Tips for YA Lit: The Romance Bit
Recently, I came across the article "10 Couples That Hurt YA Movies (And 10 That Saved them)," by Screen Rant, and as the title suggests it talks about the best and worst couples in YA movies. Since a lot of the movies were book adaptations, I thought this would be cool to explore what works for romance in YA books.
- Have an unhealthy relationship--you know, don't make one person in the couple be domineering, controlling, backstabbing, or just an awful human being. Screen Rant uses Bella and Edward (as I have in previous posts) and Katniss and Gale as prime examples. These guys were frankly awful to the girls. I mean Edward controls Bella's every move, and Gale pretty much kills Katniss's sister. Not healthy!
- Make them too opposite--the age old "opposites attract" can only go so far. When two people are so different that no common ground exists at all, we have trouble as readers figuring out why they ever got together and don't buy into it.
- Make it too easy--the term is insta-love, where characters fall head over heels in love almost at first sight. Yes, Romeo and Juliet did, but honestly didn't it seem more like lust at first sight for him, and a girl falling for a smooth talker? What changed for the two you'll see below: let love grow. The point is, society today, even teens, like a bit of realism. We like what we see and then we learn more before we love.
- Be overly sentimental--We love sentimental and sappy overtures, sure, and teens lap it up
- Have too much romance in a multi-genre story--if your story is a on-the-run page turner where your characters should be focused on living to see the next day, having too much romance rings false. Slip this in through their thoughts an worries over each other, in the small downtime moments they have instead of making it a huge focus. Survival instincts should take precedence over matters of the heart.
- Have an equal relationship--yes, they can mess up, since we want them to be human and realistic, but not easily forgiven or accepting things blindly. They should both bring the same amount to the relationship and have the same control of their own lives. If they're fighting for survival, make them both badasses working together, neither needing saving. Think Tris and Four.
- Let Love Grow--start with intrigue in that the characters like the look of each other, move onto having good and flirty conversations, then the lust factor where they become attracted to one another. This is more realistic and relatable, although you can enter in plot devices to speed up the process like a death-defying experience or a stuck-together trope.
- Make them real and authentic--real people struggling to voice their feelings into words is more satisfying than sappy speeches that no one buys into or would make the guy's friends mock him if it were real life. Yes, boys should have feelings in novels, but they shouldn't play so far away from stereotypes that we no longer identify with them. It isn't believable and it sets up false expectations for younger YA readers. Realism rings true.
- Have obstacles--nothing is more satisfying than seeing a couple overcome the things against them and working together to get there. It's much better than the damsel being saved (or the "hero" being saved and needy). If there is something in the way, the conquering is as good as the romance that gets us there.
These are merely suggestions and there are exceptions to the rule. After all Twilight was a success, but I wonder if it would be as successful now, ten years later, in a world where women are again fighting against discrimination and strong heroines are applauded. Another ten years from now, we could see a different kind of turn in YA lit where this advice may no longer work, so know the industry by reading as much as you can.
What kind of romantic tips can you add?