Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Romance Writing Advice from Gilmore Girls

Hope everyone enjoyed their Valentine's festivities! While I've always enjoyed Valentine's Day (since Ben came along, anyway) I think kids have only made it more fun. McKenna helped me make chocolate covered strawberries, we grilled some steaks, and had a nice candlelight dinner as a family.

Today, I'm really excited to be an honorary member of Teens Can Write Too. My age usually prohibits me, but  they were kind enough to let me join the blog chain just this once. If you're your teens (or early 20s) make sure you check them out.

The blog chain topic this month is on romance. Go figure.

What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre? Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?

Confession time: I never planned to write books for teens, nor did I intend to write about love as much as I do. I thought I would "outgrow it." At least I hoped I would.

But I'm such a romantic, that I'm 99% sure I couldn't handle writing a book without romance. I'd be bored. And I'm starting to doubt that I could ever write a decent book about adults rather than teens. (Even when I attempt it, my adult character's current problems are heavily rooted in high school experiences.)

Why am I so fascinated by the teen romance? My husband and I met in high school; maybe that has something to do with it? I don't know, but I adore books like This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

One tip I have for writing romance threads in your story is actually spun from a advice I read in an interview of Amy Sherman-Palladino (creator and head writer for Gilmore Girls).

She said one of the tricks to TV writing is making small events big, but big events small. The way I apply that to the romance storylines in my books is you're never going to find my character's big romantic moments at big events - school dances, Valentine's Day, weddings.

Like in Out with the In Crowd, Connor remembers their 3-month anniversary when Skylar forgets. He takes her out for a romantic date that involves sitting on bleachers in the dead of winter eating sub sandwiches. But their Valentine's Day - where, in desperation, he goes kinda above-and-beyond - is rather hum-drum.

Obviously it can work to have the big moments at big events (Pretty in Pink has done quite well for itself) but I like the inversion of big and small events that Amy Sherman-Palladino suggests.

Interested in knowing what your fellow teen writers think about romance? Find out here:

February 5– –Novel Journeys
February 6– –Lily’s Notes in the Margins
February 7– –Kirsten Writes!
February 8– — Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish
February 9– –A Farewell to Sanity
February 10– –The Word Asylum
February 11– –From My Head
February 12– –Esther Victoria1996
February 13– –Embracing Insanity
February 14– –Red Herring Online
February 15– –Go Teen Writers (Honorary Participant)
February 16– –This Page Intentionally Left Blank
February 17– –Oh Yeah, Write!
February 18– –The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
February 19– –Here’s To Us
February 20– –Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

Tomorrow Rachel Coker will be here with some fabulous insights into life as a published teen writer. And I hope to have up the winner's from last round's contest soon. Also I'm curious, do your books tend to have a little, a lot, or no romance at all?


  1. I love reading romance, but in my books? Never. :P I'm just too'd end up being ridiculous, and I would be afraid to share it with anyone. When I feel experienced enough to pull it off, absolutely! But now, no romance. :) At all.

    I like the "small events big" tip, though. Will be using that for sure!

  2. I am such a hopeless romantic. I'm like you Stephanie, where, I'd be really bored with my story if there were absolutely no sparks between my characters. That doesn't mean I don't like stories that have no romance, but I just can't write them. :) Oddly enough, though I know I wouldn't want to write a book without romance in it, I think that's what makes me most self-conscious of my stories. I don't want people to think they are too cheesy, or I'm being too girly by writing them. That's one of the main things that holds me back when I talk to people about my story.

    I really like that rule, of making the small stuff big, and the big stuff small. I think it makes the stories more genuine, to be honest, because I think that a lot of the time it's in the simple stuff that make such a big difference.
    Thanks, Stephanie for the great post, Stephanie!

    1. Oh, Clare, that sounds like me! Sometimes I still feel completely weird about the romance stuff in my books. Especially if a guy asks about them. I always find myself stuttering and stumbling.

