There’s a romance in my novel. An early reader said she’s not rooting for the couple like she thinks she should and I know that’s bad (obviously), but I don’t know what to do about it. Help?
Ask the reader if she’d root for the individual characters. After all, if we’d root for Jess no matter what Jess’s problem is, and we’d root for Chris no matter what Chris’s problem is, then we’d probably root for Jess and Chris as a couple. Help us know each character beyond looks, job/school status, and key problem. We’d learn those on a first date. What would we discover on the second date? The sixth? That’s the stuff to reveal as the story rolls out. What are their habits? What topics provoke/calm them? How would their reactions to others differ if you change the others’ gender, politics, class, ethnicity, etc? What fears/hopes do they have besides the Main Goal? What would they not want revealed? What would they yearn to share? Flesh out characters with action that reveals moods, opinions, judgments. When we know two individuals well (the good and bad) we’re intrigued to see how they interact as a couple—and we care about the outcome.