Is This A Kissing Book?

Readers, I’m proud today to be kicking off this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain.  Honoring Valentine’s Day and Cupid and whatnot, this time around the theme is:

What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre?  Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?

I’m not sure if I really have a typical genre, but I suppose lately the majority of what I’ve been writing is dystopian (yes, technically a subgenre, but you can’t expect me to simply call it sci-fi when dystopia is barely that).  Ah, yes, Dystopia, Land of the Love Triangles.  With such hits as The Hunger Games and Matched featuring this particular shape, it’s no wonder I’m perfectly okay with a bit of romance in my reading.  Even novels in this category that don’t favor three sides to their relationships have some sort of love story mixed into the plot.

Love is sort of hard to avoid in the future, it seems.

Writing is much the same.  When I write something like this, sure, I’ll have some romance here and there.  It’s my opinion that every great book has at least some such aspect to it.  However, just as The Hunger Games leaves its share of infatuations in the background in order to focus on the larger plot at hand, a dystopia shouldn’t just be about the kissing.  A dystopian novel, almost by definition, is about a group of oppressed people making a stand against a corrupt and unlawful society.  It’s about fighting back and being strong in the face of adversity.  It does not leave room for the main characters to be obsessing over whether their crush is going to call them or not.

Readers, this is something that must be kept in the right balance in order for it to work.  I understand that in stories, people do find each other, and yes, maybe they fall in love.  That’s okay.  A lot of times it might even be better for the overall arc of the story to put that in there.  In dystopia, though, the romance angle must be kept backseat to the larger plot, which is of course fighting aforementioned corruption.  That’s how I try to write my dystopias.

Of course, that being said, I should probably address the preferred geometric state of my characters’ love lives.  As attractive as it may seem to include one to mix up the plot a little, love triangles are a bit overdone in my opinion.  I mean, essentially they were run into the ground by the whole Twilight/Teams thing, and although that’s not even in the same genre as dystopia, it seems to me that any book today featuring a triangle will inevitably be compared with the Saga. (For more of my opinion on love triangles and Teams, see this post.)  Sure, I’ve considered a love triangle, but to actually put one in my writing would require a lot more thought and planning in order to make it seem somehow different from all the other ones out there.

I mean, really?

In the end, though, this post isn’t about triangles.  This is about how much love and romance and such I like in my dystopian writing in general.  My verdict is this: it’s all right when doled out in small portions.  Even in a terrifying future, people can get together and break up and marry each other.  However, dystopia should very rarely, if ever, feature this in the forefront.  That’s the job of the action and politics that form the core of this genre.

Most of that isn’t a problem for me, since I’m not what you’d call a romantic type.  I’m in no way a poster child (poster writer?) for a Valentine’s Day-type novel.  I do find it interesting, though, that our society seems to think that romance must be in any book that’s halfway good.  What if writers of this genre moved away from the relationships?  I’d like to see a dystopian series that has none of that kind of love in it, just to see if the story by itself can still be just as good.  Say, that gives me an idea…

Happy reading.

Want to follow our blog tour? Here are the participating parties, day by day:

February 5– –Novel Journeys

February 6– –Lily’s Notes in the Margins

February 7– –Kirsten Writes!

February 8– — Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish

February 9– –A Farewell to Sanity

February 10– –The Word Asylum

February 11– –From My Head

February 12– –Esther Victoria1996

February 13– –Embracing Insanity

February 14– –Red Herring Online

February 15– –Go Teen Writers (Honorary Participant)

February 16– –This Page Intentionally Left Blank

February 17– –Oh Yeah, Write!

February 18– –The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

February 19– –Here’s To Us

February 20– –Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)


21 thoughts on “Is This A Kissing Book?

  1. It’s funny how, once a series becomes hyper-popularized a la Twilight, any other book featuring a vaguely similar plot element becomes compared to it. I find it baffling that The Hunger Games could be put in the same category as Twilight just because of that infamous love triangle, but anyone who’s set foot in the Internet knows it is so. In the line of romance in dystopias in general, I think a little bit in the background lends that essential element of humanity in the face of the evil totalitarian empire. I do agree with you that it shouldn’t come to the forefront in this genre, though.

