On Instagram earlier this month, I asked my followers what common complaints they have about YA Romance. I ended up receiving three valid complaints that I find cringe-worthy as well. So, let’s see how authors can revamp YA Romance and win back readers!
Issue 1: Emotionally Abusive Book Boyfriends
Ugh, y’all, this is one of the reasons I haven’t read Twilight. I completely agreed with @hkayewrites when she commented:
“I take issue with the angsty bad boy love interest. It always seems like authors try to romanticize behavior that in real life would be an emotionally abusive relationship.”Instagram, @hkayewrites
As someone who has witnessed how emotionally abusive relationships can harm someone and their family, I have no room on my shelf or Kindle for books that show teens it’s okay if they’re manipulated, harassed, and mentally abused by their significant other as long as they’re hot.
Nah. Have better standards, y’all.
How Authors Can Redeem This Mistake
I could go off on a tangent on this one, but how about we start by writing relationships in which the boyfriend and girlfriend treat each other with respect? Sure, they’re gonna argue (I mean, a good story needs conflict), but don’t cross that line where the significant other starts hitting and or name calling and then the main character runs back to them without a care in the world, basically saying the negative behavior is okay?
NO. Let’s demand better in our society by writing relationships we want to see in real life. Do we want to see more emotionally abusive relationships? Most people would say no. So, let’s write the kind of relationships we want to see.
Relationships We Want to See in Fiction
This can vary per author, but I, for example, would love to see more general audience YA Romances that show the couple practicing abstinence and waiting for marriage before introducing the physical aspect of their relationship.
Another example could be, if an author is wanting to put a positive spin on the emotionally abusive relationship, they could show the character who is being emotionally abused rise up out of the relationship, breaking free of the binds their significant other put on them with the abuse and pursuing love with someone who treats them as they should be treated. Just a thought.
Issue 2: Insta-Love
Love it or hate it, insta-love is a popular trope in YA Romance. Like my friend @skylar.senn, most of the time, I’m a hater. 😛
“For me it’s insta-love!!”Instagram, @skylar.senn
Why is insta-love cringe-worthy for us haters? For me, it’s if the characters fall in love from first sight with little to no reason as to why other than… again… “they’re hot”. *Facepalm*
You see, a lot of Romance authors who write Insta-Love do so in a lust-based relationship, where the whole framework for the relationship relies on how the couple looks. They love each other because they’re hot. They’re inseparable because they’re hot. They want to get married the instant they meet because they’re hot.
They’ll get divorced within six months because their relationship has nothing else to stand on. This makes readers throw up in their mouths a bit and gives the trope a horrible reputation.
How Authors Can Redeem This Mistake
As strange as it might sound, insta-love can actually be written in an appealing way.
In my post 3 Tips for Writing a Believable Romance, I list the Dos and Don’ts of writing Insta-Love, but I’ll copy them here as well for quick reference:
Suggestions for Writing Insta-Love:
- Give the characters one strong common goal or interest. They don’t have to have everything in common, but give them enough similarities to develop a foundation for their connection.
- Make the initial first-sight moment develop by having the characters notice an intriguing personality trait about one another rather than a physical trait. Make the romance about the characters, not about how they look.
- Be subtle about their initial attraction. Even if the chemistry is there on Day 1, the relationship should still have room to develop and mature throughout the remainder of the book. Don’t have them spouting out that they love each other, should get married, and have kids the day they meet, unless they have gone through a lifetime’s worth of relationship-building circumstances with each other over that period of time (Ex: Katniss and Peeta’s close proximity in The Hunger Games resulted in a Insta-Love of sorts for the viewers in Panem).
Insta-Love Readers May Want to See
I’m not sure where I stand on the whole “love at first sight” debate, but I do know that true love takes time and work. An example of a redeeming insta-love trope I can think of would be if two characters are introduced in dire circumstances (ex: a fireman comes to rescue a girl from a bad car wreck), where instant interest is formed, but a slow-burn relationship progression comes from it.
Issue 3: Predictable Love Triangles
Even though I was guilty of using the love triangle trope in my debut YA romance novel, Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl, I agree with @midnightwritelight when she added this comment to the conversation:
“The predictability of love triangles. 9/10 times its obvious who the protagonist will end up with.”Instagram, @midnightwritelight
Love triangles, like insta-love, are often overused and underdeveloped, making for a dull and predictable read. Though the main character may be pulled in two different directions as to who she/he wants to be with, the choice is blatantly obvious to the reader 99% of the time, especially in young adult romances. So, how can we as authors revamp love triangles?
How Authors Can Redeem This Mistake
One of the best written love triangles I’ve ever encountered in YA romance was in Stephanie Morrill’s Ellie Sweet series. Throughout the two books, readers are introduced to two potential love interests: Palmer, a popular guy who once had a high-profile relationship with Ellie’s best friend, and Chase, a brooding troublemaker who is known for being a womanizer. From this description, it’ll look to the naked eye like there is a clearly better option for Ellie out of these two. However, it’s not the case in the book.
In Ellie Sweet‘s love triangle, Morrill does the one thing too many YA romances lack: she gives both guys good and bad traits. She allows both guys to sweep Ellie off her feet and lose her trust. In the end, she makes readers root for both guys, so to us, there is no real winner until Ellie decides for herself.
What Negative Traits Can We Give Our Love Interests?
Everyone on this earth has bad traits we need to work on, so if we want to write realistic love interests to play parts in love triangles, let’s give them one or two to add some mystery:
- Fear of commitment
- Womanizing past
- Misbelief about love
- In love with someone else
- Superiority complex (thinking they’re too good to be seen with their intended love interest)
- A personal issue that makes them want to hide/lie to avoid the protagonist
These are just a few I could think of, but there are endless possibilities out there!
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
What is your biggest complaint about YA Romance that wasn’t addressed here? How do you think authors can combat these potential mistakes in their books?
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.