Quirkiness, Dry Humor, and the Lovable Rogue

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In my last post, I said that I especially enjoy writing romantic chemistry between my characters. I’d like to elaborate on what I think makes good chemistry. Last week, I finished listening to the audiobook version of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. While I loved this book for many reasons, the chemistry between the two main characters, Peter and Lara Jean, really catapulted it towards the top of my list of favorite young adult books. (Side note: When I was a teenager, I used to read books like Wuthering Heights and Far From the Madding Crowd for fun, but now that I’m an adult, I read books for teens. Ironic, no?)

Here is my secret for writing good romantic chemistry:

Make one character regularly say or do ridiculous things and make the other character regularly respond with eye-rolling to these things while secretly enjoying them.

You see this kind of chemistry everywhere. One character is the manic pixie dream girl/guy and the other character is the sour puss with the dry sense of humor. Think Luke and Lorelai from Gilmore Girls. Their chemistry works so well because she is sweet and quirky, and he always responds with dry remarks, but we all know deep down that he adores Lorelai’s quirkiness. There’s something so lovable about that type of chemistry. We want to see the quirky, cute one melt the “heart of stone” of the sarcastic, cynical one. Usually, the male is the dry one and the female is the quirky one, but it can be the other way around. For example, in The Big Bang Theory, Leonard is the lovable nerd while Penny responds to him with sarcasm.

In To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Peter tends to have a flirty, ridiculous sense of humor that Lara Jean pretends to be annoyed by, although the reader knows she secretly enjoys it. Because romances are usually marketed toward women, getting the male lead right is often more important than getting the female lead right. While women want a female lead who is kind, relatable, and funny, we read the book or watch the show for the romance and chemistry generated by the male lead. So, it is important to make him fascinating.

The most popular trope for a fascinating love interest is the lovable rogue. Think Han Solo. Or Mr. Darcy. The lovable rogue defies social conventions, speaks his mind, and thinks more highly of himself than he ought. As much as I hate to say it, it helps to write a bad boy. But the bad boy has to actually be a good guy—we just don’t know that until we get to know him more, usually towards the end of the story. Over time, it must become apparent that he has qualities that cause the reader/watcher to feel empathy towards him. Peter definitely falls in this category. He is an arrogant, popular high school jock; everyone loves him and he milks it. Yet, as the story progresses, we learn that he has a sensitive side—that he is extremely loyal—and that there is more to him than meets the eye. This is a powerful theme in general for a novel because it is so true in real life. We often judge people and overlook them rather than take the time to get to know them and learn who they really are.

As important as it is to create romantic chemistry between characters, it’s also important to create non-romantic chemistry. For example, in Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, Lightsong fulfills the lovable rogue trope. While there is romantic chemistry between him and Blushweaver, who perpetually rolls her eyes at him, there is also platonic chemistry between Lightsong and his priest, Larimar. Lightsong speaks his mind and whines a lot while Larimar is perpetually patient towards him. Lightsong tries to provoke Larimar, but he rarely can. Every now and then, Larimar reacts, albeit just a tad, to something Lightsong says or does, and the chemistry between them is beyond precious.

 

Passion, Sacrifice, and Banter

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I’ve been thinking about romance a lot lately. One of my friends and I had a conversation about it a few months ago, and she was telling me that she dislikes a lot of romance in the books she reads. Also, my pastor has recently talked about how problematic the portrayal of romance in our media is. It has really gotten me thinking because I’ve always loved romance stories. I have read articles before about how too many romantic novels can be bad for the soul. I would say I agree with that. Usually, too much of anything is bad. Also, I really think it depends on the type of romance that you read/consume. I like to read romance that is cute, not erotic, that has substance, and isn’t cheesy.

As a matter of fact, the young adult romance book that I wrote five years ago, which I am currently reworking, talks quite a bit about how being obsessed with romance can be destructive. The protagonist’s obsession with romance makes her incredibly self-absorbed and causes her to make poor decisions.

