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Sunday, October 4, 2015

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How to Write a Fabulous Love Interest (But We're Not Professionals. Really.)

A few months ago in the middle of summer when there was enough reading time to be ahead of the game, Lupe and I had a very random conversation via text. Through that fabulous random conversation (aside from the fact more shelved ideas bloomed, one of which recently got started and will go into full swing by October), we started complaining sympathizing to each other about love interests. What we like, what we didn’t like, what we wanted to see more of and less of.
Of course, at that time, a domain didn’t exist, and neither did group email or other means of group communication. I don’t give out personal emails without asking the person’s permission first. (But now we have Twitter, so if we ever take on a fourth member...)
Anyhow, Lupe and I perked up with this idea and decided, “Why not do a group post?!” Then Ella got pulled into the conversation as well, though it was more of, “Hiya Ella! Want to do a group post? Pitch some ideas and we’ll work some magic!”
In reality, it was Lupe letting Sophia do the magic and add in the much needed snark. Ella and Lupe were also unwilling to step forward to do the introduction, which left Sophia to do it.

She’s not forgiving them for this (and totally considering the force hammer on one of them in a future group post).

What You Should Consider Doing

It's Not All About that Look – Make Mr. Swoony come alive with his imperfections. Is he secretly a closet geek? Let us and the character know your love interest on a personal level. Any favorite books? A secret hobby? Maybe something is brewing underneath all that star quarterback material.

Nobody's Perfect – We're not getting started on Miley Cyrus and her Hannah Montana business (though if you mention it, Sophia will happily butcher the song on purpose). The less perfections and more flaws there are, the more realistic it is. You don't have to attribute a fetish for smelly feet – that might be too gross. Lupe, however, probably wouldn't mind. If they can get through the ups and downs and still love each other, she's happy. Smelly feet aside, most of us will be happy if there's less Botox going around.
Slow and Semi-Steady Wins the Race – What happened to taking the time to love someone? All of a sudden we pull off a Stranger Undanger and everyone lives happily ever after. That's Disney's job to pull off – we just want to see the characters grow.

Of course, we’re not making fun of Disney. Not exactly....

Rainbow of Colors – See "All About that Look."

Chibi, Chibi – You know those really cute and adorable people from Japanese anime? They don't need to be short or have big heads, but the love interests that'll make everyone squeal in delight, go "awww!" and ultimately make their hearts are the ones that are adorable. Think cute, geeky, and awkward, because let's face it: that's what real teenage boys are normally like in real life.
Lupe’s matchmaking side (okay, it’s more than Lupe) apparently ships Sophia with some cute nerd (that nerd tried to give Sophia his pencil on her birthday in an attempt at a present). Sophia bats Lupe away like an annoying bug. “I INTEND TO STAY SINGLE AND HEARTBREAK-FREE.” (I’m still keeping my dance-free streak.)

What You Shouldn't Do... or Should Avoid Doing

Damsels in Distress – Typically applies to females who need good old Prince Charming to come to the rescue. Sidekicks are fine, but do you really have to be needy and whine about needing your companion to do everything or rescue you from a tight snitch? Do it WITHOUT your trusty sidekick and tell them to eat dust or something. You'll have a crowd of cheerleaders then.
Fun Fact: Sophia does a killer Pikachu impression
Okay, it applies to the ones who don’t whine as well (but sometimes, the whiny actually do kick butt work as well. That gives minor bonus points). You know, the ones who just get into a tight snitch, do virtually nothing, and then Charming swoops up their feet and carry them away to happily ever after.

All About that Look – Those blue eyes paired up with black hair? Too much. It's appearing everywhere, even if it's a nice ensemble. Whatever happened to green or hazel? Does green make them too jealous and hazel makes them too nutty? Does red hair really set everything on fire? Is there a love interest code of conduct somewhere that we sign, or do we really ask the guys we know to take off their shirts before bestowing them our friendship? That would be pretty awkward.

Have we mentioned six packs are yesterday?

