Previously I gave you the recipe for Insta-Love and I am sure most of you enjoyed that particular flavor of love. Today, I bring to you a lucid commentary on romance found in YA novels. Or, more accurately, how to write a romance that doesn’t send most of your readers into convulsions that result from overdosing on cheese.
1. What is Love?
It’s a YA novel, I get it. You will not be indulging in a deep analysis of love and what it entails. But it would be nice if it was given a definition beyond the “he makes my knees go jelloid, you know the feeling you get when you have been running for a long time? And you can’t feel your knees anymore? Yeah, that.” Personally, I think the word should not be used at all. Its overuse has caused it to be come trite and meaningless. Maybe I’m just cynical. But think of how interesting it would be to portray that feeling without using the word for it. It’s a challenge and every writer loves challenges, right?
2. The Love Interests
This is actually a personal peeve and I don’t know if other people share my supreme abhorrence for Darcy-like love interests. You know, the kind who never says a straight word to you? The kind who will skewer you through with poison edged words designed to leave you whimpering in your pillows all through the night? Know the kind? And yet, for some reason, the main character will be drawn to his/her destruction and it is like watching a moth fly toward a flame. And not doing anything about it.
C’est la vie, moth.
But there’s another kind of love interest making his presence known in the world of YA literature: the stalkery kind. The scary, jumps-out-at-you-from-the-shadows kind. Do I disapprove of them? Do I think they perpetuate rape culture? Are we shaping the minds of impressionable girls in a manner that allows them to be victims of discrimination amongst other things? I don’t know. But I do know that these questions would benefit from a dialogue.
3. For the Love of All That’s Delicious, Don’t Use the Term “Soul mate” aka Mush is Evil.
I get it, okay? You are in love. It’s intense. It’s passionate. But the second you use the word “soul mate” to describe each other, your “love” is going to lose all its credibility and gain all the depth reserved for the puppy love most commonly seen in Romeo and Juliet. Just avoid the cheese. Step away from it with your hands in the air and the moment you find yourself falling back into mush, abort the sentence and DELETE IT.
Mush is evil. Mush will take your brain and feed it to pink aliens who look suspiciously like last year’s thanksgiving turkey. The one you had extra helpings of. Revenge of the Turkey.
The challenge when writing a sappy scene is to evoke the sappiness without utilizing cliches and sentimentality. I give you these images that say so much without saying much.
The more subtle the romance, the louder the feelings portrayed will speak. Or so I believe.
4. Melodrama is not Attractive.
So the main character had her heart broken to smithereens. Now she has her heart protected. Like this:
How she handles her heartbreak is very revealing of the type of person your main character is. There are often times when the use of melodrama and pathos in a novel has the opposite of the intended effect. At least in yours truly. Telling me that she is sad, that she is crying herself a new version of the Pacific Ocean is not going to get my sympathy. The strength of a heartbreak lies in the poetry of it; that wordless pain that characterizes a lost love is poetry of the most poignant kind. I think that a girl who has been dumped needs to hold on to her dignity like it’s the cookie in the world and she’s very hungry. She needs to walk away. Or, if she’s the one in a fight, she needs to be sane. Overreacting is not attractive. It is almost as unattractive as melodrama.
Personally, I would love to read scenes like this:
But that’s just me.
5. Can We Stop With the Love Triangles Already?
Seriously? Can we move on from that particular technique to make girls look desirable and give them confidence and an attitude to seal the deal instead? Love triangles were interesting. In maybe the first two books I read that contained them. But it seems that every book in the YA genre recently has a love triangle thrown in. I understand that it’s sort of irresistible but a girl who waffles between two boys is not going to win any points from me.
I totally empathize with it being too difficult to choose between two hot guys. I do. Honest. But if she’s going to be smooching Guy One one moment and then proselytizing her love for Guy Two in the next, I’m going to have less than nice opinions about her. Having a red bottom and all might sound funny in theory but when you add a sachet of true “insta-love” to the mix, it has all the makings of bad melodrama. And we already determined that melodrama should be avoided unless it is in a Hindi/Korean TV drama series.