I think the main issue with romance stories is that they can be self-indulgent. They feature a whirlwind of passion but often lack meaningful connection. I liked something that my pastor said recently about romance. To paraphrase, he said that the passionate, early stage of romance isn’t real romance. Real romance is drawing close to one another again and again over many years. I really liked that. The concept of fighting for intimacy in the face of difficulties, despite the costs, year after year—that sounds incredibly romantic to me. It’s the sacrifice that’s involved that really gets my heart racing. And I think that type of romance is good because it reflects God’s sacrifice and persistence in loving us.

As far as writing goes—I really enjoy writing romantic chemistry. I love putting my protagonist and love interest in opposition with each other. But most of all, I love writing the banter. I love making my characters argue with each other, surprise each other, and bond over inside jokes. The sillier, the better. If I had to give up writing action scenes, I’d be fine. But give up banter? No way!

I think romance storylines can be beautiful when done correctly, but it is good to remember that they are just that. Stories. And stories can never compare to real-life love.

Pride and Prejudice, the Enneagram, and Sad Stuff

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Some people would call me a hopeless romantic, but I dislike that term. By definition, a romantic is full of hope and, therefore, I think “hopeless romantic” is an oxymoron.

At any rate, I love romance.

I’ll never forget the time I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice (circa 2005). I think that kicked off my love of romance. I was 14. I remember beginning the 4 hour BBC version with my grandma and sister one night. We watched the first half, and I was enthralled. I loved the costumes, the archaic language, and, of course, the romance. I remember waking up the next day, feeling like I was exploring a new world, excited to finish the movie.

Soon after, we watched the 2005 version. I am not the kind of person who often re-watches movies, but I watched that movie over and over again. I was SO obsessed. I remember regularly checking the movie’s message board on IMDB to see what people were talking about. The world of Jane Austen became an escape for me—a preferable reality. I remember walking the halls of my high school dressed in this white, lacy, shirt with a blue ribbon that looked like it could’ve been the bodice of a Regency-era dress, imagining the people I saw in the hall dressed in Regency attire. I would carry a Jane Austen book (I think I was reading Emma at the time) in my arms—as a source of comfort as well as pride—rather than in my backpack even though there was plenty of room inside. (Side note: The 2005 version of P&P is, in my opinion, one of the funniest movies ever. It makes me laugh SO much.)

I recently took the Enneagram personality quiz and, of course, I tested as a four, which is called “the romantic,” “the intense creative,” or “the individualist.” The four described me very well. Let me list the hallmarks of a four that I felt I could especially relate to:

-being deeply appreciative of beauty, art, and nature

-having a strong imagination, given to daydreaming

-finding purpose in creativity, needing to express myself in an artistic way

-being emotional/feeling things deeply

-wanting to dress in an artistic, idiosyncratic way

-being sensitive

-possessing a strong sense of empathy for others in their pain

-enjoys listening to music as a way to intensify emotions

-wanting to be unique/quirky AKA a special snowflake

-being attracted to sad stories, movies, and songs

-feeling misunderstood

-having envy as a flaw

So, now you can understand why I was obsessed with Pride and Prejudice to the point of daydreaming about it. It’s funny, but I feel like my greatest strengths are also my greatest flaws. I love that I feel things deeply—that I have intense longings for beauty/art/nature—that I am creative. But I feel like that part of me can also become my greatest flaw. I can make decisions based on emotions rather than facts. I can get lost in ideals, daydreams, and romantic fantasies rather than focus on real life. So, I am learning to find a balance. Recently, I have begun learning how to better deal with my emotions and not feel controlled by them. I am working to become a four that is sensitive and empathetic yet strong.

I’d like to touch briefly on being attracted to sad things. One of my favorite books is The Fault In Our Stars, mainly because I balled through the last 100 pages. Several weeks ago, I was trying to explain to a couple of people how I LOVE the feeling of crying through a sad book or movie, but I struggled to explain it. Here is my best explanation:

I think the best art is the art that moves you. That gets you thinking about the big things in life. About life and death. About what really matters. That’s what sad stories do to me. They help me see beyond the superficial and view life as the epic, horrible, yet beautiful adventure that it is.

