Our February theme is amour and its influence on our YA projects. I am an avowed sucker for a good love story. All my novels, adult books included, contain a romance element. As a reader, it’s a delicious thrill to fall in love vicariously. As a writer, I consider capturing the emotional journey of love a great challenge. When done right, it’s pretty darn close to the real thing. Sigh.
Although it seems a tad too clinical for something as unique and individual as love, I give the phases or components of a relationship a lot of thought. It’s no coincidence that a love story has the same three stages as any story: the beginning, the middle, and the end. To tweak the terminology a little for the romance purpose, I might say: they meet, they flirt, they get together.
For me, it’s the second stage—the courtship dance—that is the trickiest to bottle. There has to be the right emotional buildup, conflicts or constraints working against the pair, and sufficient character development to convey likeability, vulnerability, and empathy.
It’s apparent that your protagonist and his or her love interest need to spend sufficient page time together so that all of the above is given room to grow. I’ve also come to consider and develop the separation. Shakespeare nails it with his “sweet sorrow” description. Conjure quickly your all-time favorite love story. Did the writer build a divide of time and space into the relationship? I bet they did, and I bet it heightened the tension and strengthened the payoff. For the record, my favorite book is Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. And, yes, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy have extended separations.
So here’s to your favorite literary couples. Enjoy their journeys, partings included.