So, maybe I’m not the best to be talking about romance. I mean, I’ve tried to work my way onto the dating scene, but work always has to be my number one. You would think the ladies would enjoy a man who gets things done, but you start one gunfight in the middle of an Italian restaurant and next thing you know she’s not answering your calls and changed her number after a week.
Needless to say, I did catch the guy. Probably saved a lot of lives too. I thought that would entail a second date. At least coffee.
My point is, although I might not seem like the typical romantic hero, I still have to write it. I’m not saying I do flowery ride-off-into-the-sunset-on-horseback business, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any romance involved at all. Because, if we’re going to be honest here, the vast majority of YA involves some kind of romantic subplot.
Because romance is everywhere.
Just ask just about any of the other members of this group. If they aren’t too busy making eyes at each other (you know who I mean) or themselves (I’m looking at you, Tony), they have had at least some hint of a significant other in their origin story.
Because, when it comes down to it, we like reading romance.
So, dim the lights, put on your smoothest playlist and pull out the red wine, because we are going to talk about romantic structure.
Why is it necessary?
I like structure in my life, and I like structure in my job, although most of the time, it is completely necessary to improvise. That being said, sometimes, I don’t want a ton of structure in my writing. Sometimes, I just want to let chaos reign and see what becomes of it.
But if you are trying out a structure, it’s important not to forget about your love interests. The progression of their relationship should be just as important as the character’s individual arcs. Because this is a whole different kind of journey for your character. One that, considering we’re talking YA, they have likely never experienced before. (Or, if they have, probably do not understand.)
If you push the romance too quickly, the reader won’t have time to become invested. It won’t be believable, and you won’t be tugging on any heart strings. I’m not saying an instant connection can’t happen, or that fast-moving relationships don’t occur in real life (because they definitely do) but there has to be some sort of progression. You want your readers to be hanging onto every word, at the edge of their seats, pulling their hair out because these characters need to kiss already. Or, you know, so I’ve heard. But don’t push that too far. If it takes these characters too long, we’ll lose interest. The romantics-at-heart will be shipping just about anything, hoping for those hints you gave to turn into something. Like so many aspects of life, it’s all about the balance.
The Romantic Arc
Are you ready to swoon? I hope so, because we’re going to dive in.
Whether you are writing a straight-up romance or the darkest of horror that just-so-happens to involve some kissing, your romantic progression can come in the form of this arc.
Everyday Life. You know, the usual. Set-up your world, your character. It shouldn’t be long, but it is completely necessary.
First Sight. Your romantic couple has to meet. This is a game-changer. The catalyst of a regular arc, this is what changes your character’s life whether they like it or not. It’s so important, this first meeting, and your scene will live in infamy.
Here’s Your Rising Actions. Will they? Won’t they? Attraction grows, but perhaps something keeps them apart. It’s a roller coaster ride of ups and downs that keeps rising higher and higher. This is when you want to increasingly drive your readers mad. Have fun with that.
Oh, no… Your characters can’t be together. They can’t. Everything fell apart. Maybe some external force like a terrorist organization is keeping them away from each other. Maybe one of the characters made a huge mistake, and the other one is pissed. Whatever the reason, this is the no-hope-woe-is-me moment. And it sucks.
Oh, yes! But, wait! Yes! Yes! They can be together.
Now, they can ride into the sunset, or someone can die.
I mean, there’s more options than that. I’m just saying you can choose whether you want a happy ending or not. If you are writing a romance, you probably do. If you have a different genre going on with a romantic subplot, it will probably be determined by your main conflict.
So don’t forget about your love interests when outlining structure. It’s a whole relationship you are working through, and you need to treat it fairly.
Now, I have to go make it so that a certain incident at a certain restaurant never happened...