Where’s the Love?

It’s hard to talk about love without delving into the cheesy, the clinical, or the painfully awkward. (There’s a reason why the Literary Review has a “Bad Sex in Fiction” award.) So how do you write about romance without sounding like a total idiot?

Malinda Lo has a fantastic post about how to write a good kissing scene. She looks at a few examples of kissing in YA done well and examines how the writer managed to convey the right emotion. Lo is careful to look at the emotions going on behind the kisses and what they reveal about the people involved. One part I liked:

“This description brings up something that appears over and over in effective fictional kissing scenes: power. Not necessarily in a Fifty Shades of Gray way, but every time two people come together in a kiss, there is a physical and often emotional negotiation going on. Who is in control? Who is totally swooning? Are they both completely bonkers for each other? Or is one less bonkers than the other? This relationship negotiation occurs in every kiss and without it, the kiss can often feel flat.”

I love the reminder that there’s an emotional dynamic involved in kissing. It’s easy to focus on one character (especially if you’re writing in the first person or a close third) and forget that the kiss is happening to the other person as well.

Lots of other excellent advice here as well; make sure to click through and read the rest.

Making Love Real in YA Novels

Mary Kole has a great post today about love and relationships in YA novels. She mentions how it’s easy to make these relationships all about physical attraction. Obviously physical attraction needs to be part of it, but it should be grounded in an emotional connection as well. Teen readers understand what it feels like to find someone hot, but they also understand having inside jokes and bonding over the same band. These things should be present in a fictional YA romance, too.

She also has some great advice for writers working on a YA romance:

“Go back to every scene where your romantic leads interact. For every physical description, insert a thought about the present or future or a characterizing detail for the other character. Give us a bit of playful dialogue that shows us, rather than tells us, how the characters get along as people who are creating a bond. Don’t settle for attraction in the physical sense. Give us the moment when they fall in love–truly in love–on the page. We all know this instant, when our entire thinking shifts and things become magic. The impossible seems possible. Those stinky feet suddenly don’t matter.

Love and attraction are also about action (er, not that kind quite yet). We behave differently toward our beloveds than we do toward anyone else. Love makes us selfless, crazy, impulsive, brave, vulnerable. How do your character’s actions toward their crushes change as the relationship progresses? How do those actions change the characters? The relationship? Make sure that every plot point and action between your lovers resonates emotionally to either build or break down (the course of true love never did run smooth) your Romeo and Juliet as people. This is all part of building that common relationship history.”

Going to go through my manuscript with this in mind. I don’t think it’s totally focused on the physical, but it’s easy to reference those killer cheekbones and not all the other adorable things people do when they’re in love (or at least like).

(image: Eric M Martin)