Almost every adventure novel has the same few characters: a hero, a villain, a mentor, an ally, and a love.
There is usually some sort of romance going on in just about every popular adventure novel today; however, should teens be including a “love” character in their stories? Are you too young to be writing romance? I think there are a couple things we should consider before we blindly follow the formula.
Do you know what you’re talking about?
As Josiah explains:
Perhaps the simplest answer to, “should you include a love side-plot in your story,” is just to “write what you know.” Now, I’ve written a post before about this line and why it doesn’t necessarily mean what you might first think it means (Portraying Reality In Your Story), but I think there’s an obvious kernel of truth in this saying with regards to the given issue. Namely, if you haven’t been in a relationship before, it’s going to be really hard to do it accurately in a way that is going to be realistic enough for your readers.
I’m not going to say that it can’t be done—after all, one of the finest romance authors in the history of English literature, Jane Austen, was never married herself. But it does mean that you’re going to have to do a lot of work if you’re going to attempt it without personal experience: lots of people-watching, lots of research, lots of thought and revision. I’m not convinced that you necessarily have to be a certain age before writing a romance, but the younger you are, the less experience you’ll likely have in the area, and thus the less likely it is to be as realistic. And so for me personally, I’ve tended to shy away from writing romances for that reason: one can only really write about that which one has experienced or understands.
Without experience, a good, realistic understanding is hard to achieve.
Do you understand the difference between romance and love?
There is a very key difference between romance and the love that Christ taught and demonstrated. Romance, or eros, is a kind of love that is meant only for marriage. Agape, the unconditional love of Christ—willing the good of another no matter the cost to yourself—is the kind of love we are to have for our neighbor.
Yet our culture is confused. In movies and books today, romance (eros), is proclaimed to be “true love” (agape). Our culture does not understand that the strongest and purest form of love is not a feeling, but an action. Our culture does not believe that,
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Corinthians 13).
Instead, love has been twisted to mean an enjoyable feeling someone has for someone else. As soon as that enjoyable feeling goes away, one concludes they have “fallen out of love” and they move on to someone else. This is utter selfishness, the opposite of love.
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with romance. On the contrary, it is a wonderful gift from God, but it is only meant, and fully experienced within the context God created—marriage.
Indeed, we must have love in our stories, but should that love be accompanied by romance? I think whether or not romance would be appropriate to include depends on how you answer the following questions:
Is your story promoting the proper context of romance (marriage) or is your story validating romance outside of marriage? That doesn’t mean you have to only portray romance between those who are married, but if you do show romance outside of marriage, that kind of romance should not be glorified.
If your story is promoting the right context of romance, do you understand the potential for harm?
Do you understand the potential for harm?
As Haley points out,
I’m not against romance. I am a girl and I love hearing about and reading love stories. Especially true life love stories.
However, I believe it is imperative that we, as Christian writers, display love for what it truly is. Not this cheap, emotionally charged, falling in and out of love worldly junk. Though I sometimes showcase this fake love in my stories to either prove a point or shape my characters. It depends.
I am careful though, I don’t go overboard. I do not have to go into messy details to prove my point. To me, details in the area of romance are unnecessary, and potentially harmful. Such details could lead to the stirring up of wrong emotions and thoughts. I feel responsible for my readers; as a writer, I have the ability to cause people to stumble in the area of their thought life. I’m sorry, but I don’t necessarily want to cause my brother or sister in Christ to sin by reading one of my books. It would be shameful and not glorify God in any way.
And unless I understood what love was, I wouldn’t write about it. In order to portray what love is, one has to understand what love is.
Though I hate to compare the two, I think romance in our stories (especially if you are writing for a younger audience) should be approached the same way as gore: leave out the details. We don’t need in-depth descriptions of romance. Just as graphic descriptions of gore can put harmful images before our minds, so too can explicit descriptions of romance create inappropriate images or desires.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
We need more love stories; not more romance
Personally, I’m kind of tired of romance in stories. So often it is cliché, or overdone. Romance without love is actually rather gross and sickening even. I want to see more love stories; not more romance.
I want to see characters who sacrifice for the one they love, even if they don’t get anything out of it. I’d like to see the hero sacrifice for the damsel and not get the girl. I want to see characters who do good and get nothing in return, at least, nothing that is of this Earth.
These kinds of examples would be powerful and inspiring because they would show the power of love, and that love is its own reward. Romance, written and expressed poorly, tends to obscure and dilute love. Again, romance is very good, but only when first accompanied by love. Not a feeling, not attraction, not a self-indulgent desire, but the willingness to put the good of another above your own well-being.
If you are going to include a romantic side-plot which you plan on esteeming, you better base it on the true love of Christ, and God’s context. If you don’t, your romance will just add to the noise of Hollywood.
If, for whatever reason, you’re not sure how to properly execute a romance side-plot, then you’re better off writing a love story, and leaving out the romance. You don’t need romance to display love.