The Art of the Slow Burn: How It Works, and Why It Makes Us Absolutely Feral

The Art of the Slow Burn: How It Works, and Why It Makes Us Absolutely Feral

We’re probably all here for similar reasons, right? We’re part of the C+C community because we love books, especially ones with an element of romance. And like most bookworms, you’re probably into dissecting what works (and what doesn’t) in any given story.

So, as the weather starts to heat up in the northern hemisphere, we thought it would be a great time to discuss the art of the slow burn! (Also, if you’re like us, you may have just watched the tipping point of love story that has been building over three seasons of Bridgerton. We will never look at carriages the same way again.) What makes this romance plotline work, and why does it always have us screaming and kicking our feet? Let’s break it down.

Getting a Deeper Understanding of the Characters

One of the more effective elements of the slow burn is the time and space it gives us to better understand our key players in the story. If we better understand their motivations, quirks, and even their flaws, we as readers get a clearer picture of them as individuals before they enter the romance. We can then see why they’re so great for each other and what they can accomplish together, aside from just fantastic chemistry. 

Gradual Elevation of Feelings

While we do have a place in our hearts for love at first sight, it does seem more realistic that feelings grow over time. As our MCs get to know each other, it makes sense for their chemistry to build along with their understanding of one another. This is so, so important in enemies-to-lovers or friends-to-lovers stories in particular. When your opinion of a person changes, it likely doesn’t flip like a switch. So, with that gradual evolution, we’re able to get some amazing growth that also gets us excited.

Potential for Mutual Pining

We love a good pining moment. First, a character has to come to terms with their own feelings, which is always a fun adventure. But then they get to spend some time wondering if the other party feels the same way. It’s a fantastic opportunity for a character to say or think some of the most romantic, profound things about their love interest, which typically only makes us want them to get together even more. And if we have a muli-POV story and we get to read each MC pining over the other without knowing that the feelings are reciprocated?! Stop, it’s too damn delicious. (In case you don’t know, we in the business call moments like this — when the audience has crucial information the characters don’t — “dramatic irony,” and it is super effective when used correctly.)

But, Like, Will They Get Their HEA?!

Tension and suspense key elements to every story. As you get further through the book, you’ll likely start to realize that our characters are running out of time. Will there be a grand confession of love? Will they just snap in a heated moment and go at it? Will they just KISS ALREADY?! In most romance plotlines, we want our MCs to get their happily ever after. And as the pages run out, we get more invested in whether that happens or not. Or, alternatively, there could be too many pages left at a point where everything seems to be in a great place. And that’s suspicious as hell. What can it mean?!

Increased Satisfaction

The release of all of this tension tends to be so incredibly satisfying. There’s relief, validation, and joy that all come with finally seeing the people we want to get together do the thing! In a well-executed slow burn romance, we feel like this triumph is earned. We’ll walk away absolutely thrilled that Mr. Darcy finally got it together and was real about his feelings, or that Feyre figured out which high lord the Suriel was telling her to stay with. Our characters fought for something, and maybe even almost lost their shot at their HEA, but everything was okay in the end.

None of this is to say that there’s anything wrong with an insta-love situation. We love a classic fairytale “love at first sight” moment, too! It takes a lot of skill and finesse to craft a great romance of any kind. But there’s just something special about a well-executed slow burn romance.

What do you think? What elements of a slow burn make you completely feral? Let us know in the comments!

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