“Twilight” Was Based Off My Life. No, Really.

I first saw him in the Ferguson Center at the University of Alabama.

I was coming out of the food court with my tray of Chick-Fil-A deliciousness, stomach growling and mouth watering, both of which highlighted my insufferable humanity. I scanned the dining room for a small table in the corner, maybe behind a plant or something, where I could eat in silence and scowl at the floor for no reason at all.

But before I could make my way to the perfect corner-shadow table, I saw him.

I think it was his eyes that caught my attention; either he was wearing black contacts or his irises just randomly decided not to match his blond hair or fair skin tone at all. It didn’t really matter to me, though, because he was HOT.

In a moment of uncharacteristic bravery, I took a deep breath and approached him. “Can I sit here?”

He glared up at me and wrinkled his nose, which I took to be a sign that he found the scent of my blood irresistible. It could have been because I hadn’t showered in three days, but I thought the first option was more likely.

Instead of responding, he kicked the chair opposite him so that it fell on the floor in front of me. “Thanks!” I said brightly as I placed my tray on the table, picked up the chair, tripped over one of the legs, jumped up like nothing had happened, and dropped into the seat. “What’s your name?”

“Rob,” he growled, running his tongue over his very pronounced canines. “I don’t think you should sit here.”

“Why not?” I asked. This was when I noticed he wasn’t eating anything. He must be so strong and manly to resist the Siren song of Chick-Fil-A, I thought as I ran my hands through my greasy hair.

“Because I’m going to kill you, or at least run off and leave you. But either way, there will be some borderline emotional abuse going on.”

“Ooh, tell me more,” I murmured, swooning over my waffle fries.

*          *          *

Okay, stop right there. That’s definitely not how I met my husband. I think it was more like this: We had mutual friends, we hung out together in that group of mutual friends, we started hanging out on our own, and then one night we got Frosties at Wendy’s and that was that.

But what kind of YA book would that make?

Here’s the thing about writing YA: Real, stable relationships that actually have a chance of making it? Are BORING to teens. A man who’s responsible, supports his girlfriend/wife, and actually treats her with love and respect? Um, like, SO not cool.

But make your love interest a ridiculous paranormal creature with emotional baggage who skitters away at the slightest sign of trouble and mopes around all the time? OOH, YES PLEASE.

Really?

Really?!

This is something I’m struggling with at the moment. The book I’m writing now, SYNTHESIS, has a love story. But it is developing super slowly because I keep trying to make it too realistic. I’m making the guy too thoughtful, too concerned with the MC’s well being, and as a result the storyline is dragging a bit.

I guess I’ve got to make everything happen a little more quickly and de-stabilize this relationship somewhat so that it will be interesting to teens.

Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

What do y’all think? Do you ever run into this kind of problem?

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14 thoughts on ““Twilight” Was Based Off My Life. No, Really.

  1. DL Hammons says:

    Realism? What a unique concept…especially for the YA genre. That’s why I stick to adult fiction, where at least the glimmer of reality is tolerated. 🙂

  2. Melissa Garrett says:

    I was laughing so hard, my eyes were watering!

    I just devoured “Hush, Hush” for the second time. I was totally attracted to the bad boys in HS and college – thank goodness I married a perfectly respectable man. But you’re right. Safe is boring. Dark characters like Patch, or impossible romances like Edward and Bella’s or Sam and Grace’s, make me go weak in the knees. Why? I’m smart enough to know better in real life. Maybe it’s because I can safely explore that darker, irrational side of me in the pages of a book and then go to sleep next to a guy I know is not gonna kill me! (er, hopefully not) In answer to your question, though, I think those impossible romances work because they are inherently full of conflict. Real-life romance, if that’s what you choose to write, can be like that, too. Maybe the parents don’t approve – the lovebirds have to sneak around – one wants more than the other is willing to give. You know . . . the good stuff. 😉

  3. Trisha Leigh says:

    I HATED Hush Hush, and I do struggle with what you’ve described. The thing is, no matter how hard we try we won’t be writing realistic teenage boys. At that age, I’m not sure they’re capable of any kind of deep, meaningful relationship – at least not right off the bat.