Everybody's Kung Fu Fighting – Sounds like no one's getting along with each other these days. Of course there's going to be a scuffle or two in a relationship – that's normal. Even Sophia and Lupe have their occasional scuffle over which fictional boy is more awesome and which fictional boy is really dumb, among other things ranging from serious to trivial. Unless it goes well with the story and makes sense, DON'T DO IT. No one cares about reading a book with a couple constantly trying to pull each other's hair out (or about two guys using the lame excuse along the lines of, “We’re trying to win the girl over!”). If your book is about fights, we better be on different meanings.
If you have a contradiction, Sophia will love to direct you to Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs when it comes to love triangles.

(She would name the two from Snow Like Ashes, but she has to wait until Sara Raasch actually publishes book three to determine the right stamp.)

Stranger, Undanger – Remember the whole "Stranger Danger" spiel back in elementary school? Yeah... we seem to be breaking that rule these days... as long as Mr. Swoony has a six pack, dark hair and blue eyes, and a dangerous/mysterious/ominous aura about him, he'll be Mr. Tall, Sexy, and Dangerous. No wonder the best friend never wins when an "I Love Geometry" is pulled off.
I Love Geometry – Love triangles are the fashions of yesterday and it's fraying the edges of most people's nerves. Having more than one might "spice it up" a little, but IT WILL NOT WORK – you'll just create drama. Occasionally it'll work, but that's extremely (as in, once in a blue moon) rare – Snow Like Ashes, The Iron Fey (first three), and The Infernal Devices are just some of the few. Love triangles tend to antagonize each other and then we're back to kung fu fighting. Take that time to let everyone know about your awesome single love interest your main character is really pining for!

Big Brother's Watching You – How creepy would it be if your husband, boyfriend, or fiancĂ© started stalking you everywhere you go (now Sophia’s getting a little too personal)? That feeling you get when someone’s watching has just amped up to a whole new level. It's as bad as being possessive or overly protective – females are not fragile pieces of china. We can totally survive a few hours without a male hovering over us constantly.
Make your love interest an Edward Cullen, Christian Grey, Daemon Black and the like and Ella will probably stuff your book in a wood chipper. Sophia will willingly give Ella your book to stuff in a wood chipper and she'll probably play "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)" by Fall Out Boy while Ella does it (even though fire isn’t even involved). Maybe they'll throw on their secret devil horns in the process.

Meanwhile, Lupe will probably look at them weirdly and wonder WHY she puts up with those two. Because it’s what she “signed up” for as a coblogger here on Bookwyrming Thoughts.

*whispers* What's the answer to the meaning of life? – Please don't make your love interest a cheating scumbag that thinks cheating is OKAY. IT'S NOT. If cheating isn't acceptable in real life, then it's probably not acceptable in a book.

Okay, Sophia really had no clue what to call that particular trope.

I Present to You... THE QUEEN BEE (Or King Bee)Contemporary doesn't have to be about high school, and not every high school has the most popular guy or girl in the school who gives everyone below them the bird. Switch up the enemies and the scenarios. That crazy cat lady? Maybe she's not a crazy cat lady. What about that really heartwarming dad? Maybe he's secretly an alien who replaced the real dad. Maybe the best friend is part of something big, dangerous, and scandalous!
You can certainly make the enemy the most popular peep in school. In fact, anything we say you can't do, you can certainly do. But make it entertaining. Make it realistic and unforgettable and (completely) cheat-free. Or really, just make it entertaining enough so the nonobservant ones won’t actually notice because they’re too busy enjoying themselves.

You shouldn’t actually assume book reviewers are nonobservant. We probably are.

So... Let’s have a talk about the characters playing a major role other than the main character in books. What do you like or don’t like, and what do you want to see more or less of? Do you have names for those “tropes” that you see often in books? Oh, and how do you feel about that smell Sophia inquired about back in August (because really, it IS something that Sophia is completely perplexed about and no one actually answered without taking this to a scientific level)?

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Sophia is the owner and founder of Bookwyrming Thoughts, but also found on various parts of the internet. She's a 19-year-old communications major who has weird humor and doesn't fit the Asian stereotype (maybe a little). Books, chocolate, technology, and music are among some of her favorite things. For more of her work, visit her personal website.