Are You Too Young To Be Writing Romance?

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.

Too Young For Romance Pinterest

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.

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  1. Kate Flournoy says:

    Wow! Great article! Excellent! Wonderful thoughts! It seems that I always end up starting a comment with one or all of those exclamations, but I guess that’s a good thing, right? Somehow Kingdom Pen always seems to come up with an article on what I am struggling the most with just when I need it. For that, I can only offer my fervent thanks, and say that it couldn’t be that way if the Lord didn’t have something to do with it.
    I especially liked what Haley said about gore and romance— awful as the comparison is, it is so true. Going into great detail will distract me and my reader with uncomfortable thoughts, and perhaps challenge their purity, and I most certainly don’t want that.
    To me, shying away from writing romance because I have not experienced it myself would be like shying away from writing a pair of mortal enemies simply because I myself am not mortal enemies with anyone (and never plan to be!). Or like being hesitant about writing a villain simply because I myself am not a villain. (My younger siblings might have a thought or two on that last part, but that’s their opinion. Haha!:)). Or maybe it’s just because I’m a girl, and find greater enjoyment in reading and writing romance. And as Josiah said, there is always people watching!
    Also, I think that romantic love ought to be built on sacrificial love. I don’t think they ought to be separate. You can’t have true love if you aren’t willing to sacrifice for the person you love, and to do so unconditionally. I guess romance (eros) will have physical attraction where Christlike love won’t, but I believe romance can only be strong if it is built on sacrifice. It’s that way in real life— why shouldn’t it be true in our stories as well? I think, however, that we also need to be cautioned against perfectly sacrificial, perfectly Christlike love in our stories, for the sake of reality. No couple is perfect. There will be quarrels and selfishness and disagreements in a story romance as well as a real life one. And personally, I feel that to have disagreements and quarrels in a story romance will make that romance stronger, because it’ll give the characters a chance to make up, and come to understand and love each other all the better. If you’ve read Martha Finley’s ‘Elsie Dinsmore’, you’ll know what I mean when I say a perfect romance, and a perfect marriage, is annoying and unrealistic. Those stories may have provided excellent (if unattainable) role models, but the story itself was dry and static. I didn’t feel that it was real, or ever could be real.
    This is a really long comment, for which I cry your pardon, but I’m going to post it anyway!

    • Amen to the ‘Elsie Dinsmore’ comment! It was sweet and all, but much too perfect.

    • Exactly! As we have said in many of our other posts, there is a difference between what we portray and what we promote. It is normal and natural and expected that there will be difficulties and wrongs committed in any relationship, and we should portray this reality. We should not promote these wrongs, however, or promote the idea that this is the way relationships are supposed to work, because they’re not. God created us to be perfect, but our sin has corrupted that.

      Thankfully, Christ died on the cross not only to take our punishment, but to free us from the power of sin. We are now capable–through the strength of Christ–to grow and improve and live in righteousness!

  2. Brooke Norris says:

    Great, thought-provoking article! Only, I’m left a little befuddled at this point. For starters, what is your definition of “romance?” I think that would clear things up a bit, because I’m certain everyone defines it differently.

    • You make a good point. We should have clarified what our definition was.

      My personal idea of romance would be the certain actions with another person that would be inappropriate to do with someone whom you are not married to. So, that would include things like kissing, flirting, and other romantic gestures. The more physical and emotional sides of love (eros).

      Does that make sense?

      – Reagan

  3. Wow, wow! I adore this article. I wholeheartedly agree with what Haley said.

    In this world, in our society, romantic relationships are glorified…and it’s destructive. There’s so much junk in popular fiction/media and as Christians we should be different. What we write should not look just like the world and what everybody’s already surrounded with daily…they don’t need to read even /more/ about it! Our writing should be full of the Light and Truth of God.

    Since romance is a part of this world, a big part, I think it’s okay if we include it in our stories. But if we are portraying it the way the world does, what are we accomplishing? We are only adding to the destruction when we should be doing the opposite. We should be portraying it in a way that shows God’s Love and what is truly means. No gory details, like Haley said. And if there’s relationships in your book that are sinful/inappropriate, make sure the readers know that you are not…ah what’s the word…promoting it. If there’s sinful habits that your characters take part in, make sure there are consequences. Make sure there are lessons. Make sure their sinful behavior is not being glorified throughout your book.

    One last thing… I know a previous comment pointed this out, but eh. A lot of people say a person can’t write what they don’t know. That’s okay for them to say that, if that’s what they believe about writing. But if I only wrote what I know…I would have extraordinarily limited writing material. I couldn’t write characters in relationships, I couldn’t write about characters who are doctors or scientists or anything that I’m not. That is the beauty of writing! You can experience so much that you’d never have the chance to in real life (uh, I mean the good things, though.) And thank God for the ability to learn about something so much quicker than ever in history.

    So, I’ve never had a romantic relationship, but I’m able to write about it because I’ve read about relationships, I’ve observed people in relationships, and I know what real Love is.

    And also, I love these ideas: “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.”

    Okay, wow, that was long.


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