Tackling the Romance

Oops. Cliche.

Someone asked me recently how far my characters would go.  It made me laugh.  Gaia’s sixteen, and there are two more books in the trilogy, so theoretically, where she could go romantically and physically is pretty wide open.  I was thinking of ninth graders when I first wrote Birthmarked, so I was surprised when it was published for age group 12+ because I knew that meant that avid ten-year-old readers would find their way to my book, and they have.  Then again, I’ve heard from quite a few grandmas and grandpas who have liked the book, too, so while I feel a responsibility not to make kids squirm, I certainly have readers who can read between the sheets.

I’ve written romances.  I know what that takes, and my YA novels are not romances.  In a traditional romance, the relationship, with its growth and tension and conflicts, drives the plot.  The boy had better show up early and often, and he had better be the focus of the heroine’s thoughts, even if she’s resisting thinking about him.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is for me to be writing books where my protagonist is concerned with other very real problems.  It makes it all the more delicious when some cute, brooding boy shows up to get slammed by the real plot, too.  When a relationship has political consequences and brings disaster, I am beyond happy.

So, what do I do with the actual scenes?  How far does the romance actually go?  I’ll tell you one thing.  A romantic scene had better feel as real as the rest of the book.  Since it’s a time of peak emotion, I have to be especially careful not to gush, or use clichés, or explain too much, or have someone say something that doesn’t match his or her character.  But I can’t skimp, either.  It has to be long enough and in real time, so that the reader can live it along with Gaia.  It had better be good.

I’ve been working on three pages of Prized.  This is my twelfth draft, but this particular scene I’ve revised between twenty and thirty times.  We’re past copyedits now, so I’m only going to get one last chance to put in changes and they can only be minute.  That’s all right, because most of it is fine, but I’m looking at two lines of dialogue, and they’re just wrong.  The boy says something that has the right disappointment, the right humor, the right longing, but the words themselves would be better from someone who’s thirty and he’s a teenager.  Reading quickly, you probably wouldn’t even notice, but it bugs me.  I’ve been trying for days to figure out what he’d say instead, and I’ve come up with a dozen other lines that are wrong, too.

It can’t sound too studied.  It can’t be too blunt.  It has to be in his voice.  My characters aren’t the types to say “I love you” to each other.  They don’t seal anything with a kiss.  I finally backed into the scene again with a more specific sensory detail, so I could really see myself there, really hear what they were thinking, and at last he said the right thing for me to write down.  I’m very happy with him, and so is our girl Gaia.  At least in that scene.

Sigh.  It kind of makes me wonder if it would be fun to write a YA romance, straight up and for real.

14 Responses to Tackling the Romance

  • Hello Caragh
    I am a huge fan of your book Birthmarked and I am extremely happy to hear that there are 2 more books to come in the series. I can’t wait to read the next book.

  • Anna ~
    I’m so glad you enjoyed Gaia’s story! Thank you for letting me know. Here’s hoping you’ll like Prized when it comes out next November.
    All best,

  • Hello. Your book was the best I’ve read since Hunger Games. I’m excited for the next two. Your blog today really hit home for me. I’m currently an unpublished writer but I have a book that is practically finished. It’s taken me nearly three years. But one thing about it REALLY peeves me…my MC name. Nothing feels right. *Sigh*

    Back to the writing board…

  • Kelly ~
    I liked The Hunger Games, too! Thanks for the kind words. Good luck with getting to the end of your novel and eking out time to revise. I’m sure the right name will surface. There’s always Greek mythology.
    All best,

  • Thanks for the reply! I will definately take a look. I think I’ll just know when I see the right one. I was also having problems sticking to a POV. How did you pick the right one for BIRTHMARKED?

  • *definitely

  • Kelly ~
    You’ve got me thinking about POV now. I suppose I find 3rd person limited extremely flexible in general and it suited the story. I might write a post about this. I suspect you’re saying you’re having problems deciding which POV works best, not saying you’re careless about being consistent. I wish you well with the decision.
    All best,

  • Yes, I was having problems deciding which POV works best. I initially wrote the story in first person and it worked fine, but I found my personality slipping too much into my character. So I switch to 3rd person limited to distance myself but now my critique circle is questioning the choice. Ahhhhhh…! But I’m sure it’ll all work out in the wash. Nice chatting about it with you. I would love to read your post about POV if you decide to go with it.

  • Hello!

    I just read Birthmarked. In fact, I stayed up till 2:45 am to finish it. It is very good. The ending was unexpected and is driving me crazy – I can’t believe you could do that to Leon, Gaia, and your poor readers! Of course, that’s what makes it such a good story! I’m just glad I only have to wait until November. If I had read Birthmarked last year, think of the long wait I would have to find out what happens.

    I would be begging you to spoil me by telling whether or not Leon is in Prized, but:
    #1: waiting would be a lot more boring without the speculations. And I don’t want to spoil surprises for myself.
    #2: I’m pretty sure you would never let on, no matter what I say.
    #3: And I’m also pretty sure he’s still alive, even if he’s not in Prized.

    No offense, and with all due respect, but if Gaia doesn’t end up with Leon by the end of Book 3, I will be very put out!

  • Regarding your post above:
    I’m glad you have put such solid philosophy and heavy thought behind the romance(s) in the Birthmarked trilogy. It definitely shows!

  • Heidi ~
    Ha! Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed Gaia’s story. I never intended the ending to be such a cliff-hanger, and you’re right, I don’t really know what to tell you without spoiling.
    I can tell you that my publisher invited me to write a short story we’re going to epublish for free in October, and that will answer a couple questions about Leon. I’ll post details on my blog when I know more.
    I hope you get a nap today! Thanks for writing.
    All best,

  • Yay! That sounds good. : D Thanks for the great reply. : )
    I hope you’ll have a very nice Labor Day weekend.
    ~ Heidi

  • I’ve stopped reading for about 9 months now and out of the many books I’ve ‘ collected’ when I first got birthmarked, I felt the need to read it instantly. I haven’t dropped the book until now, trying to search up more about Leon and Gaia’s little romance. The story is sooo intruiging, I love it! I’m so glad there’s 2 more books. 😀

  • Interesting ideas that writers can follow for their books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Caragh's Latest Favorite Reads

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Every Day
The Dog Stars
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Fault in Our Stars
Two of a Kind
Until It Hurts to Stop

Caragh's books »
Book Trailer for Promised