This is a guest post by Kira McFadden
There are many ways a writer can add tension and suspense to his or her novel. One of the best and most engaging is romance. For many Young Adult novels, paranormal romance has become the norm. From the marketing perspective, it’s what young readers want. So, writers cater to that desire. But the YA market isn’t the only market that delves into Cupid’s art.
Any genre you read can have romance. In fact, I dare you to find a genre that has no romance at all. That’s because love draws upon our desires. It makes us feel good. Remember that cute boy or girl in high school? The one you thought you’d never get the courage to ask out? How did you feel when you saw that person in the hallway? Writers use that feeling all the time to make readers feel connected with the characters. This builds suspense and makes the reader want more.
Romance is one of the easiest ways to build suspense in a novel, but it also must be genuinely written. Unlike horror or murder, romance tickles the happy side of our consciousness (at least, most of the time). It makes us feel good to read about a passionate kiss, or two people who are meant to be together, which is why it sells. But romance alone can’t sell a novel. You have to make that romance suspenseful, dramatic, and beautiful.
In some cases, having a second love interest for the main character builds tension between characters. It draws the reader in, because the reader wonders who the main character will choose. Will she choose the loner or the sweetheart? Which will vie for her attention more passionately? Will they end up fighting for the right to be with her? By bringing in a second love interest, life for the main character becomes more complex and interesting to read about.
As I mentioned briefly before, romance must be written genuinely. What I mean by this is that you can’t merely write a love scene and expect people to feel impassioned by your work. Love has many ups, downs, and twists to it. Sometimes people who love each other the most can’t stand each other in the beginning. Bring a few characters together and add in bits of your own romantic experiences. What frustrated you the most about your relationships in the past? Toss it in. Chances are it will make the romantic struggle more relatable to the reader. Relatable is genuine, because it comes from your deepest inner self, and makes it believable.
In YA Paranormal Romance, many of the characters can feel flat or single layered. That’s fine for this genre, but most definitely not for others, such as thrillers, some fantasy, and other books where plot can often overrun the need for romance. The extent to which romance plays a part in your novel depends on your genre. If you’re writing a High/Epic Fantasy akin to something like “The Black Company” or “A Game of Thrones,” don’t expect to have one-dimensional love interests. That kind of character won’t build the tension you want because the audience you’re catering to has more experience in true love. Younger readers, generally those who enjoy “Twilight” or “Trylle,” may prefer something less complex (not to say all readers for this genre are young; I know some seniors who read both series abovementioned because they want a break from the denser novels.)
Romance can be light, and it can be heavy. It can be passionate, and it can be bitter. The job of the author is to know when to use it, how much to use, and which characters to use it on in order to build tension in the novel. I suppose another way to look at it is as a spice. Romance is the sugar of the literary world. If you’re building a YA Romance, it’s going to be, in general, a very “sweet” novel. Maybe you’re doing something darker—something where the love interest isn’t as “sweet”—add a little sour in there to balance out the romantic aspects of the novel.
In summary, keep the romance real. Make sure it fits within your genre. Keep it interesting by using it appropriately. Bring out the best, and worst, of your characters. After all, if your characters are falling in love and one can’t handle the other at her worst, then he definitely doesn’t deserve her at her best. Most of all, have fun. Love is a very broad emotion; it can be bad, good, fun, boring, and sad, but it’s your job to make it entertaining.
Kira McFadden is an avid enthusiast for all things publishing and writing. She has worked for two publishing firms and has helped local authors compile information for their works. You can visit her at http://inrugia.zxq.net.