I'm up. And it's three in the morning at Vermont College of Fine Arts. And I have a cold - it's mild but nevertheless my ears are completely clogged and it's annoying. So what better way to spend my insomnia than writing a blog on writing? I'm at a writing residency after all. By the way, Jandy Nelson is here. She wrote The Sky is Everywhere and I am desperately trying not to FREAK OUT every time she walks by. That aside, I've been doing an awful lot of thinking about love interests. I even did a vlog a few weeks ago about what makes a good love interest.
For Lenah, Justin is so completely foreign to her - here's a young man who has incredible zest for life, in fact, he's willing to take chances with his body so that he can get that "rush," that adrenaline kick. I thought to myself, what better way to try to bring this girl back from such a dark place than to position her next to someone very, very much alive? It was the same when I thought of Tony's relationship with Lenah. I'm not spoiling anything here - that would be REALLY dumb. But I think when talking about love interests it's interesting to ask yourself (the writer, or reader, I suppose): are these characters capable of being in love with one another? What are these characters learning from one another?
I think when crafting a believable love interest you have to ask yourself: why is the chemistry here important? If I take this person away, out of the narrative, what does it do to the other relationships within the book? What does this person provide? I know these are a lot of questions but I think half the battle in writing, especially YA is making sure that the things we choose to write and relay to the reader are thought through throughoughly (say that three times fast).
I went to an incredible graduate lecture here (graduates give lectures during their final residency here at VCFA) by writer Linda Oatman High and she was talking about instilling hope even into your darkest stories. It was odd that I thought of love interests during her lecture but I wondered: don't romantic relationships in YA books also have to have a semblance of hope? The relationships a writer creates on the page comes with a certain responsibility. What are we giving the reader when we create a relationship? Even our characters deserve a love that will open them up - not close them down. As my friend Victoria Schwab said in her part of the vlog we did, "I'm really not so fine with homocidal tendencies...but I don't really want my love interest to want for one reason for another to want to kill my main character. Ya know?"
I think Linda is right - we need to orchestrate our main characters and their loved ones with a crafted hand so that we can give our readers hope that our love interests are well meaning people. That we've paired them up not only for love but because these two characters irrevocably need one another. That, as I said in the vlog, their inner conflicts are matched. Is Justin a 3-dimensional person who through a mutual understanding of his love for Lenah can find common ground with her? I certainly hope so.
I guess what I am saying is that you don't need to be a 592 year old vampire to know when you meet someone who makes you feel...alive.
It just means more when you do.