All's Fair in Love - And Upping the Stakes (Janet Raye Stevens)

It’s February and that means love is in the air, especially here at YA Outside the Lines. With love as this month’s theme, I thought I’d go all meta and write about writing about love.

You know that old saying, I hate to write, but I love having written? Yeah, well, I’m kind of that way about love. Writing relationships can be awfully tricky. Writing an action scene is easy in comparison. Joe walks down street. Joe slips on a banana peel. Whoops, *bang.* He’s on his butt. Simple, moves the story along, all external.

But a love story, that’s pretty much all internal. It intertwines with, and is an integral part of, the character’s journey, changing and progressing as the character changes and progresses. So, there’s that trickiness to deal with, the believable evolution from the first meet and the blossoming of attraction to the “do they just like me or do they *like* like me?” to the emotions engendered by the first kiss and the realization that this could be the real thing, and finally, the happy ending.

The external stuff is also tricky, but more fun to write because you get to torture your characters. Seriously, we can’t just let our characters sail off into the heart-shaped sunset after the first kiss. We need to hit them with roadblocks and obstacles to impede their journey. There’s a reason “their eyes met across a crowded room” doesn’t just jump to “and they lived happily ever after.” That would be boring (and an exceedingly short book). Their eyes meet, they get together, smooching occurs. Something busts our lovers apart (sometimes several somethings) before the final smooch and “I love yous.”

This obstacle-throwing can be done in a million ways, some creative and unique, some trope-y and cliché, but most of them will work for your reader (with the exceptions of maybe amnesia and the plain old misunderstanding that can be cleared up in a five second conversation or text).

I threw in a lot of roadblocks to happily ever after for the hero and heroine of my WWII-set time travel BERY BLUE, TIME COP. Modern day librarian Beryl meets a time cop from the future, who sends her back to 1943. Her mission? Stop a time traveling assassin from killing seemingly random GI Tom "Sully" Sullivan and messing up the timeline forever.

Beryl’s frantically trying to figure out the external stuff: how to stop the bad guy, why she’s the only one in all of time who can do this job, and how to protect the gruff, stubborn Sully, who clearly doesn’t want to be protected. Her internal struggle is equally challenging. She has trust and abandonment issues that keep her from letting anyone in. Now, for the first time in her life, she’s fallen in love—pulse-pounding, dizzy-making, irrational-thinking, happily ever after in love (Beryl’s words, not mine. Well, okay, kind of my words.). The problem? If she can save Sully's life, if she can keep the timeline from being completely screwed up, she’ll have to return to her own time and will never see him again.

*Sniffle...* Will those crazy kids find a way to bridge time and be together? Well, of course, but there will be a lot of misery before that happens.

So, I guess you get the idea. Throw it all at your lovers, make them clear the road of those roadblocks and obstacles, make them work for that happy ending, but give them that heart-shaped sunset. Your characters may not love you for it, but your readers sure will.

Derringer award finalist and Golden Heart Award winning author Janet Raye Stevens writes about love and all kinds of other mushy stuff. 

Connect with Janet at


Post a Comment