don’t know exactly how to respond to it. Being negative to a womanizer too seems like it would be interesting [not used to being put down or having someone completely put off by their behaviour.]
I prefer characters to be written like people in all their parts. I often see the supposed womanizer reacting with shyness to a single bold flirting option, I often see slow-burns that just feel weird for the character’s romantic route.
My favourite example of that is womanizer not initiating the romance route and blushing furiously, getting stammered or confused if MC flirts with them as furiously as they do with them. Sarcasm is implied.
I could see that, but in my opinion being a (wo)manizer implies a great deal of personal confidence if they are implied to be a successful heartthrob. Being put down or rejected should be something they could recover from without much issue. Loss of control could be interesting, but I can’t figure out a slow-burn with them without a word starting with great large L coming into the mix and it’s a very common cliche.
I personally consider most of the romances in FH to be slow burn. Though you can make your MC feel attraction for an RO and even pursue relationships, the MC is never completely honest with the ROs. There’s flirting and banter but the mess of feelings, secret identities, and conflicting interests/sides naturally slows the progression of the relationship. The MC has secrets, all the ROs have them too, and attraction doesn’t necessarily mean trust. Things aren’t aired out immediately and a lot of the significant interactions with ROs can have weeks/months in between them.
It never feels contrived because all the characters have their reasons, especially the MC who’ll go wtf at themselves if they catch feelings for an RO because pursuing any RO is kinda bad for their plans. Still, everyone except maybe the MC makes an effort to communicate (with varying levels of success) so there aren’t any stupid misunderstandings for the most part unless if the MC wants them to misunderstand
I generally love these types of slow burns with a push-pull type of vibe, where there’s understandable risk involved for all sides so one or both try to push each other away but they still get closer anyways. There’s a lot more milestones here than just getting close (though getting to know each other can be a huge achievement already depending on how insane the slow burn is), and surmounting each obstacle feels pretty rewarding as a reader. My issue with slow burns are when the obstacles to the relationship don’t warrant that kind of pacing or add any meaningful tension to the relationship. Also I hate it if obstacles to getting together are contrived or overused (interruptions, needless misunderstandings, obliviousness, one side repeating the same argument over and over, refusing to communicate for no good reason)
If I could, I would give you all 100 of my likes for the day just for this sentence. It sums up my issues with most “slow burns” very well. Like you said, the romances in FH could be described as slow-burn, but they feel natural.
There are valid reasons for the romances moving slowly, but they still move. They aren’t stuck in first gear, with the only movement being when they’re suddenly slammed into reverse because the author chooses to do so. There aren’t unnecessary interruptions, repeated stupidity from the LI, and the MC has the choice of moving quicker or slower, depending on the character. Choices matter, and it affects the romances, instead of choices being ignored and the romances moving at the same, slow-as-snot pace no matter what the MC wants.
I get that some people take months to figure out if they like someone or not. I get that some people define romance as longing looks and blushing and all that crap. Many people do not. And, although there may be character reasons for LIs to move at a slower pace than the MC, it can be done in a way that doesn’t stall the romance for five goddammed books.
Showing a LI as being so oblivious that, when hit in the face with things repeatedly, they still don’t get it serves no purpose other than to make the character look like a complete and utter moron. Showing a LI so reluctant to start something with the MC works to a point, but there has to be communication. Otherwise, it makes no sense.
In FH2, @malinryden managed to write romances that move at varying speeds, depending on the MC’s behavior, choices, and own desires, and she did it while staying true to the LIs. I don’t consider them slow-burn, I consider them natural based on the setting of the story and the beginning positions the MC and LIs. Those romances can move faster or slower, based on what the player wants, and that is how it should be.
That said, if, in b3, Ortega or Herald suddenly take 10 steps backwards in their relationship with the MC, I’ll be the first one complaining about it.
Unless there’s a damned good reason for it, anyway.
I mean they already have some pretty good reasons. Sidestep is a walking red flag after all. Or maybe orange flag.
As for slowburn romances I think a dtf meeting could still count if both sides are adult enough to understand that sex is just a part of a relationship. An optional part at that. Sometimes I feel these games have inherited the bad habit of treating sex as a romantic finish line or reward for picking the “right” choices.
Agreed, but (at the moment) they have chosen to stick by my MC after learning about her being a re-gene. I’m thinking that will help soften the blow of her being the villain (especially since she doesn’t kill… ever). I could see them resisting if the villain is a murderer, but when she’s a hero in villain’s clothing? Nuh uh.
Yep. And the ones who write f-buddies to love stories don’t understand how that works at all. @VilsBae seems to get it, though, given how well Carter’s romance is going in The Bureau.
Having a kiss or sex be the endgame for a “romance” is just weird to me. The interesting part (the “romance” part, really) comes when you’re together, and learning more and more about each other. Longing looks just do nothing for me other than creep me out. Flirting is great, but it if it doesn’t go somewhere pretty fast, then it’s just a game that’s fun, but otherwise pointless.
