by Kat Zhang
Just want to put that out there.
So…maybe I’m not the best person to write an article on YA romance. But what I’d like to say is that I’m kind of sick of all the Love At First Sight going on recently.
I’m not arguing whether or not it’s realistic. But for me, it’s just a whole lot less satisfying. I’m talking about when our main characters go from complete and utter strangers to Oh-my-heavens-I-can’t-live-without-you-darling-baby within a chapter. Sometimes a few pages.
And often, we aren’t given any reason for their sudden love other than how awesome his chest looks or how alluringly she smiles. I know people can’t always list the reasons why they love somebody—they just do. But for us to care about what happens to a relationship, we’re going to have to care about the relationship to begin with.
And to do that, we need to love seeing the characters together—we need to feel the chemistry—we need to know what’s on the line. To make things simple, we need build-up.
So maybe what I’m trying to say is that I’m not so much against the whole Love At First Sight thing as I am against the idea of that being all there is to the relationship. If you want to make your characters fall in love from the moment they first meet eyes, that’s fine. But don’t assume that just because you tell us they’re in love (and can’t live without each other) means we care. Show us!
1. Have one help the other out.
In the most traditional sense, this would be when the prince comes on his white horse and slays the fire-breathing dragon, saving his fair maiden. In the more feminist sense, this would be when the opposite happens.
But neither need occur in your story! (Dragons might raise a few eyebrows in YA contemporary, after all…) It can be as little as a kind word when the other is feeling down. Maybe she pulls some strings for him so he can get that job he really needs, or he smooths things over after she causes a bit of a ruckus at school.
2. Have one allow him or herself to be vulnerable
Most people walk around all their lives with a shield up. It’s human nature—we don’t want to get hurt, and so we hide our more tender parts. Part of being in a close relationship with someone is knowing what hurts them.
Even if your character isn’t a hard, tough cowboy or warrior woman or whatever, having him or her reveal a tender spot to the Love Interest might help strengthen their relationship in the readership’s eyes.
3. Heck, have one reveal a different side of him or herself—any kind of side
I think one symptom of love (yes, symptom) is acting differently around that person. I’m not just talking about being all giggly and blushing and other common traits of the infatuated.
Maybe he brings out her protective side. Maybe she inspires him to be more adventurous. Perhaps neither of them liked art before, but being together suddenly gets the creative juices flowing.
The above are just three examples. How do you like to show a growing relationship?
Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She spends most of her free time either querying HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–or pounding out the first draft of her work in progress. Both are YA novels. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.