    • I’m really against the constant Twilight/The Hunger Games comparisons. Katniss is most definitely not Bella Swan. Peeta is not a sparkling vampire. As March 23 gets closer we get more and more publicity for the movie, and thus more comparisons to the Saga, and it’s just annoying by now. It’s all because of the love triangle, too, and that’s one reason I’m so against them now.
      Sorry about the ranting. You may have a point with the “element of humanity”, though. Perhaps the romance angle also helps readers to relate to the characters, and to contrast them with the government/oppressor.

  2. This is really good. I agree with everything you said here. You hit the hammer right on the button. This was mostly about dystopia and romance, but what you said is applicable to all genres, really, except romance itself which hinges entirely on, well, romance.

  3. Just wanted you to know: I thought the title was adorable. I am team Henry Green to the stars and back.
    Also: I liked the point of view from a writer that mainly does dystopian stuff. See, as much as I love reading that stuff it does not flow off the pen well for me. But I totally agree about how a good book doesn’t leave room for the main character to be obsessing over boys. I don’t mind that in small doses, but for me it just seems trivial with all of the things a book should be pushing to create, which is a message, thought process, etc.

    • I’m afraid I’m not sure whom you’re referencing. I took that line from The Princess Bride (the movie).
      In any case, yes, it seems a bit ridiculous to me when a character is wondering “Is s/he going to kiss me? I wonder if s/he’ll kiss me,” when all this dystopian stuff is going down. To quote Harry Potter, “OI! There’s a war going on here!”

  4. Oh, looks like we agree on this sort of thing, then! Romance is fine in the background but unless it’s a romance novel, it shouldn’t be the main plot – is that what you’re basically saying? Or am I reading this wrong? (I do that. It can be embarrassing.)
    Great post, and you touched on my idea of writing something without any romance in it at all, which is easier said than done in my experience. 🙂

    • Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Romance does nothing but make things more complicated and distract the characters from what they really need to do (at least in dystopia), and for those reasons it should remain firmly behind the main plot.

  5. Yeesh, I had no IDEA there was even a Team Gale/Peeta thing. That irks me more than it should. Usually, whether I like the book being made into teams or not, my preferred “team” is usually something like “Team Guy Who Almost Hit Bella With A Car”. But anyway.

    I love your post! Great job with the theme.

    • The Team thing in the HG fandom isn’t anywhere near as bad as it is with the Twi-hards, but the terms have been thrown around a bit. I’m Team Katniss, because she’s awesome, but really I don’t think Teams matter with that series. It’s about so much more than the love triangle, which I guess is what my post is all about.
      That’s hilarious about your Team. I like it. And thank you!

  6. Sorry for the late comment. Finally got time to read the posts.
    Anyway, I agree that romance can be good in small portions. The reason people say that a book is only good with romance is because romance often adds a certain layer of zest to the book, this level of interest that could not be attained without the romance. I think it’s something about caring for the characters more with a romance going on. It also adds to the plot as long as it is not overdone. We’re seeing a lot of romance in YA books now – as you mentioned.
    Nice post and thanks for participating!

    • I disagree. We can care about characters without a significant other in their lives. I think a character in a well-written book can still function well and be both entertaining and interesting even if they aren’t experiencing romantic love.

  7. Great post! High five for Dystopia! I’m writing dystopian fiction at the moment, and as it says on my post, the love is less than wholesome and optimistic.

    I don’t think dystopia and love are intrinsic. Correct me if I’m wrong but Hunger Games and Matched are more like teen dystopias aren’t they? I think their romance aspects are more to do with the teen part of the genre then anything else. Look at some of the dystopian classics like 1984, Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange, and the love is sick, twisted, weak or eventually destroyed if there at all.

    • This is why I should probably get started on reading more of the classic dystopias. I’m reading 1984 as soon as humanly possible. Still, there is a love element to those stories, and I’m saying it shouldn’t be so much in the forefront as we certainly see with modern dystopias, whether the relationship is healthy/sustainable or not.

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