When I was a freshman in college back in 1993-1994, I read a trilogy from an author I loved. I remember loving that trilogy for one main reason: the romantic subplot. This was a YA thriller. I didn’t really care a whole lot about the main storyline. I was only interested in whether or not the female character ended up with the male character I was rooting for. And I was excited when she did. Over the years, I had forgotten most of the actual story. I only remembered how I felt about those two characters ending up together.
So, fast forward to last week, and I was telling a friend about the trilogy. I got the inkling to revisit the past and read through this romantic subplot again. Keep in mind, it’s been 24-25 years since I last read it. Add to that I’m now a romance writer. So my perspective has changed much more than I had expected it to.
When I read through the story again, I was disappointed. The actual story was good, but it wasn’t the story I wanted. I wanted to be swept up in this totally awesome romance that had once thrilled me so much. When I read it, I realized there weren’t that many romantic scenes. The two characters kissed, and some of it was great, but there was little follow up to this in Book 3 when they finally ended up together. And I kept wondering, “Why? Why did the author do such a great job of building up this romance only to let it flounder at the end?”
Then I had to remind myself this wasn’t a romance. It was a thriller. The romance was a secondary issue. The writer part of me is tempted to take the same elements and write my own book to do the romance the justice it is deserves. Here are the elements in this romantic subplot:
- the forbidden bad boy who believes no one will ever accept him so he reluctantly does the right thing
- the female character who sees the good in him that no one else does
- the struggle the female faces on whether she’ll pick the super good guy who offers a “comfortable” love to the forbidden bad boy who offers her a “passionate” love
Isn’t that an awesome foundation? That kind of story can go many ways while keeping those elements intact. I don’t see myself writing it, at least not any time in the near future, and I certainly wouldn’t write anything like the actual story of the series I read. That storyline didn’t interest me all that much to begin with, and it still doesn’t. If I were to take those three elements, I would probably use it for the YA pen name I have if I used it at all. And guys, I’m talking about the “elements” of the romance. My characters would be different, so the actual romance wouldn’t be the same. But I would take the bad boy, the female who can make him believe in himself, and the conflict between comfort vs passion. Those are common tropes. They’ve already been done a lot. Those are fair game.
I would also love to read a book that can deliver this type of romance with a powerful punch. I would love to see the ending of the book or series to be way more intense than what came before it. This series’ best romantic moment happened in Book 2 and at the beginning of Book 3. Then it fell off a cliff and gave a lackluster conclusion. But the main story did end in a fantastic way. As I said, this wasn’t a romance, so it’s really not fair to judge the series based on the romantic subplot. It’s just that the romance is why I read it again.
Also, I’ve changed. I’m now a married woman with four children. I’m not the virgin college student who thought a kiss was a huge deal. I have a better understanding of the physical aspects of a relationship. I suppose it’s like anything else when we mature over time. Sure, ramen noodles were good when I was in college, too, but these days my taste for food has matured. When I was a little kid, I liked the single kid jingles. Then my taste in music required something more complex. The older I get, the more I appreciate layers to things. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it’s the only way I can think of to describe it.
This morning when I was talking to my youngest son who’ll enter the seventh grade this year, and he said, “People’s best days are in their 20s.” I gave him an amused smile and said, “When I was in my 20s, there was so much I didn’t know about life. I was mostly insecure, too. I would rather be 44 because I’m more confident, I have some life experience under my belt, and I’m happier with who I am. Sure, my body isn’t as ‘beautiful’ as it used to be. I have had four children, and that takes its toll on a body. But I feel great. I exercise, I eat better than I ever did in the past, and I get to write what I love. I wouldn’t want to go back to being in my 20s again. I expect to enjoy life more and more as the years go on because I’ll get even better.”
I’m currently writing books that I believe are my best yet. Why? Because I’ve learned from my past books. I’m fine-tuning my storytelling craft with every book I write. I’ve ditched the whole “write to market 100%” thing. I’m embracing the passionate side of writing like I haven’t since I got started. I expect my future books to be better than the past ones. I am in love again with writing, and I especially love romance.
So yeah, tastes do change over time. I’m not the same person who fell in love with that trilogy, and when I think about it, that’s for the best.