Writing: Taking the Romance out of Romance

True to my New Year’s Resolutions, I have tried to write a chapter of Heath of Fire a week. This week I finished Chapter Fifteen, and I was kind of interested in the way I told a love story without the icky love stuff.

Remember, I was only about 16 when I wrote Heath, and I wasn’t all that interested myself in the romance aspect of books. I had read pretty much every Jacqueline Wilson book and I never wanted to read about teens falling in love again. However, I did have some sort of concept of that when young people come together in adversity, they tend to have romantic feelings towards each other.

How to combat that, without a hundred love scenes? Hmm.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that I have written plenty of novels with romance in them. It isn’t that I just hate the idea of love. But as a young adult reader, I found it difficult to enjoy a story when all the main character is going on about is how much they want to jump into bed with the next character. It was just a preference. And yes, I know that YA literature, by definition, has to have some level of angst in it, or sex or drugs or whatever. But I return to my previous point, that I want to escape when I read, not remind myself of the pressures and struggles of my everyday life. My characters are (mostly) human, so it’s only natural these sorts of things occur.

Let’s take Chapter Fifteen, and Adeline and Hodge. They band together against a common enemy, spend a lot of time together, tell each other secrets. By Chapter Fifteen, we can really see how Hodge feels towards Adeline, and how she feels about him as well. At no point do they even mention love. They don’t kiss. They don’t hold hands. They have an emotional moment and Adeline goes off and does what she has to do.

I think that’s part of the point I’m making. The character of Adeline isn’t one who would sit and pine. She has a lot of important things to do, and some things have to wait. Hodge is one of those things. If you have a character who’s so strong that they would leave everything they’ve ever known and enter a world of unknown danger, they have to have some sort of spine when it comes to making decisions. She is a smart, mature girl. She knows there will be a time and a place. This is not that time.

There is, however, an undercurrent. Hodge and Adeline share some moments, which, frankly, border on the desperately romantic. We have to remember that they are, in some respects, still children. They don’t truly understand what is happening to them. But Hodge is gentle to Adeline like he is with nobody else, and Adeline weak sometimes when decisions concern Hodge. We know they like each other. So how much of that do I really have to spell out?

Heath is not a love story. It is a story about adventure and knowledge. It is a story, sometimes, about terrible things that happen to good people. It is a story about consequences and belonging. And yet in every story that resembles real life we have to include real life emotions. Sometimes, yeah, that does mean writing about snogging and sex and other such dirtiness. Not here. This has a sort of childish, first love feel that would be debased by that. I was surprised at my 16-year-old self’s sensitivity to this, and her tact, and her honesty about the situation.

I kept most of what I wrote originally the same in this chapter. I liked the feel of it. It might smack a little of nostalgia. But if I had to choose, I would probably say Hodge and Adeline are the favourite couple I’ve ever written to date. They are humble and warm. It isn’t shoved in your face. It isn’t even awkward. It just is. That’s what’s so nice about it.

Maybe, I dunno, one day someone will come and write dirty fan-fiction about them and turn it into a bestseller and force me to weep in a corner until I’m sick.

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