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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Teenagers Writing Romance


On NaNoWriMo forum, there are many, many teenagers who are writing romance novels.  (You can tell by going to their profile and reading about their novel)  I was a bit surprised by this at first, I mean, of the three most popular book series for teenagers (Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games) only one is an actual romance.  The other two are different forms of adventure novels.  I know Harry Potter does have a little romance in it, but from what I heard it is not the main focus of the story at all.  I don't even consider the "romance" in the Hunger Games to be applicable.  Katniss was faking most of the time, and when she wasn't faking, nothing felt real at all. 

All that to say, there are a lot of teenagers writing romance novels, and probably even more with romance in their novels.  Seriously, even I have a little...but more on that later. 

First, a disclaimer, I think the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum turned me against writing romance.  In one of the chapters, Mr. Schwabaur (aka Mr. S) was explaining the different types of characters and their roles in stories.  He basically said at one point: "The Love can be a good source of conflict and dilemmas for your hero.  But, I don't know how to say this lightly so I will be blunt, do you really know anything about love?  Outside from what you have read or seen in stories, do you personally really know anything?  I didn't until my mid-twenties.  And you can't write something-write something well-until you have experienced it for yourself." 

It was an interesting statement.  I was thirteen when I went through the curriculum, and I kid you not, I have read the textbook over twelve times, have watched all the videos at least twice, and have read all the classic novels he suggested reading.  Clearly, I take this curriculum very seriously.  So I took that, like everything else, to heart and vowed to never break it.  And I didn't.  "Shadow's Fire" has zero romance.  Zero, zip, nothing.  I even took Julia's dad out of the picture to eliminate the possibility of showing any affection at all between her mom and dad! 

So that might be a bit extreme.  But that's exactly what I did.  Life was good, nobody was falling in love, the pirates were being shot and killed, everything was perfect.

Then came along "Ember Flame."  Or, more specifically, Ember and Hail.  I was typing along in my story, everything was fantastic, one character was betraying another, one was getting tortured, another sold into slavery, I'm totally in my element.  Then BOOM.  All of a sudden, Hail decided to start liking Ember...and Ember was liking him back! 

I began to panic.  I immediately went back and erased the last couple paragraphs I had written.  I stared at the screen for awhile, trying to think of something to do.  I wrote...but it was flat.  I erased it and tried again.  Boring.  Erased.  Flat.  Erased. Flat.  And it went on and on.  Exasperated, I pulled out my trusty OYAN textbook, wondering if I had missed the section on how to get your characters to stop liking each other.  But no.  Instead I read the part where he says to let your characters come alive and do what they want to do.    Otherwise, they will feel flat.  So reluctantly, I let Ember and Hail start to like each other.

Yeah, it was awkward.  As the story went on, I kept hoping something would happen to make one angry at the other and they would start not liking each other.  But I guess love does not break that easy.  I turned Hail into a zombie and made him the cause of death to someone she loved more.  I made him an assassin.  I made him a drunk.  I had him chop someone's hand off in a drunken rage.  He is conflicted, emotionally unstable, and dark.  And don't even get me started on Ember.  Bratty, beaten, defensive, angry Ember.  And yet, Hail still liked her.  And Ember still liked him.  

So at the end I panicked.  I admit it, the reason why they can't be together, I made that only to get them apart.  I went back and added a bit of foreshadowing to make it seem more realistic.  I was ashamed of, well, writing a romance.  But I was also ashamed of eradicating it so fast. 

All in all, I am glad I did it.  It caused some extra conflict and one last dilemma at the end.  But it really was not fair of me to do that.  But hey, I'm human, and I'm new at this author thing.  I guess I'll learn from my mistakes. 

Anyway, I am a little surprised at how many kids are rushing in head-on to this romance thing.  Maybe it's cuz I am homeschooled and I am not around it in school all the time.  But even many of the homeschoolers are doing romance, and there is nothing wrong with it necessarily.  I'm just surprised. 

I'm going to try and face the romance a little more, um, courageously (for lack of a better word) this time around.  It will NOT be the main focus of my story.  Hail and Ember are going to be apart for most of the book, and I will give them time to mature and grow up a little.  Ember needs to learn to take responsibility for herself and her sister.  She needs to step in Coal's shoes.  Hail needs to forgive himself for his past and let Elethor take responsibility.  He needs to step out of Elethor's shoes.  So I'll give them both time to grow up, and, who knows, maybe I'll give the romance thing another shot.  Hopefully, nobody will notice that this author is petrified of writing romance.  ;)

I'm curious to see what y'all think of teens writing romance, particularly a book where the central theme is  romance. 

1 comment:

  1. Loved this post! It made me laugh, particularly the part where you were looking through the textbook trying to find advice on how to get your characters to stop liking each other. :) I've been there.

    I think Mr. S's advice is a good principle in general. However, you do know a little, even if you think you don't... just look at your parents. They have demonstrated for you a healthy, loving relationship.

    Thanks for the post! Loved it! If you ever figure out how to make your characters behave, let me know! Mine are often ornery as well :)

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