Tag Archives: Romance

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?

Book Recommendation: Anna and the French Kiss

30 Dec

For the past month, all I’ve been hearing about is ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins, so when I found myself at Barnes & Noble with some Christmas money to blow, I knew which book I’d be taking home. Our very own Mandy Hubbard had mentioned how much she enjoyed it, along with just about every YA reader out there. Trusting their expert opinions, I happily grabbed my copy off the shelf, marched to the checkout line, and promptly forgot to read it over the Christmas holiday. Luckily, I had a flight that would require some entertainment, and wound up reading the entire book in one sitting yesterday.

YOU GUYS. If you don’t already own a copy of this book, go out today and buy it. Check it out from your local library. I don’t care how you get a hold of it, just do it. You won’t regret it.

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

First of all, be prepared to laugh. No one warned me, so I’m telling you now. This book is hilarious. Anna is full of observations and commentary about her life and the people in it, and nearly all of them brought a smile to my face. Some of the conversations she has, and the things she does to avoid embarrassing herself, are just adorable. Stuck in a new city, in a new country where she can’t speak French, she’s constantly taking note of the way people act and speak. At one point she even writes out, phonetically, how to order a movie ticket. Little things like that are what really make this book shine. Not to mention that fact that it just makes you feel good. By the time you turn the last page, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible not to.

Anna and St. Clair really make the story. Anna’s voice is fantastic, sarcastic, funny, charming, and exactly how your best friend sounds. You feel like you’ve known her your entire life. St. Clair is that guy you fantasize about, that you wish weren’t fictional. He has flaws, makes mistakes, but you can’t help but fall in love with him along with Anna, and every other girl who attends SOAP. Their friends are all people you can recognize from your own life, and like just about everyone on the planet, they have to deal with moving away from home, family drama, and the ups and downs that come with being a teenager. The high school drama is there, but never in a dose they can’t handle. Anna is forced to deal with stereotypes Americans have of foreigners, and vice versa. The situations these characters are put in are real, and the author does an incredible job of making you believe in everything that’s going on, and making you care. That’s the most important thing —  you really care about these characters. Even past the last page. (I would know, I’ve been thinking about this book nonstop since I finished it.)

I’ve read a lot of YA in my time, and I think this is one of the most convincing love stories I’ve ever come across. I believed every bit of it. Nothing seemed forced or unrealistic. Sure, there was some drama – its protagonists are teenagers – but it was never too much or over-the-top. It walked that fine line very well, and I actually found myself wanting to give the characters advice on numerous occasions. I think it’s rare when you care that much about a fictional character, and I applaud Stephanie Perkins for that. The girl has a gift.

Though my knowledge of Paris is similar to Anna’s at the very beginning of the book (Amelie and Moulin Rouge), I grew to know it along with her. As a reader, you’re gradually taught some of the idiosyncrasies of Paris and its people, how some things are pronounced, and even run across a few important landmarks. It’s like going to Paris, but not. Now that I’ve got this mental picture stuck in my head, I’m even more determined to see the real thing.

Part of the reason I really loved this book was because Anna’s journey is one many readers can connect with. She has to learn to navigate a new city, make new friends, adjust to a new culture, learn another language, and numerous other challenges. When she managed to overcome those problems, I wanted to cheer for her! I clapped when she finally braved the city on her own, and I felt her pain when she realized things at home weren’t as great as she remembered. Living abroad changes you. It’s unavoidable. I liked that Stephanie Perkins included that detail in her story because it made Anna’s situation even more realistic. And lord knows there are probably plenty of us who have been in love with our best friend at one time or another. If you have, this book will ring especially true for you. And if you haven’t, well, you’ll learn how frustrating it is! The emotional roller coaster is spot-on.

Everything about this story is totally charming, from the title to the very last sentence. I’m happy to report there are two companion novels that will follow, but in the meantime, if you buy one book this year, buy this one. I promise you won’t regret it.


Sammy Bina is in her last year of college, majoring in Creative Writing. Currently an intern with the Elaine P. English Literary Agency, she is taking a break from querying to work on a new project, a YA dystopian. You can find her on twitter, or check out her blog.