I'm writing a high school romance story. My story centers around two characters falling in love, but I can't find a way to make their romance seem real and believable.

Here is the backstory: The main character is a boy from a lower class family. He got a chance to go to another big city and attend a prestigious school. In the school every other child is from a much higher class society and family. So the boy is most likely to be bullied and that turned out to be true.

There is also a girl character who is super popular in that school. I want my main character and this girl character to fall in love with each other, but not finding a reasonable way to tie most popular girl to the most bullied boy ever. ALSO, the girl character is not the motherly type creature in general. So I can't make her fall in love with him out of kindness and generosity. No, the girl character is not mean. I meant she isn't that kind of girl who will notice a bullied person and necessarily feel like helping him. Also I don't want her to be in Love with him out of sympathy, that would be pathetic. She is actually a trouble maker kind of girl but she is also very playful, funny and childish.

My general question is this: What makes a fictional romance seem real and believable? How do you develop the relationship between the characters?

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    I know you're new, so you might not know this, but you're not supposed to outright ask what to write here. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 12:38
  • Sounds like the popular gal is getting herself in a bet were she get more then she has bargained for. In a good sense I suppose ;) Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 12:39
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    Hi, and welcome to Writers. Stack Exchange is not like other sites. We are not a discussion forum or a brainstorming site. We only accept practical, answerable questions which have the potential to help others. This is a "what to write" question, which is off-topic for us because it is localized to your story and unlikely to help others in the future. Please take our tour and see our help center writing.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic to see what kinds of questions we answer. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 12:46
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    And generally speaking, 1) if your characters aren't likely to fall in love the way you've designed them, change their givens, 2) Opposites Attract is a trope older than dirt, so there are plenty of ways to make it work. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 12:47
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    Welcome Banna --your original question was too much a "what should I write" question, which is off topic here. I edited it to make it more general and less specific to your own story. I hope these edits are OK, if not, please revert them (but then your question will not be on topic for this site). Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 13:42

5 Answers 5


I heard some very good advice in this area (can't remember where it came from, sorry). Ask yourself; what quality does each lover possess that fulfills the deepest need in the other? Those qualities are what make it feel inevitable to readers that these two people would fall in love.

There are a million and one variations that can be played, and they all depend on the personalities of your characters.

You mentioned that your female character is wealthy and popular. What does she lack? He should embody these traits.

Maybe she is popular because of her wealth, because of her family, because she is beautiful. Maybe she wants someone who can love her without her wealth or without her family or her looks. Maybe when they meet he doesn't know who she is, or she has just been in an accident and looks hideous or something like that. (Imagine her stumbling into a wasp's nest and getting stung all over. He saves her, probably getting stung himself in the process. He always thought she was stuck-up and unattainable, she thought he was a coward because everyone called him one. They get thrown together and figure out neither was what they thought)

Maybe she feels like her life has been predetermined, or that she doesn't have any choice about where she is going. She wants someone who won't control her, maybe someone who doesn't feel threatened when she makes her own choices.

Maybe she comes from a broken home and she needs someone who she knows she can count on. Maybe she is surrounded by greed and dishonesty and he's honest and content with what he's got. Maybe she's surrounded by cowards and he's a brave man. Maybe her life is threatened and he steps in to save her. And so on.

Now, what does he need? He's poor and bullied. His pride has probably been stomped all over so he needs someone who isn't judgmental and who sees the diamond beneath the rough, as it were. He needs someone who will stand up for him, but not in a way that unmans him.

He needs someone who is vulnerable because it's very hard to fall for someone without vulnerability. For a person who feels powerless, having the power to save someone else can be a powerful aphrodisiac :)

Maybe he has unpleasant relatives who treat him like trash because they are poor. Having the woman who loves him be socially superior, wealthier, and a far better person, could make for some really satisfying scenes as she sends them scurrying off with tails between proverbial legs.

Anyway, once you decide what qualities will bring them together, you can decide what events occur to show each of them how this person who they may have disliked at first was not actually who they thought. At that point, readers should feel that their growing love is inevitable because they anticipate how the two will complete each other.


How do people in Real Life fall in love? They get to know each other. They share some interests, so they enjoy spending time together, and have common things to talk about. They respect each other. Each has qualities the other finds positive, perhaps even admirable. They are willing to forgive each other's less pleasant attributes.

To make a fictional romance believable, you would have to show those elements: they would have to have positive interactions with each other. Each would have to earn the other's respect.

A relationship with no arguments, no negative interactions, is impossible. You would have to show how those interactions ultimately lead to constructive rather than destructive results - better understanding.

We expect two partners to bring in equal measures to the table - otherwise the reader might well ask why would character A wish to remain with character B. So consider what qualities each character possesses that the other does not, what each contributes to the relationship, in what ways they are together stronger than each one on their own.

You can show the process of falling in love by way of the characters each thinking of the other while they're not there, being aware of each other's presence, contemplating what the other's opinion of them would be on a given situation, etc.

Consider, for example, Pride and Prejudice:

No sooner had [Mr. Darcy] made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes [...] and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. [...] He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others. (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, chapter 6)

That is the very beginning - Darcy notices Elizabeth - that is, notices her as standing out from the crowd. The two proceed to interact with each other, they are more and more on each other's thoughts, they grow to understand each other better. Through actions, they change, and change each other's opinion of themselves, and grow to accept each other's weaknesses.

