We live in a world of instant gratification. Instant coffee. Instant noodles. Instant cameras. Instagram!
But what about instalove? That ‘lerve’ so many YA protagonists seem to fall victim to in so many novels of late. Does it work? Are you as a reader convinced? And if we DO insist upon instalove, are we demeaning the female gender? Are we saying that girls can’t see past a pretty face and hot bod?
Hmmnn… Let’s backtrack for a mo. Because I think I know where the problem lies.
First off: Does every YA novel need a romance? I was reading an article the other day that says ‘not’.
And it made me think… After all, each of my YA novels has indeed featured a romance. And the reason I did that is – quite apart from the fact that I love a good old romance – it is part of the profile of the average teenager. It is imprinted into their collective DNA that between the ages of 14 and 17 that there will be a (fatalistic/obsessive/ intriguing/mild – choose the applicable qualifier)romantic interest in the opposite or same gender.
It’s a time when a match is lit to the hormones – and it’s perfectly natural. Does that mean every story has to be a romance? No. Never. But to me it’s always about world building. And if as the author you set out to recreate the YA world, then there are certain elements that must be included or it won’t ring true. In my humble opinion, romantic attraction or interest in some form has to be one of those inclusions.
Even if it’s not your protag who’s suffering the pangs of unrequited love, it could be a friend. But I kinda think it has to be given a nod, has to be acknowledged or that world won’t reflect that world they inhabit.
And I think there are a lot of authors who think the same way. Except it comes across as : Oh wait! I’ve gotta add a romance!
Aha! Problem found!
No, no, no!
You know what? You don’t gotta add anything if it doesn’t fit. And that’s despite what I just wrote above. What it must ‘gotta’ be is story first.
Throwing in a romance because you think it should be there – looks – and is – like it’s an afterthought. Plot your romance along with the other part of your story. After 72 books, I say that I imagine myself hauling a thick entwined rope over my shoulder through the book. Each of those strands is another element of the story, and I weave those elements as I go. The romance is one of those equal elements. It’s not a stand alone. It’s woven into the fabric of the story.
However, we’re talking about instalove and so if your story allows for romance, or if it’s a straight romance, then there are ways you can manage the process without asking the reader to accept that one glance across the cafeteria is all it took and boom! Stars and flashbulbs…
- Take is slow and easy
- Let them discover each other
- Find where they connect
- Let the verbal sparks fly. Get some snappy clever convo going on.
- Let them see past the facade to what lies beneath
- Weave this aspect into the story into the overall plot. This isn’t just another issue for your protag to contend with – it’s something that complicates and adds depth to your overall plotline.
- This is his or her life. In real life we don’t stop and think, oh okay, I’ll stop trying to solve this mystery now and pop on my romance hat because it’s time to think about her/him. Really? Doesn’t happen. It’s seamless. They overlap.
When it’s action time:
- Remember they’re new to this. Fumbley and awkward.
- Awkward is okay
- Confusion is normal.
So – I guess my point is that even if the love/romance isn’t your main theme or plot, it can still be a subplot. And why not? What better way to complicate a plot than to also have your protagonist agonising over that significant – or possible significant – other?
But, if you’re going to do it, do it well. Or I’d be forced to agree with the article author and suggest you leave it out.
Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 . She is repped by JDM Management.