I’ve written romance, but only ever as a subplot. I’ve always wondered how there can be books that are 300+ pages with a main plot of romance and are basically realistic fiction and don’t even have subplots of scifi or mystery or something. I’m really admirable of writers who can do that.
Anyway, I think this post about covers what I know about writing romance. For general asks about romance like this one, I’ll probably refer people to this post until I gain any new insight or my thoughts change.
A lot of writers might argue that romance in YA lit is a
boring old trope that needs to die. If you’re into reading YA lit, it’s been
nearly impossible for you to avoid the “she was a normal girl until she met
[insert cool boy character]”, but I’m here to argue that romance and love
triangles aren’t necessarily the problem in young adult novels. The problem is
when the main character completely loses all of their power and motivation when
romance is introduced to the story. When it’s done right, the story can be
captivating and realistic.
Here are a few reasons
why you shouldn’t be afraid to include romance in your novel:
Many of us have had
Most of us, starting at a young age, have had a fondness for
someone and may have possible done something foolish because of those feelings.
We can’t pretend like we’ve never had these feelings or they don’t exist for
many people. Even if we weren’t in love, those feelings were probably very
strong for a lot of people.
You can still build
Having two characters fall in love does not mean your
characters are weak. You can still build strong characters will believable/understandable
motives and they can still be extremely relatable. The romance doesn’t have to
be the main focus. The main character shouldn’t lose themselves or become
weaker because of their romantic relationships (unless that is the point of the
We do a lot of things
Love can sometimes be the main motivating factor for our
actions. We tend to do a lot of things in the name of love, whether these
decisions were smart or not.
Exploring both romantic and platonic relationships with
others can be important to your novel. As people, we tend to care about and
love family, friends, partners, etc. This can be a natural part of our lives,
so it’s not the worst idea to explore it.
Here’s how to do it
Build your characters
Each character should be someone separate from the
relationship they’re in. Two characters can fall in love, but they should be
more than that relationship. Explore who they are separately and what makes
them different/similar. Does the relationship make them stronger? Does it make
them weaker? Does it affect your story at all?
You don’t have to
make romance the main focus
Romance and love does not have to be the main focus,
depending on your novel. Take some time to think about what that relationship
means in your story. What else is going on? Is it a sub-plot or is it the main
Love triangles: make
the decision hard
Love triangles become pointless when you can easily spot the
better choice. You should have as much trouble as the main character does when
choosing sides. I think the Hunger Games does this very well, because both Gale
and Peeta are good options for Katniss and both represent different things. Her
relationship with both of them does not make Katniss any weaker as a character.
She is motivated by her desire to protect those she loves, which is what makes
her relatable and honorable.
Figure out wants and
Each character should have wants and needs separate from the
romance. There should be a story beyond the relationships formed. You should be
able to build your character and really get to know who they are on their own.
Otherwise, it can all feel very contrived.
Ultimately, I don’t think you should cut something you
really feel is important/integral to your story because people say it’s overdone.
Just avoid talking down to your readers and treat your characters with respect.
“You, Like a Sunflower” by An Sikui, ch. 9, p. 14-end. Translated by me with permission; clean by @themimzicalmimzy.
All currently translated pages viewable here. Updates: one chapter every other Wednesday.
NB: This is a NaruSaku endgame doujin with NaruHina love triangle elements (handled very respectfully with no bashing). There is genuinely no way for me, the translator, to make everyone happy with how I tag this; if I don’t tag it NH, people who blacklist NH and don’t want to see it might get mad; if I do tag it, other people might get mad that it isn’t NH enough. I am an NH shipper myself and I am choosing to tag because I think NH shippers who enjoy angst would enjoy this. I am doing my best here and I’m not getting paid. If my tags fill you with rage, kindly just block me rather than whining to me about it.
Hux, we found some questionable literature circulating around the Stormtrooper division related to you.
The writing appears to be a variety of fictionalized accounts of your life in which you have sexual relations with Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron.
This is libel! Show it to me at once! *takes file folder* I will investigate this scandal myself in my chamber. *stays up all night reading the slash fiction*
[the next day]
General, you wanted to see me?
Ah... yes... um... strictly speaking, I'm supposed to be arranging your execution for the things you wrote about me, but for... strategic purposes, I've decided instead to give you 100 credits under the condition that you keep writing about me and Poe Dameron, deliver the writing straight to my office and keep quiet about this. Understood?
What about a love triangle with Poe and Kylo fighting over you?
................ Well, intellectual creativity is good for the battlefield. It would be irresponsible of me to stifle it....