A sweet romance isn’t what I set out to write. Instead, The Blue Planets World series, is science fiction for teens. And yet, as I plotted the story and created characters, I realized that a sweet romance would definitely add interesting emotional layers. Reluctantly, I decided to plot out this sweet romance.
Boy Meets Girl/Girl Meets Boy
A character’s entrance sets the tone for a story, so I decided to make the boy meets girl/girl meets boy scene into a big one. In Book 1, SLEEPERS, the meeting takes place in a coffee shop on Bainbridge Island (in Puget Sound, just off Seattle) where Em works as a barrista. Jake is new in town and sampling all the coffee shops. When he walks in, there’s a scene where he gets a good first-look at her and is smitten. She’s indifferent at first—of course.
To keep the scene from focusing too much on the romance subplot, the main plot takes a big shift in the coffee shop, too, when the antagonist Captain Hill walks in with his father. Jake eavesdrops on them until Em accidentally spills coffee on the Captain. He roars at her and Jake comes to her defense, thus revealing himself to the Captain. Using Jake’s interest in Em is the motivation to reveal himself. Here, the subplot provides motivation.
In writing worlds, we often talk about the tropes of a genre. Tropes are literary devices such as metaphor, irony, synecdoche and so on. But in the sense used here, a trope is a general plot or character element that often occurs in a certain genre of novels. For example, fairy tales often end with “Happily Ever After.”
One tool I like it the website TVTropes.com, which lists many literary tropes and gives examples from television, movies, books, comics, and much more. Be careful! You’ll go down a rabbit hole when you start following the options for exploring a trope or genre.
If you look up Romance tropes you’ll also be directed to Chivalric Romance which then lists 66 sub-tropes, each with a page of explanation with its own set of links. There’s the Rags to Riches trope or the Trial by Combat trope
In other words, the tropes stimulate ideas. They give an easy set of options for the next plot step in a novel. There are so many tropes available that each story demands a unique set of tropes. I never worry about repeating someone else’s story because there are so many choices.
I found several options for sweet romance that I used in the story. The Almost Kiss is a good emotional moment where characters are about to kiss but something interrupts them. Long after, there could be a Relationship Upgrade https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RelationshipUpgrade when Jake and Em admit that they are a couple.
It might seem slightly mechanical to look at tropes like this, but I see it as freeing me to be more creative. Within the trope, how can I make the moment unique and memorable in my story.
Sweet Romance Takes Time
One nice thing about the choice of a sweet romance is that the pace of the relationship is slower. Em is introduced early in SLEEPERS, Book 1, but Book 2 follows Em closely as she takes center stage with her own family revelations because she’s adopted and discovers her real parents. TVTropes.com has multiple tropes on adoption, which again came in handy.
Since I knew this would be a trilogy of novels, I spaced out the relationship’s important moments. That also gave me opportunities to mesh together the main plot and the subplot. Writing teachers often say that the subplots must all be wrapped up before the final climax scene—except the romance. It’s common for the love interest to have a final scene so that the emotional resonance returns to the sweet romance.
The Blue Planets World Series is a YA sci fi saga. But for those who want to find it, there’s also a sweet romance subplot that enriches the story. Check out Book 1, SLEEPERS!