Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writing Romance

All three of my YA novels have some romance in them. Not a ton. But some. And not the rip-your-clothes-off-and-fall-into-bed kind of romance. The kind where it's the little moments that show you the love between the two characters. I especially love this scene from FAR FROM YOU (out now in paperback, by the way!).

autumn perfection

the air was cool
and crisp,
the way you want your sheets
when it's blistering

We walked to the park
and ran through the leaves,
picking them up
and throwing them at each other,
as if they were snowballs.

Instead of loud splats,
we got quiet flutters
of crimson and amber.

He pulled me to him,
spun me around,
and we fell
into a bed of foliage
fit for a king.

I wanted to freeze
the moment in my mind
because there's nothing better
than flutters
of the heart.


I'm working on a new project now, and as I write, I keep thinking back to one of the editorial letters my editor wrote me, where he talked about the growing attraction between two characters.

He said, "the reader needs to see the love even before the characters do, and the readers have to be rooting for it." He went on to say, "...I don't see how they truly connect and fall in love for one another."

So often it's easy to rely on the instant attraction thing in YA books as to why two teens are drawn to each other. But I think to make it real, you have to SHOW why the two characters are drawn together. After that revision letter, I went to work on that, and it wasn't easy! But I knew it was important.

In I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, we see that Ava admired Jackson's love of adventure. It was so different to her quiet life, filled with books, baking, making CDs for her friends, etc. He made life exciting for her!!

Sometimes it's common interests, sometimes it's seeing how someone brings something new to your life that you've been missing, and sometimes it's both. It's going to totally depend on the characters, and understanding who they are and thinking about what they would be looking for in a mate and WHY.

We all know teens love romance.

But I think doing it well - doing it so it feels genuine, REAL, is not easy.

Can you think of examples of books that do the romance thing WELL, where you really get it why the two characters fall for each other? One I can think of is IF I STAY. This book was really well received, and I think Gayle did a phenomenal job showing us the love her main character felt for her boyfriend, and where that love came from.


  1. Thanks for the post. Romance, whether in bits or bites, is so important in YA. I loved that snip from FAR FROM YOU. A lot of books play the romance thing well, but for most teens and teen books it's also love at first sight. So I guess the whole perception of romance varies from person to person. It's all about making it convincing.
    I, for one, like to see the blossoming of romance. It's awkward and beautiful.

  2. This post came at a good moment for me, as I am grappling with this in my own WIP.

    I loved the real romance in If I Stay; it's one of my favorite books of last year. If you hadn't mentioned it, I would have!

    I love how you say the reader has to see it before the characters do. It's such simple advice, yet so important!

  3. If I Stay is epic in so many ways, and yes, especially because of how the characters fall for in love and how she shows their growing love. I think Courtney Summers shows a much edgier side in Some Girls Are as we see Michael and Regina fall for each other. David Levithan, no surprise, is a master of this too. And, of course, Elizabeth Scott.

  4. Daisy - YES, I'm reading SOME GIRLS ARE now, and she does such a beautiful job with Michael and Regina.

  5. That excerpt from Far From You is like poetry.
    I recently read Fire, by Kristen Cashore, and she does an excellent job of making the reader root for two characters falling in love before the characters even realize that they are falling for each other.
    Great post!

  6. From a different angle, my agent recently told me she had a hard time believing the fallout between two of my characters because they never appeared to be friends in the first place.

    She was 100% right.

    Just like romance, there has to be something that draws/holds characters together.

  7. I think you're right, it's very hard to have this come across as genuine. Many times, I'm reading something and think, "Oh, just go on and do it already!" (And by 'it', of course, I am staying well withing a G-rated vision!)

    To me, this gets annoying - the idea that a growing attraction needs to be kept up for hundreds of pages for the sake of urgency. I know some people are this clueless, but I'd rather not read about them. ;)

    I also enjoyed FIRE, because I distinctly remember when I realized she was into the prince. I was like, "Ohhh!"

  8. Beautiful post and beautiful snippet from Far From You. It's writing bits like that, that make the romance or chemistry between the characters so believable.

    It's little moments inserted through out the story that help develop the relationship of the characters. It can't be forced or rushed, or it ruins it.

    I think you've done a beautiful job at capturing the importance of your characters romance.

  9. What a wonderful post and excerpt, which was sensual in an innocent way.
    I also like the way the romance emerged in FIRE out of growing respect for one another.
    I have yet to read IF I STAY but its on my TBR list. Now, I'll be sure to get to it.