Also, as a disclaimer, I want to say that I promise I’m not a huge sap haha. I don’t like stories that are sappy or cheesy. I like to think that I use discretion when it comes to the types of things that move me haha. As a matter of fact, I don’t like all romance. In my next blog, I will talk about romance in a more traditional sense and hope to better explain what I like and dislike about the genre and how that has shaped my writing.

On Singleness

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The other day my friend asked me how I deal with being single. Especially when it seems like so many people my age have already found someone. I’m 27, by-the-way, so it’s not like I’m that old but still. It is starting to feel a little harder being single than it did when I was 26. For some reason, 27 seems to me to be the age by which one should be married. When people ask you if you’re single and you respond in the affirmative, they often say, “You still have time.” And, at age 24, 25, or 26, I agreed, but for some reason, when people say that to me now, at 27, it doesn’t feel like I have as much time. I had been feeling a bit down about being single, but I’ve been feeling better about it and much happier overall the last few weeks. (See my previous blog post—The Person I Want to Be).

My friend asked me if I did the whole “why me” thing? Like, why me? Why am I still single? Why am I not good enough? And honestly, I don’t really do that. Sometimes, yeah, but not much. I feel like I have a pretty good view of singleness, so I thought I’d share it on my blog to encourage others.

Side note: In the past, I had considered starting a blog, but I thoughts along these lines—It’s arrogant to start a blog. To think that you have something important to say. That people actually care about what you have to say. But… it’s not arrogant. And, to my surprise, people keep reading my blog haha. Not a lot of people. But some do. And it seems like my serious posts get more reads than my humorous ones, so it seems like people in the world care what other people out there have to say, so that’s cool. I feel like before I would’ve felt weird or embarrassed about sharing my thoughts on the internet, but it feels kind of good, actually. Plus, blogging is really important if you want to be a published novelist, so I’m going to keep at it. 😊

Anyway, on to my thoughts about singleness. As a follow-up to my blog entitled The Person I Want to Be, this is The Kind of Woman I Don’t Want to Be:

  1. The kind of woman who is desperate to be loved.
  2. The kind of woman who puts all her energy and focus into finding a man.
  3. The kind of woman who compromises her principles to be with said man.
  4. The kind of woman who wastes her time and resources on a relationship that isn’t going anywhere because she’s afraid she won’t find anyone else.
  5. The kind of woman who is never able to give, serve, and love others because all she can focus on is how she can be loved by a man.
  6. The kind of woman who feels like she needs to “convince” guys to like her. Rather than let him find her while she’s busy living her life for God.

The Kind of Woman I Want to Be:

  1. The kind of woman who knows she is loved.
  2. The kind of woman who knows it’s better to give than to receive.
  3. The kind of woman who can be content in any circumstance.
  4. The kind of woman who does big things for God. Who doesn’t sit around waiting for her “life” to start when she gets married.
  5. The kind of woman who stays faithful to God even when it’s lonely and hard.

I just feel like marriage isn’t ultimate. God is. I may find someone soon or it may be later (and yes, I’m really hoping it’s sooner rather than later) but in the end, when I die, I’m going to God. This life is so fleeting. And it’s hard to wrap your head around that, but it’s true. And, what if I did marry someone in five years, but then he died or I died? Sorry that’s dark, but again, it’s true. There’s just no guarantees in life apart from the love of God, so why make your number one focus anything other than that?

Anyway, I know not many people are going to see this blog because I’m taking a social media hiatus and thus not posting it on Facebook, so I thought I’d share a little more. I was praying recently and felt like God was telling me that I will get married and have kids. And that it’s important for me to trust in the promise in the meantime. So, that’s what I’m going to do. Rather than question God’s goodness, I’m going to trust in His faithfulness. Someday when I am married and have kids, I will be able to tell them that I wanted them really badly and it was hard to wait for them, but in my waiting, I trusted the One Who Is Good.

I go to the library a lot (because all the cool people do FYI—seriously, though, libraries are my happy place) and they recently installed a playground outside the library. LOL. Like, the librarians got together and were like, we gotta trick all the lil’ rascals into associating fun with the library haha. Anyway, that’s likely not how it went down, but that’s what I like to think.

