"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, February 14, 2011


Happy Valentine's Day! It's such a lovey holiday, and thinking of it makes me think of first love which is so often found in YA these days. And sure, some stories have romance, and some stories HAVE ROMANCE!

What makes these different? What sets them apart?

Well, we here at THE PLACE (being K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson , E. Kristin Anderson, Madeline Smoot, Mari Mancusi, and sometimes member Jenny Ziegler) offer up 10 amazing ways to make the romance sizzle in your manuscript. So read up and get ready to revise!

We give you...


1) Have stuff happen off-screen.
It's amazing how much your reader will fill in on their own.
(For example, did Aerin and Luthe have sex in The Hero & the Crown? It's a midgrade Newbery Medal winner, and nothing happens on the page, but I sure thought so. --Madeline)

2) Make the romance forbidden.
And make the roadblock believable. Because if that roadblock can be torn away with one flick of the wrist, I'm not buying it as a roadblock in the first place. It really has to stand in their way.

I want real consequences.

3) Build tension leading up to the first kiss.
Even if this means you REALLY, REALLY want your characters to kiss. Don't let them. Keep the kiss away from them for just one more scene. One. More. Scene.

4) Pining. Lots of pining.

5) Find a picture (Calvin Klein magazine ad, yearbook photo of school crush, pin-up of hunky movie star) and "cast" him as your male romantic lead.
Keep pic close by as you write. Squeegee off lipstick marks as necessary.

6) Ask a friend who writes erotica for tips.
Scale it back ten notches.
Then increase it forward by two.

(there is no picture I can think of to keep it clean here.)

7) Watch John Hughes movies for inspiration.
(I have a forever crush on John Bender. Oh yeah. --Emily)

8 ) Make a playlist with your characters' favorite love songs to listen to while writing their romance scenes.
Feel free to date yourself with these songs. "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" is perfectly acceptable if it puts you in the right writing mood. Ditto "Open Arms."

Remember slow dancing.

9) Treat yourself to a date night with your honey.
And, since you write YA, make it super fun and retro: burgers, ice cream, and a movie (see above for movie recommendations). Thinking of his/her kisses will definitely steam up your love scenes.

10) Emotions
Did I mention those? Because no matter how functional he may be, without emotions, it's just not going to work out.


Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips. I'll remember them if I'm ever brave enough to write romance. Happy Valentines Day!

PJ Hoover said...

I'm sure you'll be brave enough, Natalie! Happy Valentine's Day right back!

Trisha Pearson said...

LOL!!! Great list. I love #2 (who doesn't love Gandolf?) and it's missing in the story I'm planning...hmmmm. I need to work on that. Happy Valentine's Day!

Miriam S. Forster said...

Ooo! I'll have to come back to this when I revise The Venus Mirror. (There's a romance in that one)

Right now I'm doing a middle-grade book with no romance in it at all. Unless you count the romance between a boy and his dragon... :)

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I love that #10. These are all good tips, even just to spice up the relationships a little without becoming a full-blown romance.

PJ Hoover said...

OMG, totally, Trisha. Who doesn't love Gandalf. This is something I'm really working on in my stories, too.

Enjoy your revisions, Miriam. And the title VENUS MIRROR is perfect and to die for. Makes me want to read it right now!

Exactly, Kayeleen! So much of the time it's the little touches that make all the difference.
And I'm glad you like the Star Trek pic!

pensees said...

Like! The build-up to the kiss is critical, I agree. The more you wait for it, the more you want it and the more satisfying it is for the reader when it finally happens. Yummm...

Love Stories

Hannah Kincade said...

I had a comment in mind and then I saw Tasha Yar. I hates Tasha Yar.


PJ Hoover said...

I know, Cyndi! And I always want them to kiss so soon!

Hannah, Tasha totally never did it for me either. Ditto Kes from Voyager.