You also need to show a couple's understanding each other - how they fit. Not completing each other's sentences - that trope has been overused, but taking into account each other's views without being reminded, understanding each other's intent. An example of a couple understanding each other, again from Pride and Prejudice:

'What made you so shy of me, when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?'
'Because you were grave ans silent, and gave me no encouragement.'
'But I was embarrassed.'
'And so was I.'
'You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.'
'A man who had felt less, might.'
'How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it!' (ibid, chapter 60)

  • You seem to be talking about friendship. People fall in love without having things in common. People fall in love because they are attracted to each other.
    – user32754
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 20:35

There are as many answers as there are love stories, and what will make people want to read your story is seeing how you answer this question. However, in general, these are things that can lead to romance (in life as well as in fiction).

  • Proximity: Sometimes people fall in love at a glance, or at a distance, but most love stories start with some reason for two people to be in the same place at the same time. Detention? A school project? Tutoring? School play?

  • Attraction: Let's face it, people are shallow. It's easier to fall in love with someone who is attractive. Of course, that person might be attractive only to you. That can make for an interesting story.

  • Compatibility: Discovering commonalities is often a shorthand for a developing romance in a story. But so is...

  • Tension: People love stories about people who can't stand each other, right up until the moment they realize they are in love.

Here's an example of one possible way that could work for your scenario. Let's say your characters are assigned to work on a school project together (proximity). They initially hate each other (tension - she's stuck up, he's poor) but can't deny their mutual attraction. As the project proceeds, they discover a surprising shared interest in old French films (compatibility). Everything else practically writes itself! Of course, that's just one version, you could mix the same elements together an infinite number of other ways.


I believe you have to give the boy a skill that the girl really likes.

Obviously it can't be fighting; but a bullied boy can still be highly intelligent, or artistic, or musical, or something more unusual that she appreciates. one example, he's awesome with dogs, and despite not defending himself, leaps into a dog fight to prevent a big mean dog from killing her little dog. He even gets bit, but blows it off, and ends up controlling the bigger dog. She doesn't get it, he's not afraid of being bitten by a dog but can't stand up for himself? (You find a reason for him to be that way; e.g. when she asks, he tells her, "That dog won't come looking for me tomorrow, he won't hold a grudge."

You need to invent a scene that first create curiosity on her part; she cannot be 100% shallow even if she is popular. She needs to be a thinking, feeling human being. Yeah she knows she's pretty; yeah she knows how to make people like her. But that can't be her whole life.

She starts a secret relationship with this boy, she loves his art, she loves his music, whatever. It is only partially true that "opposites attract"; the truth of relationships is synergy together. If Jack and Jill have different skills and are willing to use them to benefit both of them, they are stronger for that. But also, if Jack and Jill enjoy the same music, movies, books, or physical activities (like hiking, surfing, climbing, chess, D&D) then together they find more for both of them, have more opportunities for fun together, and can enjoy being with each other.

"Same" attracts also, most of your friends will share at least some of your interests, or you have nothing to talk about.

That synergy of co-dependence (skills Jack has that Jill does not, and vice versa), shared enjoyable experience and liking to be together (things they both like) makes people care for each other. It makes them think about each other, and builds empathy between them. Add in some mutual physical attraction, and the demonstration of that care in emotionally vulnerable moments can then be the trigger for love.

It is not love at first sight, really, that is lust. This is the recipe for love of the person; she can be in love with the thinking and emotions of the artist that truly cares for her, whatever you choose his "art" to be.

  • How do people fall in love with people that don't have a special skill? Which is most relationships and happens all the time.
    – user32754
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 20:33
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    @SamuelSnow "special skill" is perhaps a poor choice of words on my part; it does not have to be world-class extraordinary. Perhaps his sense of humor makes her laugh more than any other guy she has met. It has to be "special" to her. He needs to be a good outlier to her. In this case by the OP's demand, we must overcome his negatives (as a bullied underdog) with a large positive to make her (perhaps only her), the popular girl in school, willing to risk her social capital to hang with him. Maybe this relationship even begins in secret; creating conflicts they must overcome.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 20:44
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    @SamuelSnow Put another way, by the OP's setup, the "super popular girl" from a "much higher social class and family" apparently has all the power in this relationship. Our lower class bullied underdog kid needs something to match it or the relationship is not plausible. He's poor, he can't dress fashionably, he probably isn't great looking or muscular or he wouldn't get so bullied. So despite his shortcomings, something about him must captivate her and get her attention, and also outdo all her other options for romance in this rich school of wealthy families; that she has so far foregone.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 21:07
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    It could be fighting. It might be that he holds back from fighting back for a reason. Either because he believes it is wrong, or to protect someone who he believes will suffer if he strikes back at his tormentors. So it could come as a surprise to her when he actually does fight, maybe to protect her or someone who she is trying to protect. Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 18:51
  • @FrancineDeGroodTaylor +1, that could be interesting. He could think it will just escalate into war (as it did for him previously in his lower class nbhood), perhaps he permanently hurt someone fighting and feels guilt, so he just takes the relatively minor harassment of the upper class in the new school. So he believes violence is not the answer; but in the course of the story, he decides pacifism is not the answer either, and develops a more mature approach of the right measure of violence in defense of himself and others. Maybe the girl has brains behind the pretty, to help him do that.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 19:15

Possible ways include:

  • One night she has a dream about him. It need not be erotic, or even romantic, just the two of them in the same situation.
  • Some detail of his appearance, manner, speech, etc. appeals to her in a way that no other boy does.
  • Unbeknownst to her classmates, she is undergoing an internal struggle, and while the boy also does not know this, he shows by word or (preferably) action that it's a struggle that he understands.
  • After joining in the cruelties that have been heaped on the boy, something happens to make her genuinely remorseful for what she has done.

The one you pick will depend on whether you want her interest in him to be a lightning-strikes sort of thing, or based on having something in common, or as a result of the growth of her character.

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