And so, there have been a lot of parents and kids hanging out by the library recently. And I would walk by them and think to myself—will that ever be me? Will I ever have kids to play with?

And now, I don’t question anymore. I trust.

I really believe that women bear the special responsibility of trusting God. I feel that the duty of trusting falls on both men and women but especially on women. Nothing is more beautiful than a woman at rest, right? When a woman is a peace-bearer? Rather than a controlling, worrying, nagger.

I feel like God is trying to teach me that He is good. I know this in my head, but I need to know it in a way that actually affects how I live my life. So far, I am loving this process of learning to stop questioning and start trusting. If anyone has tips in doing that, let me know. 😊

Bride-to-be Crafts Inspiring Wedding Vow by Replacing ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ With ‘Until My Needs Stop Getting Met’

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Forever the romantic, Cora Lorcroft is giddy with excitement for her upcoming wedding. To her, marriage represents everything she’s ever hoped and dreamed for—a magical union of souls, a fulfillment of her favorite girlhood fairytales, an exciting, new adventure—all, of course, accompanied by the flexibility needed to ensure that she has everything she is entitled to as a modern, sovereign woman.

“Some people refer to their fiancés as the love of their life. That’s just so old-fashioned,” Cora said with an eye-roll. “I’m much more sophisticated than that. I like to refer to Michael as the love of my right-now.”

When asked how he felt about Cora’s vow, Michael said, “I’m sure it’ll bother my folks when they hear it, but I think all women should have the right to do whatever they want whenever they want without having to sacrifice for anyone else’s good because that’s what true womanhood is, after all. So, I really don’t mind.”

“If my needs aren’t being met, then I’m not going to bother sticking around for the marriage,” Cora revealed. “My best friend, Kristy, got a divorce the day after her husband got diagnosed with depression. Ever since, I have had the highest regard for her. She really sets herself apart in this backwards world where it’s normal to endure suffering rather than just avoid pain at all costs like a smart person.”

Cora champions what she calls ‘loophole love.’

“People really underestimate the importance of loopholes. They make life so much better. And marriage. For example, the full vow should actually read ‘until my needs stop getting met, most likely due to a change in your income, age, attractiveness, or ability to make me happy at all times.’ Those are my loopholes, and I’m sticking with them till the day I die! Or, until I decide they don’t suit me and come up with new ones.”

Breaking News: Employee Develops PTSD From Ungodly Number of Work Potlucks

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After attending 97 potlucks in one year, Dexter Liddle now becomes traumatized at the mere mention of the word ‘potluck.’ A year ago when he first started working as an editor for a travel magazine, he thought he had found his dream job. Little did he know that he would come to hate his life because of the choking, celebratory culture of his department.

“This is my first job out of college,” Dexter said while squeezing a stress ball. “I understand that there’s no way college can completely prepare you for the real world, but it would’ve been helpful if Career Services had mentioned all the potlucks I’d encounter in adulthood. Now that I look back on it—it’s insane, really. Career Services offered resume revision, interviewing practice sessions, and job coaching, but no potluck-preparedness course? It’s like they were setting us up for failure.”

Dexter isn’t the only one feeling enslaved to potluck obligations. Co-worker Crystal Abbots agrees. “I seriously can’t believe we’re having a potluck for Denise’s son’s success at his elementary-school science fair. He literally got a blue participation ribbon. I’m sorry if this is insensitive, but that DOESN’T CALL FOR A POTLUCK!”

Recently, there has been much debate in Dexter and Crystal’s office about what life events necessitate a potluck. Conservative potluck planners believe that potlucks should only be used to celebrate retirements and resignations while liberal potluck planners believe that the so-called “existence of too many potlucks” is nothing more than a myth.

Marsha Kasper, a proponent of potluck liberalism, said, “Dexter has brought chips and salsa to the last five potlucks. It’s like, bro, can you try a little? Last time we had a potluck, I brought a chicken waldorf salad with antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed chicken that I raised and killed myself (RIP Wonder Wings), organic cranberries and apples, and walnuts that I grew on a walnut tree that I sung a Peter Gabriel song to every night for the past ten years before bed!”

