To be real for a second: I’m not a romantic. Just…nope. Shut it down.
But I’ve written romances. Not super-swooney, Gosling and glitter romances (which, technically, isn’t a genre but totally should be), but funny cute ones. Snarky sad ones. If the romances I write were a movie category, they’d be indie arthouse films. No big studio rom coms or tragic love stories here.
Still, I’ve written romances.
But my current WIP…I can’t find it.
To frame: a lot of bad things happen. A lot. And my MC is trying to hold it all together and keep other people safe. She is focused on keeping herself and her family (and an entire city) alive. So when a potential romantic interest appears (and there are a few), she shuts it down. She’s got important stuff to do, she’s got no time for romance.
Which, to me, feels right. But still a little wrong.
I went to a lecture on YA earlier this year, and one of the speakers stated that YA is all about the romance. Which, yeah, I get. But does it have to be?
In my opinion, my story feels wrong if my MC starts swooning over a love interest. She’s even less romantic than I am. It feels disingenuous for her to lose focus on her mission for an attraction (or to have moderately successful social skills).
Her character is practical and prioritizes surviving over romance. Forcing her to change that aspect of herself feels false. Even though it might disappoint a lot of readers.
Because romance has become the norm in YA. People love a love story (I love a love story too, just the quirky arthouse ones). I worry that, by not including one in my current WIP, it’ll feel lesser or incomplete, even though it’s true to character.
But that’s my worry. Frankly, I think it’s better to write true to your character than to force a plot element just because it’s expected. Because, seriously, who likes expected? Who thought, oh man that book was amazing because I totally saw it all coming?
So forget norms, forget expected, forget disappointing some imaginary person. I’m gonna do my own thing. Which means writing YA sans romance. My MC is single and damn proud of it.
Sound off in the comments: do you think YA requires a romance plot?