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Writing romance

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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.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 11th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
Lisa, that's such a beautiful scene. And thank you for this post--one of the weaknesses in my first draft that I'm working on is how or why my two MCs fall in love. It lacks that obvious and true connection, and this helps me mull over how to make their attraction believable.
Feb. 11th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
Good luck - I think it's one of the harder things to do in YA and do it really well. Good luck on your WIP!!
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 11th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
You pull it off so well-I LOVE your books partly for this reason!

Thinking off the cuff, I enjoyed Libba Brey's romance in the Terrible Beauty series even if it was fantasy that part felt "real." The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard comes to mind, I didn't fee the main theme was romance but she did an excellent job of keeping that part believable for me.
Feb. 11th, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
I still need to read THE SECRET YEAR! On my long TBR list!!

Thanks for the kind words. :)
Feb. 11th, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
I'll have to check it out - thanks for the heads up!
Feb. 11th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
I really liked Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever. It was easy to see that Macy should be with Wes, but it took her awhile to get up the courage.

Working on the romance in my own WIP, so this is helpful! Thanks!

-Amy (Brecount White)
Feb. 11th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah - Sarah Dessen does it SO well. Great author to look at for writing realistic romance in teen fiction!!!
Feb. 11th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
Shrinking Violet, by Danielle Joseph. The MC and her love interest had things in common, and their attraction developed slowly. Also, he was very appealing, but he didn't have the godlike perfection that can take the realism out of a story.

Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron, if you want a guy's perspective. Also the relationship between Antsy and Lexie in The Schwa Was Here (Neal Shusterman).

Also The Order of the Poison Oak, by Brent Hartinger, for some couples that developed slowly toward a happy ending.
Feb. 12th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestions - I haven't read any of those - so yay, more books!!
Feb. 12th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)
Beautiful scene. I especially like the part about the "quiet flutters
of crimson and amber."
Feb. 13th, 2010 07:43 am (UTC)
The best ones I can think of are from two exquisite examples of YA literature.

Winnie and Jesse from "Tuck Everlasting" by Natalie Babbitt and Rose and Charles (The White Bear) from "East" by Edith Pattou.

Winnie and Jesse you could tell that Jesse longed for someone to spend forever with, and Winnie was the best person for that despite the age difference.

With Rose and The White Bear from "East" it was just a human girl trapped inside a palace with a polar bear that she hated, but eventually fell in love with even though he was an enchanted bear.

Feb. 13th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Feb. 22nd, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)
Your books do it so well! I can always feel the connection while reading.

Simone Ekeles also does an amazing job.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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Lisa Schroeder, Author for Kids and Teens

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