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Friday, 16 November 2012

The challenges of writing YA romance explained

Naomi Rabinowitz

For many, simply expressing the idea of love is difficult enough. Most of us have said "I love you" to at least one person, but there's no true definition for what that means, and it's the type of statement that has to be backed by actions. Many turn to cards or poems for help. And I know several guys who are still too scared to say the actual words to their significant others.

I could understand this frustration when crafting the romantic scenes in my YA novel, REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, because for me, these were the most difficult to write.

For starters, teens vary in sexual experience. When you write romantic sections for an adult book, one can assume that the characters have had other partners, and that even if someone is a virgin, he or she has at least done some experimenting. However, you can't assume this with younger characters. Sure, teens have sex, but there are just as many 15-year-olds, like my narrator Melinda, who've never even been kissed!

Therefore, the challenge comes in not only writing about someone's first kiss with a particular person, but in writing about a  complete life-changing first for that character. Writing about a character whose first introduction to romance and sex was, for me, something that had to be handled gently.
An inexperienced teen wouldn't necessarily know what he or she's doing, which means that several things need to be questioned: Just how explicit should the romantic scene be? Is it awkward or sweet, or both? What emotions is that character feeling as the encounter ensues?

All of these need to be addressed, as well as the fact that your young character's first kiss -- or first time -- would be a VERY big deal. This is why I didn't have my main characters, Mel and Josh, share a smooch until the latter half of my story. I wanted readers to savor that lead-up and excitement to it, right along with my narrator.

That said, the biggest challenge is in keeping those romance scenes tasteful, as well as sensual, because you are, after all, writing for a younger audience. You want them to be able to relate to the things that your characters are going through and if the characters, and the sexual language, are steps ahead of them, the scene might just come off as overwhelming. Of course, you don't want to patronize your readers, either; the trick is in finding that balance.

Some YA books are quite sophisticated, but even the most experienced teens are still learning about love and romance. In my opinion, the best YA stories capture that awkward age that's between childhood and adulthood, love scenes included.

Author Naomi Rabinowitz
Naomi Rabinowitz has always loved being creative. Raised in Nesconset, NY -- a suburb on Long Island -- she was introduced to the arts at an early age.

She had as much passion for music. Though she began playing piano when she was three, she switched to her "true" instrument, the flute, when she was nine and eventually added tenor sax and clarinet to her list so that she could play in jazz band. She performed in almost every musical group from wind ensemble to orchestra (but never marching band!). In 2008, she released her jazz album FLUTE PATH.

Naomi received a B.A. in English from Binghamton University and an M.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University. From 1998-2012, she worked as a reporter/editor for national TV magazine Soap Opera Digest.

These days, Naomi writes, plays jazz flute and designs jewelry for her businesses Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations. She lives in Queens, NY with her husband, Jonathan, and their cat, Maya.

One lucky *person who comments they will receive an eBook of REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, a CD and earrings price pack. Sorry full prize is open to US only. International users will receive an eBook.
*The winner will be picked 'out of a hat' from all those who comments.

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Revenge of a Band Geek Gone Bad

Shy, overweight sophomore Melinda Rhodes thinks that her world is falling apart when she loses first chair flute in band to her nemesis -- the beautiful and popular, but nasty Kathy Meadows. Now doomed to sit second chair, Mel is ready to accept the fact that some people just aren't meant to shine.

Her luck changes when she catches the eye of Josh Kowalski, the rebellious trumpet prodigy and class clown. Josh has also been hurt by Kathy and persuades Melinda to team up with him so they can take Kathy down.

At first, the pair's pranks are harmless, and as they work together, Mel comes out of her shell. Even better, she finds herself falling for Josh and it appears as if he might feel the same way about her.

However, their schemes become more and more dangerous and Mel is surprised to discover her dark side. Just how far will she go to get what she wants -- and is Josh really worth the risk?

Something to whet your appetite

Josh followed me into the hallway and fell into step beside me.  "How'd you like to get your seat back?" he asked.  Only he said it really quickly so it sounded more like "Howdylikegetaseatack?"
    "How'd you like to get your seat back?" he said more slowly.  "How'd you like to knock Kathy back down to second chair —- or even lower than that?"
    I sighed and kept walking.  "I'm not really sure I'm the person you want."
    "The Hindemith Sonata," he blurted, snapping his fingers.  "That's what you played last year at the band recital.  It was very good."
    I stopped walking, surprised by the compliment.  "Thanks."
    "Kathy played a Mozart piece and wasn't nearly as good as you," he went on.  "I remember that, too.  That's how I know she shouldn't have beaten you today."
    I was beginning to understand why Josh was so popular; he had this way of making you feel at ease and like everything you say is important.  My initial nervousness at being around him washed away.  Yet I wasn't entirely convinced that this guy was on my side.  How could I trust someone who tormented Mr. Francis on almost a daily basis?
    He bit his lip and was quiet for a moment.  "Look, I have some issues with Kathy, too," he admitted.  "I asked her out this summer at a party we were both at.  And you know what she did?  She didn't just say no.  She spilled a large Coke on my head in front of everyone and then posted photos of me online.  Can you believe that?"
    I’d missed seeing these photos, but couldn't help laughing at the thought of him dripping with Coke, his ego shattered.  I covered my mouth so he couldn't see me, but he did.  "Yeah, yeah, it was hilarious," he said, rolling his eyes.  "She apparently had some boyfriend there with her who I didn't know about so she was mad at me for daring to approach her.  But she didn't have to be such a beyotch.”  He shook his head, obviously still pained by the memory.  "My point is, she messed with me and now she messed with you.  If we don’t stop her, she’ll do it to someone else."
    "I guess.  But to be fair, Kathy didn't really do anything today," I said.  "It was Mr. Francis who flipped out and I should probably be thankful that he didn't make me last chair."
    Josh's blue eyes narrowed.  "So you think Kathy's innocent in this?  Oh, please.  Who do you think snapped your spring out of place?
    "What?"  This hadn't even crossed my mind.  Could Kathy have done that to me?  No, there was no way.  The spring was really small and she would've had to have gotten really close to my instrument in order to do that.  "She didn't," I said.  "If she did, I would've felt it."
    Josh held up the wallet which I kept in my purse.  "You didn't feel me taking this.”
    I angrily snatched it out of his hand and stuffed it back into my bag.  I then realized I'd been so busy listening to Josh  that I'd missed my bus.  "Damn it!"  I muttered.
    "What?"  He held up his hands.  "I swear, I didn't take anything from your wallet!"
    "No, it's not that," I explained.  "I missed my bus."
    Josh smiled.  "Hey, no problem.  I can give you a ride."
    "Really?  It's no big deal.  I can just walk..."
    "Well, I don't think you can really walk in those jeans."
    He was right.  I didn't need everyone else to see my granny panties and I could be doing worse things than riding home with a hot guy.  "Okay, thanks."
    "But there's just one condition," he said, as we made our way to the parking lot.  "In exchange for this ride, you give me just one chance to help you get your seat back.  If it doesn't work or you don't like what I'm doing, I'll leave you alone."
    "I don't know..."
    "Oh, come on.  I gave you my jacket.  I'm giving you a ride home... it's the least you can do.  Do it for the guy who got a bucket of soda dumped over him?"
    I laughed despite myself.  "Okay, one chance."
    "Oh, good!"  he said, clapping his hands.  "Let's get ready to bring Kathy down."

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