Rollercoaster of Emotions in Dark Romance Writing

Daniel Jaems Director

Scene rollercoasters in dark romance writing beckons authors to transcend the traditional compartmentalised chapters of sex, violence, and romantic tenderness, urging a more nuanced blend that mirrors the unpredictable nature of human emotion and promoting longer scenes that are more like tracks of twist, turns, drops and climbs than isolated plot segments. We all know The Sex Scene, The Love Scene, The Angst Scene etc, but how they begin, middle and end can follow Quentin Tarantino’s approach to cinema, where emotional intensity, humour, and raw humanity bleed and overlap as mini 3 part chapters within the same scene. This principle can heighten the way dark romance chapters are presented, offering readers experiences that are unpredictable, shifting through a spectrum of emotions.

Blending Emotional Extremes:

Tarantino’s films are renowned for their ability to juxtapose contrasting elements—tenderness in the midst of violence, humour alongside tragedy. Romance writers can adopt this technique by infusing scenes, especially those typically formulaic like sex scenes, with unexpected layers of emotional depth. Instead of delivering a straightforward sex scene, intertwine moments of vulnerability, unspoken fears, or even unresolved tension, creating a multifaceted experience that reflects the complexity of real-life intimacy. 

Let’s look at how we can create mini 3 act structures in scenes that can pivot between emotions and still feel like they are earned.

Scene Part A: Setup part B: Conflict/Twist Part C: Resolution
Forbidden Love Two characters from rival factions share a secret rendezvous. An unexpected attack forces them to defend each other, revealing their true allegiances. United by the crisis, they plan an escape, choosing love over loyalty.
Enemies to Lovers A heated argument escalates into physical proximity, sparking unintended desire. A moment of vulnerability is shared after an unexpected confession of past wounds. They join forces against a common enemy, their bond solidified by shared adversity.
Secret Romance A couple hides their relationship from their authoritarian society. During a public event, one acts coldly to maintain the facade, hurting the other. A grand, risky gesture of love in public challenges norms and affirms their commitment.
Second Chance Romance Ex-lovers unexpectedly reunite on opposing sides of a legal battle. Trapped together in a lockdown, they confront their unresolved issues and misunderstandings. Discovering a mutual conspiracy against them, they reconcile to expose the truth.
Love Triangle Character A is torn between a safe, expected love with B and a passionate, forbidden desire for C. A dangerous situation reveals C’s depth of feeling and B’s unexpected betrayal. A chooses C, but they decide to confront B together, seeking closure.
Marriage of Convenience Marrying for mutual benefit, they keep their emotions and pasts hidden. A life-threatening incident reveals one partner’s hidden skills and traumatic history. Facing their vulnerabilities, they find genuine love and understanding beyond convenience.
Fake Relationship To inherit, they must convince everyone of their love at a family retreat. A slip-up exposes the lie, leading to a heated argument about trust and genuine feelings. Proving their worth to each other, they decide to make the relationship real.
Runaway Bride/Groom A runaway bride seeks refuge in a stranger’s getaway car, driven by a lone traveler. Pursued by her fiancé, they share stories and scars, finding solace in each other’s flaws. At the confrontation, she rejects her past, choosing a future with her unexpected ally.
Kidnapped Romance A captor and captive share a moment of unexpected empathy over shared music tastes. During an escape attempt, they save each other’s lives, revealing hidden depths. Bound by their ordeal, they face the captor’s employers together, forging a deep bond.
Protector/Protégée The protector reveals a vulnerable past, explaining their overprotectiveness. When the protégée is targeted, they reveal their own hidden strengths, surprising the protector. Their roles blur, evolving into mutual protectors embarking on a dangerous mission together.
Beauty and the Beast During a nightly conversation, the “beast” shows gentleness, piquing the “beauty’s” curiosity. The “beauty” discovers the “beast’s” monstrous form is due to a curse linked to her own past. Together, they seek redemption, finding love transcends physical appearances and past sins.
Amnesia Love An amnesiac character and their partner retrace memories, sparking conflicting emotions. A previously unknown side of the amnesiac’s personality emerges, challenging the partner’s loyalty. Rediscovering their bond through new experiences, they choose to create new memories together.
Love After Loss Two grieving individuals connect over their shared loss, finding solace in each other. Their relationship is tested by the revelation of a secret connection to their lost ones. They confront their past, finding healing and a forward path in their shared love.
Forbidden Powers Lovers discover one has supernatural abilities that threaten their safety. The power becomes uncontrollable, revealing it’s tied to the lover’s emotions about their past. They seek isolation to understand the power, finding strength in vulnerability and unity.
Age Gap Romance A younger partner faces scrutiny and doubt over their relationship with an older partner. An event from the older partner’s past challenges the younger’s understanding of them. Together, they address the past, reinforcing their bond through honesty and mutual respect.
Workplace Romance Competing for the same promotion, their rivalry masks a growing attraction. Forced to collaborate on a project, their competitive edge gives way to innovative synergy. Acknowledging their strengths and emotions, they become partners in both love and work.
Survival Romance Strangers band together to survive in a post-apocalyptic setting, sharing skills and stories. A threat reveals one has information critical to their survival, forcing a choice between solidarity and self-preservation. Facing the truth, they rebuild trust, their survival sparking a resilient, hopeful love.
Accidental Cohabitation A booking error leads to sharing a living space, sparking initial disdain. Trapped together during a lockdown, their shared vulnerabilities dismantle barriers. Choosing to extend their cohabitation voluntarily, they explore the depth of their accidental connection.
Holiday Romance A holiday fling is complicated by the realization that they live worlds apart. An unexpected event extends their time together, deepening their connection beyond a fling. They decide to face the challenges of distance, committed to turning a holiday romance into a lasting love.
Criminal Lovers Partners in crime plan a final heist, questioning their life and love in the underworld. Betrayal during the heist tests their trust, revealing deeper loyalties and secrets. Overcoming betrayal, they choose love over crime, escaping with a plan for a new life.

