Tag Archives: love

Differents Types of Romance, or My Love For You Can’t Be Labeled

21 Sep

by Susan Dennard

When it comes to romance in YA (or really any novel), how the romantically-involved characters first meet is dictated very much by the type of romance you want to create. For example, what’s wrong with this picture:

Scene 1: Boy meets girl. They meet eyes; their hearts skip a beat. He comes over and is ridiculously swoon-worthy.

Scene 2: Boy picks on girl. She retorts with her own insults, and soon they’re quarreling.

Yeah, those two scenes sound like two different kinds of romance, don’t they? Scene 1 fits with #1 below, and scene 2 is more of a #2 from the list.

We may think our love is indefinable and vast and SO WONDERFUL it can’t be squeezed into a label, but…the truth is, like most plots, there is a little bit of formula to romance.*

*Note: romance–like any plot–doesn’t have to follow a formula. It just often does because those formulas WORK. Formulas give the reader expectations, and expectations heighten the tension by transforming the question from, “Is their the potential for love?” to “WHEN WHEN WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN? Just KISS already!” The plot keeps the characters apart when we know they belong together, and that builds a natural tension into the story.

Here are just a few examples of romantic plot lines and what’s needed when the characters first meet:

1. Love-at-first-sight? Then you’ll want some visceral reactions that show the heroine/hero’s initial reactions. Sex appeal, yes, but not explicitly so. A heroine might find her mouth dry and her stomach fluttery, and she might think about how good looking the hero is. Or maybe she’s just wondering why she is so compelled to speak to/see/be near this guy… She doesn’t know, but the reader does! (Ex: Hereafter by Tara Hudson)

2. It could be an “I HATE YOU” to “You’re not so bad” to “I luuurve you” romance. Then, the hero & heroine will probably get off on the wrong foot, immediately argue, and then kinda want to kill each other. Personally, I’m a fan of these romances (oh, Mr. Darcy, how I love thee!), and Something Strange and Deadly has some of this. The visceral reactions/attraction will come later, and that pesky hate thing is a great barrier to the final admission of feelings. (Ex: Star Wars, Han Solo and Princess Leia—best romance EVER!)

3. Maybe it’s a friendship-to-love romance. In that case, we’ll see the hero/heroine as Just A Friend, and we’ll move through the story as the MC figures out his/her true feelings. Again, the visceral reactions/attraction will develop as the story goes along. (Ex: The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal, The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting)

4. It could also be a long term crush turned to love if the MC has always loved the hero/heroine, or vice versa. When we first see the love interest, we also first see how the MC feels. If the MC desperately wants to kiss the boy, then the reader wants her to too–and we’ve gotta keep turning pages until it happens. (Ex: You Wish Mandy Hubbard, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver)

5. Or it could just be a slow, natural relationship. The characters meet, find each other attractive perhaps, and their romance grows from there. The meet up will have just a slight element of attraction or maybe none at all until a few scenes later. (Ex: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand)

What other romance meet-ups can you come up with? Please share!


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.


Of Kissing and Romance

13 Apr

by Susan Dennard



There’s a reason everyone does it. And there’s a reason stories will build it up to it, increasing the tension until that first kiss finally opens the gates and lets the reader sigh with satisfaction.

The reason is that kissing is kind of, sort of, no-doubt-about-it amazing.

“There was such an incredible logic to kissing, such a metal-to-magnet pull between two people that it was a wonder that they found the strength to prevent themselves from succumbing every second. Rightfully, the world should be a whirlpool of kissing into which we sank and never found the strength to rise up again.”

-Ann Patchet, Bel Canto

And that’s why kissing in fiction needs to be As Amazing As Possible. The culmination of pages and pages of building anticipation. The final movement after episodes and hours of rising attraction.

Personally, I prefer for my heroine and hero to hold off on the lip-locking for as long as possible–or, they may share a kiss, but forces must keep them apart until the last possible moment!

