OK, maybe not entirely. And I don’t mean the same thing that was meant in the Song of Songs, either. But I recently read an interview in the SFWA Bulletin, in which the interviewee said (and I’m paraphrasing, having discarded the issue) that in any YA novel Romance must be the core of the story. The italics and cap are mine. She went on to point out that even in The Hunger Games series, much less something like Twilight, the love story is the core of those books. She may be right. In fact, I think she generally is. YA is the age at which hormones surge, and the gender-of-your-preference becomes a matter of all-consuming interest.
But even when I was a young adult, and an avid reader, the romance was usually the part of the story that interested me least. Straight romance isn’t a genre I’ve ever read much, though I do enjoy a romantic sub-plot in a mystery, or an SF or fantasy novel. And there are a few novels, written by masters of characterization (I’m talking about Lois McMaster Bujold here) in which I found the love story deeply moving and wonderful. So it’s not that I’m immune to romance in fiction. But does it have to be the core of every story, even for young adults?
As a writer, and a reader, I generally find deep laid plots, humor and derring do—along with serious moral dilemmas—a lot more compelling than how the guy gets the girl. Because let’s face it, there’s not much question about whether that’s going to happen—it’s more a matter of how their coming together takes place. That’s not dissing romance writers either—you try to write a story where the reader absolutely knows how the most important aspect of the plot will end, and make it fresh and engaging and interesting. Every time.
Most of the novels I’ve written have either light romance, or none at all. Which may be one of the reasons why they don’t sell as well as Twilight or The Hunger Games. But am I alone in not finding romance the most important aspect of any story? Or is this me, being out of step with the rest of the world? (Wouldn’t be the first time.) So I’d like to take a short poll here:
Are you male/female? Teen or adult? And what aspects of a story do you find most compelling? The romance, or something else?
Hilari Bell is the author a number of books, including Navohar—which she thinks has a perfectly good romance!—and which has just been reissued as an ebook.