Love Hurts

If you’ve ever been in love, or any kind of relationship, you probably know that love can hurt. It can be messy, complicated, and sometimes leaves no survivors. In real life, love is very rarely the simple happily ever after fairytale.

One of the things I love about YA is that it doesn’t flinch away from the complicated and heavy parts of life. It deals with every raw part of teenager’s lives, from first loves to loss. I think as authors we have a responsibility in that. To not just write about these, but write them authentically.

Just because it is YA doesn’t mean we should “water down” things. Life is not watered down. And especially in these dark fictional worlds, teenage characters deal with very adult problems, just like in real life. There’s a fantastic post on this by author Kate Brauning, which you can read here.

With all of that in mind, I’ve still struggled with how dark and twisted to go in my often dark and twisted fantasy. I want to be true to my characters and my world, but within the realms of YA and without alienating certain readers. I know how crucial YA was to me while I was growing up, and how much I learned, so I want to be able to give that same experience to younger readers.

But more than that, I’ve had a hard time with the romance in my story. From the very beginning, even before I wrote a single word, I knew Falcon was going to be with Hawke. They are perfect for each other, a team. And while they do have some conflict over outside events, they don’t really have any issues between them.

Then came a new character, Crow. I never intended for him to be a romantic interest, not even slightly. But the more I wrote, the harder it became to ignore. There was just something between him and Falcon, no matter how I tried to deny it. A pull, a spark, whatever you want to call it, it was there, and it wasn’t going away.

The problem is, Crow has issues. A lot of issues. I mean, he’s an assassin for a gang lord and comes from a severely abusive and messed up background. He isn’t capable of a healthy relationship. For him, everything is messy, no matter how good he tries to be. But when my CP first read EMBER, one of the first things she said was this is who Falcon should be with, their chemistry is tangible.

So how do I choose? Do I choose the character she should be with, the one who would make a great relationship and role model for love? Or do I choose the one who I know will cause her pain, but might actually be the stronger, greater love, even if it’s not always healthy?

Honestly, I still don’t have it entirely figured out. I have strong reasoning and motivation for both. But reading Kate Brauning’s post and some of her other tweets helped to open my eyes. YA relationships don’t have to be perfect. Really, they shouldn’t. Because real life relationships, especially teenage ones, are rarely perfect. It would give me an opportunity to really explore the ups and downs of relationships, all the messy tangles of love. Not to mention that the rocky, imperfect love might simply make for a better story.

What do you think? Do you prefer characters who are perfect for each other and relationships that are healthy? Or a more raw, complicated love story that might be a little more true to real experience, especially in YA?

12 thoughts on “Love Hurts

  1. Young adults I’m sure would choose the more raw, complicated love story because teens are melodramatic and seem to be drawn to making their lives difficult. I’m not dissing because I was doing the exact same thing well into my 20s. However, there is that dilemma of good/bad influence (for lack of a better word). I don’t think anyone is ever “perfect” for each other. There are always going to be problems. But for a relationship to not be healthy at times…that may not be a good relationship to stay in, no matter how crazy they are about each other. But it’s a typical kind of relationship, especially with younger people. The raw, complicated romance might be the better option merely because many teens like angst and “perfection” can be annoying. Also, what girl isn’t attracted to the bad boy? 😉 hehe

    Maybe see where the romance with Crow goes. It may turn out that it implodes and perhaps Hawke will still be there waiting.


  2. I don’t write romance, but it has happened in one of my books. Speaking for fiction overall, go with the difficult one. Our characters need to earn that happily ever after. It’s the struggle that makes for a great story.


  3. Honestly if you can come up with a good method for answering that question, you should let the world know, cause I think we, as people, struggle with it ourselves, heheh. Let alone writers.

    One thing I would caution in making your decision is to shy away from using stereotypes to decide. Don’t do what is expected. Don’t do what is unexpected just BECAUSE it is unexpected. Instead, I’d recommend looking at what makes sense for your characters in the moment. I specify ‘in the moment’ because even if your character does make a decision, she isn’t bound to it. She could realize her decision is a mistake, and the story involved in her realizing that can be a worthwhile tale in and of itself.

    There’s a 3rd option too: she could choose neither in the end.


  4. I don’t write in either the genres of YA or Romance, but it sounds to me like you already have the answer to your question. Be as authentic as possible. Don’t lock yourself into an idea just because that’s how you saw it happening before you wrote a single word – let the characters ‘decide for themselves’ what will happen. Or, if you want, follow the path you originally set down, but deal with the issues that would arise with a character ending up with someone she/he isn’t meant for. There’s a lot to deal with there.

    While you do have to have your ideal reader in mind when writing your book, don’t let it paint you into a corner when your story starts to go where it naturally leads, that will make it feel forced. More than anything, I think you should do what you want to do, what would be the most fun for you to write. That will come through to the reader no matter where you go with it.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t write just YA, but I have written some romance (and simple seduction-based smut) into my stories. Including the one with the 16 year old kid.

    For me, I like starting with broken, incompatible characters, and let the circumstances of the story change them in fundamental ways. My first book, Darkness Concealed, had no romance at all, but all four characters changed drastically.

    Then I wrote the sequel, and one of those characters promptly fell in love with another one. And he didn’t notice. All book long. It’s not ideal, it’s not perfect, and quite frankly she’s going to get hurt for feeling the way she does long before he notices, much less reciprocates.

    And I think that’s fine. Broken, imperfect love is like you said, way closer to the real world. Happily ever after makes me sick if the characters didn’t earn it (and I mean earn it). To know that they went through Hell, figuratively or literally, and made it out the other side able to appreciate each other despite each other’s faults…that’s a good romance.


  6. Sometimes I wonder that the reason why bad relationships can get so out of control in real life is that good relationship role models are so hard to find. A lot of stories do have that sort of messed up relationship thing going: the heroine falling for the gritty dangerous male, or vice versa. It even worked it’s way into the novel I’m working on.

    I think you have a point that YA has a duty to portray these types of relationships but ESPECIALLY to portray them realistically, and in my experience that type of relationship IS realistic. The problem is most YA that I’ve read drops the ball halfway, yes those types of relationships happen A LOT, but they also rarely end well, in most YA the heroine ends up with the broody guy and that’s the end of the story. In reality relationships like that tend to be destructive, usually end and rarely end well – but they also force a lot of growth on both people.

    If you’re looking for votes I say go for it, have her be with Crow – but also show the consequences, show how it doesn’t work out, and leave enough time for her to learn from the mistakes she made and have Crow learn and grow too. Maybe in the very end have her end up with Hawke, or maybe have her learn she needs to do some growing on her own before she’s ready to be with someone.

    Use the chemistry, but keep the lessons.

    That’s my two cents anyways.


  7. An interesting and good post! But if you’re really trying to figure out what to do (assuming you weren’t being rhetorical), you’ve missed an important factor calculating the angles in this love triangle. 😉

    Ms. ‘Katiestjohnshin’ touched on it in her comment, you may have noticed…


  8. I think, especially in YA, the gravity and enormity of important platonic relationships are too often overlooked, glozed over in favor of the romantic ones. I think you should let the characters decide, so long as readers understand it is what it is – that audience is far too impressionable for me; writing YA would drive me up the wall – and there are no resulting triangles. Because oh dear God, those are the least realistic things like… ever.


  9. Pingback: Keeping It Real | Coffee. Write. Repeat.

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