There’s More than One Way to Spice up a Novel
From the first book I wrote when I was a teenager (which will never see the light of day), I’ve known I was destined to write romance. I gravitate to books with Happily Ever Afters, whether I’m reading a mystery, a thriller, or YA paranormal. The books that tend to make me neglect all of my responsibilities so I can keep flipping the pages, though, are the ones with a focus on romance.
The first books I wrote and published, the Daughters of Saraqael trilogy, are YA fantasy/romance. Initially, I knew only that I wanted to feature teenage protagonists and I wanted the stories to include romance. Eventually, that evolved into the Estilorian series. I’ve started work on my seventh book in that series, and—you guessed it—it’ll feature a couple who falls in love. This genre has really allowed me to explore my creativity and push the bounds of what constitutes fantasy.
On the other hand, my latest book, For Everly, is a New Adult Contemporary Romance releasing on May 27th. I was nervous before I started writing it. How would I reach the requisite number of words in this story without the plot elements I’m used to including in my fantasy novels? No six-headed giants to fend off? No backstabbing Mercesti to thwart? No life-threatening battles to endure?
New Adult is a whole other animal. For those readers who are unfamiliar with this genre, New Adult fiction tends to feature main characters in their late teens to mid-twenties. They’re usually fresh out of high school or in college. Common issues featured in New Adult stories include searching for independence, underage drinking, pushing social boundaries, exploring one’s sexuality, and unexpected pregnancy. These books also commonly include warnings about mature content, as language, violence, and sex tend to be depicted more graphically. Quite outside the realm of YA fantasy!
When I wrote For Everly, I knew I didn’t want to write a bunch of sex scenes as “filler.” While I enjoy the steaminess of many New Adult novels as much as the next reader, I didn’t want those scenes to be gratuitous. Not only would I get called out by my fellow authors, I’d disappoint my fans. So how could I add “spice” without resorting to that?
The answer—at least to writers—should be obvious. Conflict. Nothing furthers a plot more effectively than conflict. I just had to generate different kinds of conflict than I had in my YA books. My six-headed giant became Everly’s father. The backstabbers became those of the human variety. Battles were waged, just internally.
Another thing I like to do in my books is add a plot point that leaves the reader wondering until the very end…like a whodunit, but without the crime being central to the story. In For Everly, someone engages in stalkerish behavior toward the main characters. This serves as a device to not only bring the characters closer together, but it keeps the reader wondering who it is. In short, it adds spice!
There are many ways to keep readers turning the pages. The important thing is for authors to stick true to their voices and their passion. As long as they do, the quality of their work will shine through.