Internet Dating 101

by Tammy Lough
published in Writing

Don’t you love how it feels when it’s time to create the first chapter of a new romance novel? The mandatory, behind the pages grunt work is complete and your fingertips hover, ready to tap-tap-tap across the keyboard. You are stoked and imagine the keys ablaze with flames of creativity. WOO HOO, life is good. Until it isn’t. Wha? Have you ever been stopped dead in your tracks by a feisty heroine who isn’t on board with your storyline? If you haven’t, you will.

Many of us know the sick-in-the-gut, find me a place to barf feeling, when the heroine we imagined to star in our awesome tale of love suddenly slams her fists on the keyboard, looks us dead in the eye, and shoots us a grin that says, nope, nada, not gonna happen, or I walk off the page. You plead with her and remind the she-devil how much time you’ve spent preparing her character’s story. She couldn’t care less.

Other hard-headed heroines have demanded control of the plot, so we know better than to waste time playing virtual tug-of-words. Go ahead, furrow your brow, allow your bottom lip to quiver, then grab a tissue before the sobbing begins. Your sobbing, not the heroine. The heroine always wins. Repeat: the heroine always wins. She will run the show and take your story in a direction you never considered. Never, ever. Read on.

Your heroine has decided to join an internet dating sight to find her Hero, her Knight in Shining Armor, her Mr. Right. Wrong! You fight back with an arsenal of objections, but she doesn’t listen to a word of your gibberish. Soon, the two of you are spending the afternoon researching internet dating sites for her perfect beau.

In case one of your future heroines pulls your story into the realm of online dating, how about I share some wisdom from the professionals, and a few of my own real-life experiences? Yes, been there and done that. Plus, exciting news at the end.

Choose Your Site With Care

Spend time cruising the top dating websites to narrow your heroine’s choices according to her personality. Probably narrow her choices to 3-5 sites. Personality? Yes, dating sites have their own unique flavor.

For example, some sites are lively and the messages lean a bit more flirtatious. Not to say the members aren’t looking for a serious relationship, but they are more playful about the process. Is your heroine playful? Perfect.

My heroine liked sites that allowed her to view member profiles before logging in and revealing herself. She also felt the folks on these sites seemed a bit more adventurous and into activities like mountain biking, hiking, and rock concerts. Write the fictitious chatter for your future reader as the two of you peruse profiles and check out photographs.

Understand that Members Lie on Their Bios

Dishonesty isn’t cool, but people definitely lie or stretch the truth when seeking a partner.The following examples, and many more, truly happened during my course of internet dating:

  1. Age: He states 48. Reality? 84. Claims dyslexia.
  2. Body Type: States “A little extra weight.” Reality? The restaurant manager fetches a bariatric chair. And a spare.
  3. Height: States “5’9-6’2.” Reality? He is a 4’6” dwarf. Not that I am judgmental, but a little heads up would have been appreciated.
  4. Any Noticeable Oddities? States “None.” Reality? He once had a dart thrown directly into his pupil. Years later, it still seeps drainage that he dabs with a rolled up, soiled handkerchief. I kid you not.
  5. Employment: States “Aerospace Engineer.” Reality? Chief burger flipper at the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley.

Use Your Right Brain for Creative Thinking

Let’s imagine we are setting up our heroine’s dating profile. Remember Gabriela’s story map? If not, sign up for DIY MFA 101 and you’ll gain an entire toolbox of writing jewels.

  1. Fill out a list of potential dates “Must-Haves” and another story map for “Must-Not.” Jot down what you imagine as the consequences for ignoring an item(s) on your written-in-stone lists and set your responses aside as a potential scene later in your novel. Let’s say I “Must-Have” a man with integrity. One evening he bebops into your heroine’s apartment with a bag of money clearly marked as coming from a bank that was recently robbed. Jot notes about what would happen next and pull out your notes if anything near this scenario plays out in your novel.
  2. Read dating site bios to trigger the flow of creative writing juice and write “for fun” bios: one reflecting a person who is exactly who the “bio” describes as the partner he wants to find, another “just for fun” portraying your heroine as the exact, hysterical opposite. Now that you’ve primed the creative pump, trash the pretend “for fun” bios and write your heroine’s real one.
  3. If you write romantic comedy…your truth can be stretched a teeny bit for a reader’s comic relief. *Wink* 
  4. What about including a “Catfish” among her potential dates and exposing this very real imposter to the masses? I wonder what your heroine will do when she realizes the date she planned for, anticipated, and set aside precious time for, turned out to be a fake with fourteen other ladies meeting him at the same time, same place? Can you spell I-N-F-U-R-I-A-T-E-D?!?!
  5. Don’t forget to write plenty of internal dialogue. Your reader will by dying to know if what she is saying to her date is what she is truly thinking . . . as he dabs his eye for the zillionth time with a soiled hankie.

Have Your Heroine Follow Her Gut

Gut feelings result from processing that happens in the brain. Research suggests that the brain is a large predictive machine, constantly comparing incoming sensory information and current experiences against stored knowledge and memories of previous experiences to predict what will come next. Sounds like we need to pay attention. 

Discuss listening to your heroine’s intuition or gut feelings. Even when online, we can still get a sense of a person, and create that exciting internal feeling that lets you know who is The One.

Set your character up on a fictitious dating site, mix in a pinch of this and a dash of that, stir it with magic dust and see what happens. And may we all find our Happily Ever After!

My exciting news and prompt for this article? I met my Happily Ever After on an internet dating site and we recently became engaged. (WOO HOO)!

Tammy Lough is an award-winning author who loves writing romance and creating unique characters who burst with personality and frequent sprinklings of humor. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Missouri Romance Writers of America, Saturday Writers, and Missouri Writers Guild where she serves as liaison. You can connect with Tammy on her website

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