Thursday, May 19, 2011

But WHY is this a kissing book?

Hello all!

So, I was sort of blown away by your responses to my last teaser. Wow guys. You really liked it? (And I'm honestly not trying to fish for compliments here. I'm just astounded that you seem to enjoy something I am MAKING UP COMPLETELY. Let me reiterate: when it comes to the romantic scenes, I have NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING.)

I will tell you honestly how I wound up writing that scene. (I swear this has a point.)

Step one: sitting on my friend Anna's floor, writing away for once as she's doing homework. Hit 45k. Also hit that scene. Instant roadblock.

Step two: after rather a while of agonizing over it, write the scene. Inform friend Anna that it is terribly difficult. She offers to lend romance novels for research.

Step three: realize I did it all wrong. Complain to roommate Katrina. She offers to read it over. Go NO NO NO NO NO.

Step four: rewrite it. Stare at it for rather a long time. Fix it again.

Step five: Roommate Katrina reads it, declares it acceptable, and I can keep going. Whew.

A lot of agony went into only about four hundred words. And why? It's only four hundred words. I'll probably tweak it again. It's not even really the most important thing going on. It's a subplot.

And yet at the same time, it IS the most important thing. It's what everybody looks for, what everybody talks about. THE HUNGER GAMES is a completely different genre, but the point still stands: what did people talk about all the time? Not whether Katniss was going to beat the Capitol, but which boy would she choose?

So what is it exactly about the romantic subplot that draws us all in like moths to very bright lights? Is it the "living vicariously through books" element? In genres like fantasy, sci fi, paranormal, and dystopian (I am waiting for spell check to recognize that "dystopian" is in fact a word), is it the necessary human, relatable connection that allows us to enter the rest of the author's world? Both? Neither? What?

Some might argue that in YA that romantic subplot is especially necessary because that's all teenagers care about, but I would beg to differ. There do exist teens who do not give a damn about romantic relationships (*raises hand*). And there are teens who care more about other things, who put their time and effort into other aspects of their lives, even if a romantic relationship is something they have.

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm as much of a sucker for a good romantic subplot or heck, even just a romantic plot sometimes, as anybody else. I was raised on Disney movies, thus I am a hopeless romantic of the worst variety. I'm asking these questions of myself as much as I am anyone else. Why do we place so much importance on these things?

I was having a conversation with said roommate Katrina - I was going into writing another romantic scene and doing some more agonizing about it, because that's what I do. I said "one of these days I'm going to write a book that hasn't got any romance in it at all so I won't have to deal with this nonsense." And she immediately said that no one would read it.

Of course, I instantly thought of two of my favorite books - INKHEART and THE THIEF LORD - that have no romance going on in them, but really, those would probably be classified more on the MG end of the spectrum than the YA end, wouldn't they?

So my question is this - would you read such a book? I doubt I ever will write such a thing, because, as I said, I am a hopeless romantic in spite of all my complaining. But I'm curious. It would probably be a tough sell, but would there be any interest at all? Why or why not?


  1. "So what is it exactly about the romantic subplot that draws us all in like moths to very bright lights?"

    I think this is an excellent question. And, I see very few YA books without a romantic subplot, but this trend is bigger than just YA books. You can see it in TV shows, and movies etc. I think it may have something to do with the MG to YA transition, how suddenly as a teenager you begin to have romantic feelings (sometime for the first time) and YA books might be relatable to a lot of teens.

    I love romantic plots/sub-plots because I love "living vicariously through books" haha. Who wouldn't want to be the girl Peeta bakes cake for :p

  2. I know it's not just YA books by any means, but I'm not much of an expert on other genres or mediums, so that's what I yammered on about. :)

    And oh yes. The living vicariously thing is definitely a huuuuge factor. I mean, it's probably why I still write the stuff, for all I moan and groan about having to do it.

  3. I would totally read such a book. In fact, I have read such books, or at least books with very minimal romance, like Rick Yancey's Monstrumologist series and Octavian Nothing.

    Though I really enjoyed The Hunger Games, the romantic triangle seemed to me the most forced part of it. Such as when she's in the midst of a life or death situation and what she's thinking about most is which boy she might choose. Really? That's what she's thinking about?

    I realize that, as a guy, I'm probably not the target reader here.

    On the other hand (re: romance plots), most adult books have romantic subplots, so I'm not sure this is really just a YA worry.

    But to finish this rambling: If you write such a romanceless book, I would definitely read it.

  4. I had the same issue with The Hunger Games. *shrugs* I also felt that Gale was drawn far too flat for me to care about him, so that made the fact that the love triangle was supposedly more important than the whole revolution thing a little more difficult for me as well.

    And yes, it does seem to be a universal "problem" doesn't it? I mean, I'm not really sure it's a problem, but it does sort of highlight our obsession with romantic love when that's not the only thing in the world worth finding and living for. Certainly one of the things. But not the only thing.

    And now I'm rambling. Heh. :)