On Writing Love Interests

7 Oct

I know some people disagree with me, but I feel like a great romance is a really important ingredient of YA. In fact, I think the combination of genre and romance is what draws me to YA so often – sure, adult genre works like ASOIAF have relationships in them, but they’re hardly romantic. A great romance can make or break a YA. However, having read a couple of books recently in which the love story was luke-warm at best, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes for a successful one – and the love interest is definitely a massive factor.

My favourite love interest comes from my favourite YA: Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters. Felix Carnival is as swoon-worthy as they come, and, most importantly, complex. What I like about him is that he challenges the heroine, Harry, in all sorts of ways – acting as the physical embodiment of a sexual and creative awakening that ultimately ushers Harry into adulthood. Like many YA boys, he is lovable but with a hint of danger – in his case the presence of his unstable twin brother, Hadfield, whose night-time assault leaves Harry confused about her attraction to Felix and afraid of the lurid fantasies she writes in secret. Moreover, Felix also has his own motivations beyond just loving Harry. His struggle against his brothers is a powerful force in the story, giving him a complexity beyond simple stereotype.

In writing my own love interests – and I’ve now written four guys and one girl – I try to adopt similar principles. I want the LI to be their own person and have their own goals, but similarly to provide something for the MC to bounce off. If the LI is only about mooning and moping over the MC, I find that the romance can be stale and unbelievable.

Who is your favourite love interest and what do you think makes a successful one?

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