    In my post-apocalyptic the romance develops slooooooowly, but I have the excuse that people are trying to catch and kill them, so its okay that romance isn’t the focus. Lucky me.

    Good post.

  4. Katie Anderson says:

    Ugh Anne! Why is that? Let’s change the face of YA and make really cool, REAL relationships – boring and all.

    Just kidding. We’d be out of a job, but it’s food for thought.

    Great post!

  5. Raquel Byrnes says:

    That was a perfect spoof. “I’ll kill you or else run off…” I love it.

    I don’t really know the answer to your YA dilema since I write adult fiction, but I do know that good books have characters that we find rivetting…Bella and Edward were a long slow train wreck of a hot mess and I just could’t look away.

  6. Jan says:

    yep. Not in YA cuz I’m not writing that but I have to work hard to keep my psychotherapist personality out of my writing. She is always trying to fix my characters. Jeesh. Ruins conflict.

  7. Jemi Fraser says:

    That was fun! Teen readers are smart – they know what they want – whether it’s a fantasy or a real story. Because of that I think there’s a market for quite a wide variety in YA. Your story will fit right in 🙂

  8. Anne Riley says:

    DL: I didn’t know you work in the Adult genre – I’ve been toying with a book idea for that market. I may be talking to you about it sometime!

    Melissa: You’re totally right. I highly doubt anyone thinks a relationship like Bella and Edward’s is actually possible – but it’s fun to pretend for a while, isn’t it?

    Trisha: People are after my characters, too, so I’m kind of in the same boat. Glad to hear it’s working for you!

    Katie: LOL! Yeah, nobody would buy a book about how I really met my husband. Except maybe me, and my husband. Ha!

    Raquel: Yes! It’s like you hate the train wreck but you don’t want it to end ever. Why??

    Jan: Sometimes it’s hard for me to write conflict into the story because I want to fix it so bad. I feel your pain!

    Jemi: You’re right – I just feel like most of them want a real escape from reality. And hey, I can serve it up, I’ve just got to get over myself first!

  9. Natalie Cone says:

    Anne, This was so much fun to read. 🙂 About as much fun as reading the one about you and your husband trying to make chili. I laughed until my eyes watered. 🙂 Here are my thoughts on the whole YA romance thing (and I am no expert by any means). I think it’s great and fun to write and all that, but teens don’t believe in rationality at all. Especially when it comes to emotions. The more mystery in the magnetism of the romance, the better. It can be hard for me to write sometimes because it exhausts me (I really get into my characters). Take a normal ole romance, then throw in some conflicts that would make full-grown adults run for safety, and BOOM! You’ve got the perfect formula for a YA romance. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at how ridiculous it is, then it’s probably just right. LOL!

  10. Anne Riley says:

    Natalie: That’s a great barometer – if you’re not rolling your eyes, something needs to change! Haha! And I’m glad you enjoyed the chili. That was an adventure, let me tell you.

    Ansley: Bless.

  11. Kristie Cook says:

    You had me giggling out loud. Thanks for the Friday afternoon laugh!

    So, there is this guy in this one trilogy that’s kind of a hot topic right now (okay, it’ll blister the skin off your hands, it’s so hot). He’s sweet and supportive and protective, intelligent but not geeky, strong yet loving, an artist and a master speaker. He’ll do whatever it takes to protect his girl, even die for her. Oh, and he’s cute, too. He has a ton of real-life fans, including me.

    No, he’s not the norm in YA books. I wish he were. But, honestly, he only works so well because everything else in their world is so screwed up. So I guess if you want that kind of hero, you have to make everything else that much worse. Good luck! 🙂

  12. HeatherM says:

    I have had this problem but then I just try to remember that many teen romances are fast, furious, and destructive. Think of all the bad ones it took to get to the right one!

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