Since we talked about love and romance as a teen in Monday's Teen Tales post, I wanted to talk about writing romance. I've talked about writing non-cheesy romantic scenes, but today I want to focus on writing romance in YA.
Here's the thing about this subject-- it's subjective. Different people like different things from their romance, and depending on the character and the story, the romance will always be different. And I don't necessarily consider myself a romance-writing expert (check out Stephanie Perkins for some great examples of that). So I'm going to give some general things that I think make any romance better.
1. The romance must be as individual as your characters
Though many bad chick flicks may have led people to believe otherwise, romance is not, in fact, a cliche. Romance is individual. Every relationship I ever had in high school and college was different-- partially because I was a slightly different person each time, and partially because I was dating different people.
Romance is all about the character interactions, which means it's about human interaction. We interact differently with different people because of who we are and who they are. This is what bugs me so often about love triangles. It's boring when you see a girl who has the same relationship with two boys and can't choose between them. Why do I care? It's the same relationship either way. When I see two different relationships, with good and bad interactions on both sides, I'm torn. I care. Which is better, which is worse?
It's not just about having an original romantic plot. It's about having unique characters who interact with each other in unique ways. This is why Jane Austen's books are all engaging and different-- because of the different people.
2. The characters should both contradict each other and fulfill a need for each other
If the characters have contradicting traits, you've got some great possibilities for realistic conflict. But your characters should also need each other. Why are they together, or wanting to be together, or having a hard time staying away from each other? What is an internal need they have that the other person fulfills? Answering these questions for your character's relationships can help deepen that relationship. It becomes more about who they are, and not just about them being hormonal.
3. Let the characters be passionate
This is not me advocating sex in YA. It's not something I personally like to write or read, though I know others have different opinions. But as mentioned in my last post, teenagers (and heck, let's just admit the rest of us too) like our relationships with a little passion. Passion can mean a physical component, but it can be more than that too. Passion has to do with desire--often thwarted desire--that is intense. Not just physically, but emotionally. Let your characters feel that longing and desire, and create romantic tension by prolonging the manifestation of it.
So, my friends, what do you think? What thoughts do you have on writing a better romance? What are your favorite and least favorite romantic moments?