Regarding actual IF game romances, I don’t know which would qualify as slow-burn because, to me, something like Scully/Mulder is slow-burn. Not a relationship that consists of 30+ scenes with the romance starting in, maybe, scene 18. Such a romance can still be wonderful and mind-blowing, obviously, but it just doesn’t scratch that particular slow-burn itch.
What I love the most about slow-burn romances is the deep connection that is established, leading up to some kind of Big Emotional Realization that is followed up with interpersonal deliciousness like “mutual pining/idiots in love” or “big denial”. This works best if the connection between the characters is actually demonstrated through text. It’s not enough to tell me that this character is MC’s best friend of 10 years. No, you better show them burying a body with my MC. A very well-written friendship is Ortega in FH, for example. Even if you do not romance them and/or do not like their character, it’s painfully obvious that Ortega cares a lot about MC.
Obviously, this type of connection doesn’t have to be friendship alone. Since I particularly love enemies-to-lovers or slap-slap-kiss (depending on how it’s executed and plays out), the dynamic between the characters can also be an antagonistic one. In this case, however, it’s important to establish why these characters suddenly feel a romantic/sexual pull toward each other and how they decide to deal with that.
Further, the romantic obstacles should be reasonable and/or entertaining because, for a slow burn, I should feel like my time is well-spent by giving attention to this romance. I can deal with stupid clichés (in fact, I love it when they are dealt with in an original, tongue-in-cheek manner or even subverted) but I will be out if the angst is too much or a character, who is otherwise mature, suddenly behaves like a five-year-old for ~plot reasons. Make the emotional beats count.
I’m currently feral over a TV romance and the main draw for me is the emotional maturity, the willingness to be vulnerable, and the progressive construction of tender affection based on growing trust and respect. Give me that in a romance – between friends or nemeses – and I will be very happy.
A good slow burn makes me go: “wow, that is absolutely delicious”. The odds stacked against the relationship means I’m cheering for every little win and it’s juicy drama. I am immersed!
A bad slow burn makes me want to set down my book/phone and marvel at the relationship-induced stupidity and wonder why they haven’t gotten together yet. Like is talking really that hard?
With good slow burns, you understand from both a narrative viewpoint and the characters’ perspective as to why they haven’t gotten together. Bad slow burns feel pointless and padded out, often breaking my immersion because it’s clear that the author is just milking it lmao
As for the topic of (wo)manizer slow burns, I think there’s a lot of slow burn potential if done right. Some examples:
The object of the (wo)manizer’s affections being difficult to crack because of said (wo)manizer’s reputation. How can the (wo)manizer convince the other person that what they feel is genuine? What if they don’t know how to convey that depth of affection because it’s just not something they’re used to?
The (wo)manizer is only that way to strangers or people outside their social circles. There’s less risk in flings or hookups with people you know you won’t see again. They might not want to pull the same things to the other half of the slow burn out of their sense of friendship (if they and their love interest are friends) or their professionalism (if they and their love interest work together). In this case, it’ll be up to the other person to push them to take that risk.
The classic “best friend that’s secretly in love” trope. Not a big fan of this but when done right, it’s pretty good (example: MC can be the pining best friend for Ortega in FH and the MC can have a lot of feelings about Ortega being flirty. Is this me finding an excuse to mention FH? Yes. Will I stop? No, and in a way, Ortega fits both of the above bullet points)
If the ROs take any steps backward, I’ll assume it’ll be due to Sidestep’s self-sabotage or some secrets spilling lmao
I agree though I think newer games make the sex part in romances optional + are more aroace inclusive. If I remember correctly, M from Wayhaven has that slowburn dtf dynamic you described (not sure lol) but I’m not sure if other CoG/HG/IF works have anything similar to M’s route.
See, this would make M’s route more fun in Wayhaven (it’s my favorite LI, so take that for what it is). Instead of taking forever for M and alternating between being a dick and being nice because Mr. Observant is forced by the narrative to be completely unobservant, let M figure out that their “weirdness” is because they have feelings in a reasonable amount of time (not in b5) and then have them trying to figure out how to convince the MC they have feelings given that, if they’ve banged, the first words out of their mouth were “this doesn’t mean anything, it’s just fun.”
Let them figure out how to “date” the MC without dates, since M’s senses preclude them from being able to go to restaurants, movie theaters, and pretty much anywhere that is noisy, smelly, or crowded. Let them figure out how to make it clear to the MC that things between them actually do mean something to them, while giving the MC the opportunity to doubt it, based on M’s own words on numerous occasions. Then, again, the MC could take it slower (if they wished), or they could choose to believe M pretty quickly because the MC feels the same toward them.
Let the slow burn come for those who want to wait for sex or don’t want it at all (M is touch-oriented, after all, which means finding something else that works for him (which may not be easy, to be honest).
I just don’t understand this idea that you stop getting to know each other and getting closer because you’ve sucked face or banged. That’s as insane as thinking you have to know everything there is to know about a person before you marry them–hell, I’ve known my mother my entire life, and I learn something different about her every day. Probably because people aren’t stagnant… at least, most aren’t.