It’s not Valentine’s Day or anything, thank God, but I was inspired by a question the moderator asked one of the panels at the NYC Teen Author Festival last month. The question for these YA writers: what was their favorite type of romantic relationship to write? They came up with a bunch of the expected ones, like love at first sight, and also hate at first sight.
The thing about romance is, even if you don’t write Romance, the genre—even if you like to write about aliens or DNA splicing or magic or state-run gladiatorial games for children—a lot of the time there still ends up being at least one romantic relationship in a YA novel.
The panel got me thinking about this topic, but I owe any knowledge I may have on the subject to the huge chunk of my life wasted in front of the TV, along with my vast expertise with the Regency Romance Novel. There are about six basic Regency plots, all of them culminating in a nauseatingly romantic happy ending.
When you actually think about it, there are only a few main categories of story love—and sometimes they overlap (like Bella and Edward, for example, are not only star-crossed but also insta-love—if you count his being in love with the way her blood smelled or whatever). But here are the main ones I’ve spotted:
1) Best friend love
This was a popular one that got mentioned on the panel—someone said, “Oh, like Andy and Duckie from Pretty in Pink!, and everyone went, “Awwww.” But then the same person who said this type was their favorite was also swooning over Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life, and I was like, if she really always rooted for the best friend, then she’d have been swooning over Brian Krakow.
City of Bones would have this kind of story if Simon had ended up with Clary. It’s not the most popular one by far—probably because the best friend isn’t usually a warrior, a bad boy, a werewolf—or any other category of intriguingly dangerous fellow.
2) Love at first sight
A lot of bloggers deride this one as Insta-Love (or maybe that’s just the criticism for love at first sight that’s not believable).
Because meeting somebody and being like, yep, done! Calling it—it’s love! is so terribly believable. You know, ever.
3) Hate at first sight
I remember who brought this one up—my fellow New Leafer Kody Keplinger. And after I read the first few pages of her debut, The DUFF, I could certainly see why. In this version, the pair fight until they figure out, wait—we don’t actually hate each other...
I grew up with a version of this which I’ll call The Han Solo variation. Just like Han and Leia, in this one the two don’t exactly hate each other, but they don’t quite see eye to eye. And they squabble and argue and talk over top of each other in a completely adorable way until finally: love. All my favorite 80s shows like Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Moonlighting featured the HSV. My devotion to this story type probably ruined my life, leading me to dismiss any male whose personality failed to annoy me as a non-viable option.
This one is the bedrock of fantasy and paranormal amore. These two shouldn’t be together because of some fundamental roadblock. He’s a Montague and she’s a Capulet. She’s a human and he’s an alien. He’s the prince of a rival Faerie kingdom. He’s a vampire and she’s lunch. This is the stuff of the Epic Love Affair, the trope that launched a thousand ships (of the Tumblr variety). It works a little less well in Real Life. Possibly because there are so few faeries and vampires and Capulets.
5) Unrequited love
I love the metaphor for this one: “carrying a torch” because it sounds awkward, heavy, and like it will probably lead to at least second-degree burns, which sounds about right. I’m a complete sucker for this one, especially the Noble Governess variety. Even if you’re not into Regencies, you know the type. She’s pretty but you don’t notice her right away. She’s not as obvious as that other chick he thinks he’s into, until he gets to know the N.G. She’s smart. She’s capable. Maybe she’s got a great sense of humor. Give the guy two hundred or so pages. He may be a little slow, but eventually he’ll figure it out.
Please feel free to share the ones I’m missing! Otherwise my comment box will feel like a reject from variety #5.