  3. I like that advice, Stephanie. I just wish I could actually use it. Because I write from an MMC POV, I usually have little to no romance. In my current WIP, he does end up marrying one of his friends, but it's not really apparent that he likes her throughout the book. I mean, he does, but he doesn't announce it all the time, and tries to pretend he doesn't love her.

    In another WIP, which has been sadly neglected, it really does look like he's in love with her the whole way through, and then they go their separate ways, and you realize that they were never anything but friends. I think it works though. :)

  4. I love this advice :) I never really thought about it before, but I guess I am sort of a hopeless romantic. When I read a book, I prefer the "holding hands," "catching one staring at the other," and other tiny zinggy moments like that.

    My books do have a sprinkle of romance to them :D I don't do a lot of it because 1. It embarrasses me if somebody were to pick it up. 2. Less is more. In my current WIP I've started a *gulp* love triangle. This is a first for me. And it's terrifying, because I love both of the guys xD so it's hard to get my character to like just one. I don't want it to be so Twilighty that I just end up being mad at my character for picking one over the other. I also don't want her choice to be so obvious that people lose interest in the other guy. SO AGGRAVATING! Do you have any advice for Love Triangles?

    1. I'm a huge fan of love triangles, and Stephenie Meyer did NOT invent them, so I think you'll be fine! It's a great sign that you love both fellas.

      I could probably write a whole blog post on love triangles, but here are some quick thoughts popping into my head:

      -Don't worry about planning it too much. In the manuscript my agent is shopping right now, there's a love triangle, and I fully intended my main character to end up with a particular guy. Well, she didn't. Because as I pressed on with the story, it was more and more clear to me that the other guy was the best fit. So, stay flexible with it.

      -Sounds like you're doing this already, but make them both good for her. They both needs strengths and weaknesses.

      -Lapsing into a Twilight point: I'm Team Jacob, and yes, I was like, "Ugh!" when she married Edward. Yet I understood. While I wanted her to pick Jacob, her love for Edward made sense to me, and I had some fears that Jacob might imprint on someone else later should she choose him. (Which, of course, never would have happened...) If your character's choice makes sense for your character, I think your readers will be fine. Even if they would have preferred the other. (Most of your readers, anyway. The readers who have the proper perspective on fiction not being real life!)

  5. I'm in the middle on romance. I don't like the straight formulaic romances with Fabio on the cover. But a touch or sprinkles (great description random thinker) I like and would probably,like you, Stephanie, be bored without it! I'm learning "romance novel" is a broad term.

    I squealed when I read the title!! Oh how I love Gilmore Girls :) I was thrilled to see ABC Family start playing reruns again. Sadly,or not so sadly, I try to schedule exercise around it so I can watch it, ha! 
    So they're replaying it from the beginning and  I've been watching it with new eyes, more writer eyes, I guess. On the topic of romance the awkward stuff with Rory and Dean in the beginning  is a lot of fun. I like that kind of romance :) but it probably wouldn't work if you were writing adults.

    1. The early Rory/Dean stuff is what drew me into that series in the beginning. Fabulous stuff.

      And I think it COULD work for adults. Maybe two people who have been burned in previous relationships? Or one who has been burned and one who has yet to have a meaningful relationship? I think you could find a way.

    2. It could, with the right characters. At times Luke and Lorelai were like that!
      And Sooki was funnier in the beginning.

  6. Nice post! I haven't written anything romance-heavy yet, but I'll have to remember this if I do!

  7. (Ah...I typed up a wonderful thing explaining "my rules" for romance in my stories, then my browser decided it wasn't worthy of existing anymore and deleted it. O.o So let's try this again...)

    There's almost always a romance SUBPLOT in my stories, but almost never with the main character. I'm just not all that interested in teen romance type stuff, and I usually have some adult characters (who are not just the MC's parents.) Usually, I write adventure/science fiction/fantasy stuff, so its never in the form of dating and dancing.

    Once again, I find myself sounding excruciatingly narrow-minded and predictable. :D

    1. JessicaJo, I HATE it when my browser rebels against me like that. Thanks for retyping! Romance subplots are excellent devices. Glad you shared that.

