owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
[personal profile] owlectomy
I will tell you the worst writing advice I ever got from a publishing professional.

The worst writing advice I ever got from a publishing professional is:

"Young Adult has to have a romance because that's what all teenagers are focused on in their own lives."

Every part of that sentence is false.

There are aromantic teenagers and asexual teenagers and late bloomers and teenagers who have stuff going on in their lives family-wise or mental-health-wise or who, for any number of reasons, are not that focused on finding love in high school.

There are also so many YA books that don't have romances! There are some where a romantic relationship isn't a part of the story at all - or it's only a small part - or it's a fairly big part but it isn't a capital-R Romance at all, in the sense of being a story where one of the big story questions is "Are they going to get together???" and the answer is "Yes!"

(Even the "because" is false because what you want from fiction and what you want from real life are often different things).


One of the big struggles for me in writing this book has been that I struggle to connect with a lot of the romances in YA books. And they're a lot harder to write well, I think, than most people realize. So, a stunningly obvious thing that I only just realized last night:

Romance is characterization.

If you are a very good writer, everything that a character ever does is characterization. How you get ready in the morning, how you drive a car, how you cook. But how someone thinks about love, how it feels for them to be in love - that tells you a lot. I think that's one of the reasons why so much fannish energy goes into shipping - because if your favorite character's romance storylines in canon are non-existent or boring or contrived or stuck in perpetual Unresolved Sexual Tension that's only going to be resolved when the writers can't draw it out any more and the producers want a ratings boost, then that exists as a gap in the canon that's calling out for resolution.

The more I got to know my narrator, Itsuki, the more I realized she didn't easily fit in with any romance storyline I had planned out. She resisted that kind of narrative, for a long time. She made me think, hard, about my own resistance to that narrative, as a reader and as a human being.

The thing is, though? I really like writing love stories. I don't want them to be cheap or dishonest and there are a lot of pitfalls that are hard to avoid. But eventually, I think, I found a way to write it that made sense for who she was. I discovered how she fell in love, how she thought about love.

I am not sure how she would identify herself, if she had all the words of Tumblr at her disposal. But this book has all been a heinous glorious voyage of self-discovery where I have largely had to grope around in the dark with only the dim and shaky light of my intuition to see by, so - I am OK with not being able to fit that neatly into a box. I feel like I have written a book that is honest. That's as much as I can ever hope to do.

(no subject)

9/7/17 11:38 (UTC)
green_knight: (Watching You)
Posted by [personal profile] green_knight
You forgot to call out 'has to' (there are no rules' and 'write only about things that readers can immediately relate to their own lives' (as opposed to giving readers a lot of choices to try on for size and see how they fit/allow them to walk in someone else's shoes for a while.) I've never wanted to just read about people like me, though I did appreciate reading about people who resonated with me.

Most of all, this is the 'books for children/teenagers have to have pedagogic value' that I resent.

Romance is characterization.

I need to ponder that a bit. Ok, a lot. For me, it's just One More Thing the character does, and I don't think I've written a character whose primary preoccupation has been relationships, maybe because I've never been that person.

(no subject)

12/7/17 02:57 (UTC)
raanve: (typewriter)
Posted by [personal profile] raanve
Oh - you said all of this so well!

Particularly these thoughts about charcterization - it's something that I think about a lot in terms of writing RP, and fannish writing. You put your finger on something that seems essential to me about writing, or at least writing as I do it (& in terms of what interests me most). So thank you for articulating that!


owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)

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