As I was working on my latest manuscript this morning, I started thinking about my characters' motivations. Specifically, why would these two people fall in love with each other? Despite what the many critics of the romance genre claim, readers know that good romances have more than a purely physical attraction.
It occurred to me that all worthwhile romances answer two questions:
Why are these two individuals the perfect match? That is, what is the essential element that each one provides to complete the whole? For example, a common romance trope is where one brings love back into the other's life. One of the more popular examples is the case of the hero or heroine who is disfigured, and the other accepts them for who they are. Of course, not all scars are physical so emotional works well too.
Of course, if the heroine brings love back into the hero's life, he must also complete her in an equally important way. The common trope is to save her from financial or reputational ruin, but a few exceptional authors find ways to freshen that up a bit.
Why are these two people so wrong for each other? Unless you want to write a really boring novel, the hero and heroine also have to be completely wrong for each other. In my opinion, this is a little harder to do. For example, it's difficult to give one a character flaw that makes him or her "wrong" without making them unredeemable in the eyes of the reader. Plus, certain characters flaws are at the point of really being overdone, e.g., the cold aristocrat or the unredeemable rake. A skilled writer might be able to find ways to make these two flaws fresh, but there are a lot of stale examples out there today.
Outside influences can also work. For example, Cupid's Arrow, which is coming
My current manuscript is set in Delaware in 1774. The conflict is heating up, and many Americans are starting to take sides. My heroine comes from a family of staunch loyalists, but because she's lived under the thumb of her father, she has a certain sympathy for the rebels. My hero is a rebel, but with an interesting twist. He abhors violence. He's joined the rebel cause, hoping to keep the peace. So in a way, what makes them so wrong for each other is also what makes them so right.