If the hero and heroine are pretty much “official” by the end of chapter one, I won’t keep reading. I want to constantly question whether or not they’ll wind up together–I want to have to keep rooting. When the hero steps on the page or the stage, I want my heart to beat with doubt and desperation just as much as the heroine’s does.

Take the mini-series North & South (based on the fabulous novel of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell). Hero and Heroine have moved from hating each other to attraction and back to hate–but never at the same time. When she loves him, he loathes her, and vice versa. We are on the edge of our seats wondering when the heck they’re gonna finally like each other AT THE SAME TIME.

Oh boy, and when they do… Can we say “collective sigh of relief”?

In the TV show Veronica Mars (a GREAT teen noir that I highly recommend to YA writers out there. It should be required viewing.), we spend most of the first season hating a certain Very Bad Boy. Never in a million years do we think Veronica would EVER go out with a guy as horrible as him… Except, in the little corners of our heart, we kinda like that Very Bad Boy. We’re kinda hoping Veronica and he might be able to see past their differences.

Man oh man… When for a brief moment they’re suddenly working together instead of against each other–my how everything suddenly changes!

But there’s something else you have to remember when you write your kiss-scenes: they must add to the story. Both characters must come out from the kiss a different person.

Maybe it’s an act that forces the couple to finally accept how they feel for each other. Or maybe it takes one character by surprise, cluing them into feelings they didn’t know the other person harbored.

Whatever the reason for the kiss, it must cause the story to shift gears and move in a different direction. There must be consequences (good, bad, whatever) from the kiss.

Like in the Korean TV show Coffee Prince, the hero finally realizes that he wants to be with the heroine no matter what. She’s been in love with him from pretty early on, but he’s been holding off and holding off (for very complicated reasons I won’t share here. WATCH THE SHOW! It’s amazing.) until…he finally can’t hold off anymore. He throws consequences to the wind–and trust me there are some really unsavory consequences–and kisses her with all the passion he’s been building up episode after episode.

(To watch the kiss scene, you’ll have to click through.  Sorry! I couldn’t embed it here.)

And we, the viewers, love it. We’ve been waiting for his acknowledgment of attraction, but we also know that when it finally comes, the trouble is just beginning.

A kiss (or love scene of any sort) in the middle of a story builds the tension. We are now more anxious about the lovers because consequences from the kiss change the plot’s direction.

Maybe they know the love each other now (a seemingly good consequence), and they can’t live apart. Now we know that if these two don’t wind up together, they’re hearts will before forever shattered.

You, the writer, build the tension by keeping them apart.

Like maybe they weren’t supposed to kiss because their families are feuding. If anyone learns they’ve shared a loving embrace, then their lives will be forfeit (a decidedy bad consequence). It’s pretty clear where the tension will stem from in the rest of the story!

A kiss (or love scene) at the end, releases the tension.

Like in North & South, the lovers spend a whole novel (or series!) before they finally acknowledge their feelings. We can set aside the book/show/movie, happy that they wound up together for a nice Happily Ever After.

In this situation, you build the tension by showing their mutual attraction, showing them resisting it (for whatever story-related reason), and then finally joining them in the final pages.

I’d love to hear your own thoughts on kissing and romance. How do you build the tension? And super wonderful kiss scenes you recommend?

All You Need Is Love! …Seriously

24 Feb


by Biljana Likic


If there’s anything I’ve learned from acting and studying drama, it’s that if you can’t find the love in the scene, it will be boring.

“But wait! What does acting have to do with writing?!”

More than you might think.

Actors, they say, are the ultimate explorers of the human condition. They study how people live and react, carefully reading over their scripts, sometimes coming up with whole histories to explain why a character might say something. They create lives out of a few words of text and put them on display for others to take in.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that sort of like what writers do? Don’t writers also create characters, tell us what they’re like; what they do? The only real difference, it seems, is that writers write it, and actors act it.

