When Dee Ann Palmer agreed to allow me to write a guest blog for her, I wasn't sure what to write about. Surely you've read her excellent books and stories, which are full of realistic romance – including her two short stories in the Exquisite Christmas anthology. (I have to admit to a partiality for her characters in "Snowfall," myself.)
Then she said she'd not written any young adult stories. And as I have, why not talk about the difference between writing young adult novels with romance included as part of the story, and my stories in Exquisite Christmas, which deal with a long-term adult romance?
The main difference I've found in writing romance in my novels AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, which features a teenage couple in Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly human teenage girlfriend, and the stories "Marja's Victory" and "To Hunt the Hunter" in Exquisite Christmas, is that teen characters don't exactly know what it is that they want. Everything is ahead of them. They are experiencing love for the very first time, and aren't sure what they're supposed to be doing – or when they're supposed to be doing it. Whereas adult characters know exactly what they are doing and why they're doing it, but don't always know if their wishes are going to be reciprocated.
Anyway, as to Bruno and Sarah's story…Bruno, you see, isn't from our Earth at all. (He's from the Elfy Realm, which is in a parallel universe.) He isn't used to humans or our culture, and comes from a much more rigid type of upbringing. Where he's from, people are usually introduced to prospective partners, and Bruno's been told he's too young to start looking. And because he's an orphan and what amounts to a ward of the state back in the Elfy Realm, he never thought he had much to give anyone anyway.
And then we have Sarah, whose situation isn't what it seems. She's been told she's younger than she actually is, because her parents wanted to keep her inheritance from themselves. And she doesn't know at this point that she's not completely human…she just knows she's short, very smart, and is gifted at understanding other people's emotions. And she, too, has never thought about romance before.
So this is all new to both of them, and getting to know each other during a crisis situation (Bruno's mentor, Roberto, has been taken captive by a Dark Elf, who in turn is being aided by Sarah's parents) has added a great deal of complexity to their nascent romance.
Clear as mud, right? So perhaps I should just show you instead…From AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, page 265-6:
“Now that you’re comfortable, will you please tell me what upset you so much?” Sarah asked.
“I will, dear,” he said. “But it won’t be easy. Will you sit beside me?”
She sat next to him on the side of the bed, midway down, and timidly took his right hand in her own. Bruno tried not to shake at the unexpected contact. He reached out for her left hand and held it, too. She let him, giving him a soft smile that told him as no words ever could that he was doing the right thing.
“Roberto told me what Lady Keisha withheld from you,” he said. “And it’s painful. I don’t want to hurt you.” He tried to pull his hands away, but Sarah tightened her grip instead.
“Ignorance is never good,” she said crisply, showing that uncommon maturity again. Then, in a different tone of voice, she said, “Look, Bruno, I don’t see how it’s going to help anything for me not to know. So please tell me?”
See, when I wrote all this, I needed to show that Bruno and Sarah were both innocents, falling in love, uncertain as to what was happening but wishing for it to continue. They aren't sure what they want, except each other; they'll fight to the death if they must for one another, and in this situation it may well come to that.
Note that Bruno does not take advantage of Sarah. He only goes as far as she'll allow. He is an extremely polite young man—er, Elfy.
So, from two youngsters just trying to figure out where their love fits into a crisis situation and behaving in an age-appropriate way, we move to my adult characters Marja and Tomas, the protagonists of "Marja's Victory" and "To Hunt the Hunter." Marja is a shapeshifter and a woman of size; she is not young, and she doesn't care who knows it. And her lover, Tomas, is a telepathic mountain Troll, eight feet tall…both of them have found one another congenial in both the business aspect (they are bounty hunters and detectives, of sorts) and of course as romantic partners.
Because I'm dealing with two mature individuals who've known each other for quite some time, different elements come into play. Marja can be anything she wants, and can take any form she wants – but I have a hunch that before she met Tomas, she wasn't accepted much for herself or her talents.For example, after Marja and Tomas find a thief in "To Hunt the Hunter," Marja says this:
"She doesn't love you, Stefan." I couldn't afford to show him any empathy—the man was a thief—but inside, I understood. It hurt to be rejected by someone you thought you loved.
::I'm here now, and I love you. Those other fools who passed on you do not matter anymore. So who cares about them?:: Tomas's voice whispered into my mind.
~*~While this is a very brief excerpt, it gets across the point that Marja knows how it feels to be rejected. And Tomas tells her, "It doesn't matter anymore," and calls the people who treated her ill "fools."
Isn't that what we want, as adults? Someone who understands us, and will buck us up when we're feeling down?
But that's not the end of the story with Marja and Tomas…oh, no. Because you see, Tomas wants to make it legal with Marja, and he's not above a wee bit of trickery in how he's going to go about doing it. (Further author sayeth not…at least, not about this.)
To my mind, writing about adults in love is a little different than writing about teens. Adults know exactly what they're after, while teens are still figuring it all out. But when love strikes, it's all new to the protagonists, regardless of age…the trick is in finding that newness, that special feeling, and making other people feel it, too.
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