Dexter has had a difficult life—marked by divorce, depression, and the tragedy of posting on Facebook and getting no likes—yet he has maintained a sunny outlook on his life. Until he found himself swimming upstream against a tidal wave of potlucks, that is.

Writing for Teens

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The greatest difficulty in writing for teens is making the characters sound authentic. Because a few of my writer friends also write young adult lit, I thought it’d be fun to interview my 15-year-old sister, Sarah, to give us insight into the mind of a teenager. Some questions are silly, and some are serious. Enjoy!

What makes a good story? I like what you like. A lot of comedy and romance stuff. I feel like the characters’ personalities [are most important.]

Do you have a favorite catchphrase? Wack.  It means that things are weird.

Would you say deer are cute or beautiful? I’d say more cute. Yeah, they’re beautiful, but you think of them more like a cute way like Bambi.

What advice would you give to an adult trying to write a book for teenagers? Just spend a week with teenagers. Have some teenagers be rude and some be lonely, and then there are lazy people and all these athletic people.

What is your opinion on vases? I use them. I mean—they’re something that’s just there when you need your flowers not to die. I mean—I’d rather plant flowers in a pot, but if somebody buys you flowers in a package, you can’t plant them. So, vases are all right.

Yanny or Laurel? Laurel. I mostly heard Laurel, but I sometimes heard Yanny when I was far away.

What is it like to be a teenager in today’s world? I like the clothes. The people are rude. All you hear about at school are the people who vape and drink. 15-year-olds and 13-year-olds.

Any idea why you’re so snarky? I like to have fun and laugh a lot. And being snarky is the only thing I’m good at.

What are your favorite smells? I like a lot of fall scents, so like pumpkin… I like cranberry scents. I like vanilla cupcake a lot. And beach scents like the ocean. I like the smell of Pensacola beach. I do not like lilac. Blah. It’s my least favorite. And I like the smell of pizza.

Insights/Applications:

  1. Don’t overuse slang. Sometimes authors try to pump up the slang in their books to make them more relevant to teens, but Sarah honestly doesn’t use much slang. Plus, it dates your book. Although Sarah said it is her catchphrase, I wouldn’t use the word “wack” in my novel. Even if all the kids are using it now, likely no one will know what it means in five years.
  2. Teens aren’t dumb. Some people think writing like a teenager means dumbing down your writing. That’s not true. I didn’t include this in my interview because I don’t want to get political on my blog, but Sarah and I had a good discussion about current political/social issues. A word of caution, though. Make sure that the teens in your book don’t sound overly formal/precocious. While The Fault in Our Stars is my favorite young adult book (ALL THE FEELS!!!), my one complaint is that many of the teenagers sound so overly sophisticated/eloquent that it negatively affects the believability of the store world.
  3. Add some sass/sarcasm. Both my little sister and I tend to be sarcastic, but I would say she’s more sarcastic than me. So, I jokingly asked her a question about why she is so snarky. While too much sarcasm is bad both in fiction and real life, including a consistently sarcastic character in your book is a surefire way to please teens. I am currently listening to a young adult audiobook, The Distance Between Us by Kasie West. I read it a few years ago and liked it and thought I would listen to it again while I’m working on my own YA novel for inspiration. I wanted to know what teens liked about the book, and so I read the reviews on Amazon. By far, the most-mentioned element out of all the reviews was the readers’ love of the protagonist’s sarcastic voice. I knew teens like sarcasm, but I was surprised by how much. In my opinion, here’s why Kasie West’s sarcasm worked well for her book:
  • The sarcasm is non-disparaging – Sarcasm isn’t cool when it makes fun of a people group.
  • The sarcasm is incredibly witty – If you’re going to use a lot of sarcasm, make it funny; otherwise, it’s annoying.
  • The sarcasm has a purpose – The protagonist uses sarcasm to avoid talking about her real feelings and realizes this as the story progresses.

Writing for teens isn’t easy. But writing for people just on the cusp of adulthood—when they’re deciding the values and beliefs by which they will live the rest of their lives—is worthwhile.