  8. In my novel, my three main-est characters are 13 to 15 and there aren't any sparks flying there, yet somehow it seems a little romance got in there somewhere - mostly with a couple who are a) already married and b) already dead. Very weird, I know. It's in their old letters, and the girl's diary, that my characters read.

    I do plan on having two other characters fall in love, but it's going to be very light.

    1. I think that's a very unique take on it, Allison! I like it :)

  9. My WIP originally wasn't going to have anything but a sprinkle of romance... now it's practically turned into a romance novel D: Okay, maybe not, but there's a whole love plot line alone in my manuscript. I've always pretended I'm not a completely hopeless romantic but I guess this shows my true colors :p

    1. Jaedyn, I know the feeling! I was once determined to write a book with ZERO romance. I lasted about a chapter and bailed on the project.

  10. I find that since my waking life doesn't have any successful romance in it, I tend to put romance into my stories. Maybe the character has a massive crush on someone, or they are dating someone; usually it's based on my thoughts and opinions. My current WIP is actually a romance novel, so I have found these tips you have been posting very helpful! Thanks!

    1. Indie, you made me laugh :) That's one of the great things about writing, isn't it? Now that I have kids and can't travel nearly as much as I'd like, I tend to throw my characters into more exotic locations :)

    2. Whenever I'm thirsty, my characters seem to enjoy really delicious drinks ... it's funny. :)

  11. I never write romance, mainly because I don't read it, and have never felt the need to worry about it. My characters don't ever seem to fall in love, which is helpful. I prefer writing about battles and big fantasy things.

  12. I try to stay away from romance. I really do. Considering my background with romance (which consists of one 'pity' date and a revenge plot with my stalker), I feel like I don't have the authority to write romance. Note the TRYING part. It doesn't really work out.

    I blame it on my addiction to YA Romances. They're just too tempting! I cannot name one book I've read in the past year without romance.

    I guess it's only natural that my subconscious wants to write romance without my approval.

  13. My WIP did not have any romance in it, until I decided that a dash of romance make everything that little bit more real... If I want to write about life, I guess I've just got to have a little love ♥

    I found this really helpful - thanks Stephanie!

  14. This post was great! I loved reading it and loved reading all of these stellar comments...*sigh* I just love the discussions we get into here. :)

    Anonymous, you summed it up so well. That's how I view it, I think. My novels have romance in them, but that's never The Main Plot. Mainly (no pun intended) because I get bored easily with stricly romantic fiction. I'd much rather have the two characters fighting an epic battle or on a quest or struggling to survive a debilitating life-event than just "this is how we met and fell in love." :) So I try to write that way, too. With a Bigger Goal in mind, but with sparks zinging in spite of it. :)

  15. Nice post, Stephanie! I'm not really a hopeless romantic type but I do believe that the right amount of romance adds some nice zest to a book. I agree with you, Rachelle. I don't ever have romance as the main plot but I add it in as an extra aside to make everything more real. In my current WIP, romance is more prevalent than expected, though.
    I personally dislike the annoying love triangles in YA - like Twilight, Matched, etc. - but that's just me.
    Thanks so much for participating, Stephanie!

  16. Great post and thanks for participating in the chain. Never thought I'd be taking advice off the Gilmore girls but that sure sounds good. I know it's the little things that affect me the most. :p

  17. That is a good tip, the small events big. Personally, I don't like too much romance, but it often sneaks its way in and can add an extra emotional level to big happenings, changing things that would be dramatic into things that are poignant and complex.

    Gah, pretentiously long words in this comment, sorry. I'm tired.


  18. But I'm such a romantic, that I'm 99% sure I couldn't handle writing a book without romance. I'd be bored.
    Hmmm similar to me except: But I'm such a romantic, that I'm 99% sure I couldn't handle *reading* book without *a little* romance. I'd be bored.
    Only problem is that I don't write romance [not that I know how] Does anyone have that problem of reading and writing in totally different genres?