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How soon to romance?

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When I was at the NY-SCBWI intensive, the second round table discussion of my manuscript, which I would say is mystery/thriller, got critiqued and the agent said I should let the reader know right up front that there's going to be a romance element.  (We read the first two pages.)  And another novel I'm finished with has a strong romance element, though I would not label it a romance.  I love the romance elements in both my books, but they are not the books and I was surprised by this agents expectations.  How soon do you put romance in a YA? 

 :groan  Yet another question!
#1 - May 12, 2012, 09:10 AM

I suspect it's like with fantasy... sometimes a fantasy will start out in the real world, and go along for several chapters before anything "fantastic" happens. Still, you want to give hints upfront that it will be fantasy so that readers who love fantasy will keep reading, AND so that those who thought they were settling in for a realistic contemporary read won't feel you broke the author-reader contract.

I imagine the agent thought the romance was a strong selling point, and wanted hints of it early on so that readers who like that sort of thing will stick around. You don't have to start the main romance in the first few pages, but you may need to establish that this is the sort of MC who is interested in that sort of thing. Or that the MC is protesting too much ... but at least that the issue is on his/her mind!
#2 - May 12, 2012, 10:56 AM

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That's an excellent answer--Thank you!
#3 - May 12, 2012, 11:04 AM

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I agree with Ruth. Excellent answer!

anita
#4 - May 12, 2012, 11:18 AM

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Hi,
I agree with Ruth, too. I'm in the middle of major revisions on an upper middle-grade/YA book, and I've decided to add a romance. So on the first page, when the main character is visiting her great grandmother in a nursing home, I have an old-guy resident tease her by asking her if she has a beau and she says no. It's just a small hint, but I think it'll be enough. Also, there is a time-slip element to the story, so in an earlier draft, I added an introductory chapter that takes place later than the main portion of the story. In it, I mention that the girl and her great grandmother share a secret that no one would believe if she told them. I didn't want readers to be shocked later when the fantasy of time-slip is introduced.
#5 - May 12, 2012, 11:28 AM
Sheila Welch,  author/illustrator. Don't Call Me Marda, Waiting to Forget, Something in the Air, The Shadowed Unicorn, Little Prince Know-It-All

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 You've already gotten great advice here.  I think it's just a matter of making sure that the 'promise' of your book is set up right from the beginning.  If there is a particular boy that will figure into the story, can he be mentioned or even appear in the first few pages?  The romance does not have to be the main conflict or story element, but it does provide a great source of tension that can immediately engage the reader and draw them into the story.  Romance and mystery together will expand your audience and grab your readers from page one.
#6 - May 13, 2012, 09:24 AM
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Thank you--all of you.  I'm glad I asked and appreciate your thoughts.  Happily this is an easy fix.  Unlike the major one of pg. 45.     :groan
#7 - May 13, 2012, 09:45 AM

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