Infusing Psychological Depth:

Just as a Tarantino scene is never just about the action on the surface, a romance scene—be it a confrontation, a moment of physical intimacy, or a declaration of love—should never be just about the act itself. Incorporate the psychological battles the characters are facing, their insecurities, and the unspoken words between them. This approach not only adds depth to the scene but also makes it more relatable and memorable for the reader.

Challenging Predictability:

Tarantino challenges viewers by subverting expectations and blending genres in unexpected ways. Romance writers can take a cue from this by challenging the predictability of their scenes. For instance, a moment of physical intimacy could be interrupted by a sudden revelation or conflict, adding a layer of tension, and making the eventual resolution all the more satisfying. By refusing to adhere strictly to genre conventions, authors can create narratives that keep readers on their toes.

Embracing the In-Between Moments:

One of Tarantino’s strengths is his attention to the in-between moments—the quiet before the storm, the dialogue that seems inconsequential but is loaded with meaning. In romance, these moments can be just as powerful as the grand gestures of love or passion. They offer a space to explore the characters’ emotions, doubts, and desires in a more subdued, yet impactful, manner.

Consequences and Emotional Aftermath:

Just as violence in a Tarantino film is not without its emotional aftermath, actions in a romance narrative—whether they are grand declarations of love, moments of betrayal, or scenes of passion—should carry weight and consequences. These moments should not only propel the plot forward but also offer a chance for character growth, deepening the emotional stakes of the narrative.

Normalising Imperfection in Intimacy:

Taking inspiration from the rawness of Tarantino’s storytelling, romance writers are encouraged to portray intimacy in all its imperfect reality. Acknowledge the awkwardness, the misunderstandings, and the insecurities that can accompany intimate moments. This approach not only adds realism to the narrative but also provides an opportunity to explore how characters navigate these challenges, strengthening their connection and making their journey more relatable.

In essence, embracing the “Violence of Emotions” within romance writing is about daring to weave a rich understanding of human experience into every scene. By breaking free from the constraints of formulaic storytelling and infusing narratives with the full spectrum of human emotion, writers can offer readers a more immersive, authentic, and unforgettable experience. This approach not only honours the complexity of love and human connection but also elevates the genre to new heights of emotional resonance and impact.

Case study – “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” – The Bride’s Hospital Awakening:

Upon awakening from a four-year coma to discover the loss of her unborn child, the Bride’s (Uma Thurman) grief is palpable and visceral. The scene quickly transitions from her profound sorrow to a fierce determination for revenge. This blend of deep emotional trauma with the violence of her ensuing journey highlights the complexities of her character and the lengths to which she will go for love and vengeance. For romance writing, this scene underscores the power of combining emotional depth with physical action. Exploring the ramifications of past violence or trauma on a character’s emotional journey can add layers to the narrative, offering readers a compelling exploration of resilience, recovery, and the pursuit of justice or redemption in the name of love.

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