On the Eve's Fan Garden chat last night, the question arose of how to sustain that will-they-get-together-or-won't-they tension in a novel's romance. People mentioned different kinds of obstacles, but some of us (and I'm sorry to be so vague about attribution here, but it was a big chat and the words were flying by!) preferred to let the couple get together and then throw problems at them. As a reader, I sometimes get impatient when I can tell that a couple is going to get together, and it can be frustrating to see that delayed too long. (Especially if the obstacles are more nuisances than big, important differences.)
If the couple gets together before the book's end, different kinds of tension arise: Will they stay together? How intense will they let the relationship get? How will they handle any obstacles or differences, challenges or distractions? Will the relationship really turn out to be everything they hoped, or will there be surprises along the way? Couples can be challenged in many, many ways: Disapproving friends or parents. Competing demands on their time. Different interests. The reappearance of an old flame, or the entrance of an attractive new one. The decision of how far to go physically, and the consequences of that decision. The threat of separation (e.g., moving away, college). Different moral or ethical codes. The decision of whether to share painful secrets, and when.
Getting together isn't always the ending: it can be the middle, or even the beginning.