Going to an art school, studying drama, the most constant, most helpful piece of advice I got was, “Find the love in the scene.” Why love? Nothing creates more conflict than that one, often stupid, never dull emotion. Everybody at some point in their lives has been loved, or experienced love. Whether it is motherly care, crazed infatuation, or even just patriotism, love is a universal human trait that is biologically ingrained in us from the get-go.

“But it can’t be that important in writing!”

It is. Think about it; the man loves the woman, the woman is indifferent. Oh great, that’ll take you to about…page two. But. The man loves the woman, and the woman is not indifferent, and, in fact, loves him back, but pretends not to love him because he is forbidden…well, now. That is a story. And on stage, that woman would make little actions, do small motions to show the man that even though she’s not looking at him, she’s thinking about him constantly; and even though they’ll never be together, they’ll always have their subtle passing touches.

It is up to the writer to mimic this. Actors, put simply, imitate life. Writers, then, need to do their best to put that imitation into words: to show us body language through incredible imagination. We need to hear the voice, we need to see the movement; you can’t just relay what was said, you have to describe the reactions. You have to show how much they love each other and we have to realize that their hearts are breaking through a flush of embarrassment, a turn of a wrist, a sudden fascination with the texture of the floor. Find the love in the scene.

At this point, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “But why not hate?”

Because hate is narrow. There are so many places that love can take you that an emotion like hate never will. The reason is because love can be thwarted; hate can’t. You can live your whole life hating somebody, and all you’d have to do would be to either stay away from them, or kill them (preferably the former.) But to love takes a certain brand of courage or recklessness because nobody can guarantee that it’ll be requited. You can end up miserable for life.

On stage, the direction “to hate” is never better than “to love”. The question shouldn’t be what don’t you like but what do you like. What you don’t like will then come naturally. If a character loves being neat, you can assume that they’d hate being sloppy. Then, you can build on that by creating a slob of a romantic interest. And thus is conflict born.

So now that I feel like I’ve drilled that point in sufficiently, I thought I’d share some other things that I’ve learned in drama class that have helped me a lot with writing stories. These are some questions that actors usually ask themselves when they’re on stage. They can be, with some modifications, applied effectively to creative writing.

Here we go:

  1. What do you want? A character always wants something. If they don’t, they have no purpose, and the story becomes stale. What does the character want to happen? How can they make it happen? Think about real-life experiences, or even movies and plays that you’ve seen. Seriously, they can help.
  2. Why did you move? One of the biggest things in acting is action. (Go figure.) But there has to be a reason for action. Why did the character walk to the left instead of the right? Something that my drama teacher loves to say is that you’re either moving away from somebody, or towards somebody, depending on what you want. Don’t make your character do things without a reason.
  3. Why did you say that? If an actor doesn’t know why they said a line, it’ll be confusing for the audience as well. There has to always be a reason for dialogue. Even if it’s something the character blurts out, you as the author need to know why they did it; they’re nervous because they’re talking to a person they like, or they weren’t listening to what someone was saying and wanted to appear as if they were. Don’t put in a line of dialogue without knowing why it’s there.
  4. Find the love in the scene! I know, I know. Not a question. But I can’t stress this enough!

And this is my final plea: don’t shirk away from love just because it can be mushy. Embrace it, and there is no end to the stories that can happen. In fact, I challenge you, reader of this article, to find me a story that had zero love in it, written before today. And it has to be fiction. Don’t start telling me about how there’s no love in a chemistry textbook. I don’t like chemistry either, but I’m afraid that won’t cut it.

I’ll even raise the stakes. There will be a prize. One postcard from Toronto, Canada, addressed to you from me, expressing how humbled I feel to have been proven wrong. Or, you know, a couple chapters’ critique of a WIP of yours. Whichever.

Take care, everyone. Thanks for reading. And the winner of that challenge, if there is one, will leave me feeling deeply impressed.


Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She’s in her final year of high school, waiting and waiting to graduate, finish university, and finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here, and check out her work on her FictionPress account.