Category Archives: 2014

Writing Horror Chills and Thrills

I’m a sucker for all things scary. Except for zombies. Those freak me out a bit too much. As one of the YA Scream Queens, I’m privvy to a variety of YA horror novels and I find it fascinating that out stories are so different and yet all have the same intention: to unnerve our readers in some way.

Horror is so subjective, and that makes it–like comedy–a very hard genre to write. What terrifies one reader gets a “Meh” reaction from another. When my agent has had my work on submission, I had one editor say they just didn’t find the story that frightening and another editor said she had to sleep with the lights on and still had nightmares.

Because of the subjectivity of scariness, I approach writing horror in this way: write what scares you. If you the author are legitimately unnerved and ready to jump out of your skin when writing a horror scene, that energy will translate into the story. I remember writing one scene in a project that had me so disturbed that I had to turn on more lights and walk away from the computer to check the windows several times when writing it–and every single one of my crit partners and my agent pointed to that scene as being scarier than all get out. I wrote something that frightened me, the author. Even though it was my creation, it scared me, and my unease bled into the page.

And when you go back to revise those scene, don’t wince. Don’t soften the scare. Timing is everything, and tone is important, too. But if you are unsettled, your readers will be, and that is the ultimate goal of any horror novel.


Meet BookYArd member, Rin Chupeco!

2014 is set to be an amazing ear for most of us BookYArd authors. There’s a first of everything set to happen this year – first book being published, first experiences with interacting with readers, first steps toward fulfilling our dreams of becoming writers.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 14 firsts I’d like to share. With my first book, The Girl from the Well, due out in August, most of these are going to be – yup – rather ghost-centric.

First Book: The Ghost in the Cupboard

This was the first book I remember reading, and might have probably also influenced my love for horror books later on. Surprisingly, this wasn’t scary at all – it was about a young ghost who was living in a cupboard and decided one day to leave and explore the world, and who couldn’t understand why people were so frightened of him. (And now that I think about it, this book had more influence on the book I would eventually write than I first thought, because of my protagonist’s perception of herself as more than just a frightening ghost, though she looks the part.)

First Favorite Novel: Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

My first foray into the world of horror novels started out completely as an accident. I was six years old who’d been reading for a couple of years by then, but I was slowly growing tired of all the “kiddie-ish” books I’d been given so far. I was addicted to fairy tales at that stage however, and I suspected that the books lining the bookshelves in my parents’ room was my Mecca for all things potion-y and draconic.

In the end, I singled out a book with the picture of an odd-looking cat on the cover. The graveyard shown behind said cat had no impact on me – I figured it would be a nice story about a pet cat, because I recognized what ‘Pet’ meant, but not what ‘Sematary’ meant.

I’m not going to say I understood everything I read then, but I knew enough to recognize that this was a ghost story, and I was thrilled. Ghost Stories were still a grey area in the list of reading material I was allowed access to, and my childish mind delighted at reading what was to my way of thinking, a ‘banned book’. As I grew older, and learned to appreciate more of King’s nuances, I began reading more and more and more: Cujo, Carrie, The Stand, It, Christie. I was hooked.


First Favorite Horror Movie: Monster Squad

I will be completely honest here: I didn’t have as much experience with true horror movies back in my childhood the way I had with books. Asian horror wasn’t something that anyone had been able to introduce me to back then, since there was no one I knew then who loved it the way I loved horror books. As a result , I was treated to a lot of American-based horror movies, which I enjoyed but found lacking in some way: Jaws, Gremlins, Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, It and almost every movie based on a Stephen King book, for obvious reasons. They had a lot of the gore, but not much on the scare.

Nevertheless, I came across this gem of a movie:

It isn’t exactly a true horror movie. In fact, it’s listed as a horror / comedy though I didn’t know it then. But I LOVED it. It was about a group of kids ganging up to defeat Dracula, the Werewolf, and a host of other undead to save the world. How can this not appeal to kids like me then, the ones who’d read so many books and watched so many things and wanted to be a heroine of her own? I must have watched this about fifty times.


First Favorite Actual Horror Movie: Ju-On

In 2002, this movie came out, and I fell in love.

Sure, Ringu had been making the rounds before it, but I wasn’t impressed. There were some good scenes, but nothing made me jump out of my seat – not even the climactic climb-out-of-the-television scene could assuage the borefest that came before it.

But Ju-On. Oh, lordy – Ju-On! You think she can’t get you while you’re hiding under your covers? You’re wrong. Think you’ll be safe by staying with a crowd? NOPE. Maybe they’re just a figment of your imagination? Half the time the characters don’t even see the ghost when they appear, but Kayako sure as hell makes sure the viewers do. Ju-On takes all the standard this-will-make-you-feel-safe tropes and tricks and then crap all over it. And the kicker? There is no cure for her. There is no hero to come save the day, no final girl. She will come at you until you die, and that is it. Here, my love for Asian horror began.


Favorite Ghost Story Book: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I love these books so much as a kid, and they’re still the treasures of my collection – and have you seen the illustrations? If it’s scary enough that someone’s tried to ban it countless times, you know it’s a good book.


Favorite Ghost Story Legend: The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

I think it appealed to me as a kid because the alleged photo of the Brown Lady is the first documented picture I know where no one has been able to prove that it was a forgery. This idea was such a compelling one – I don’t do ghost hunting myself, but I do enjoy shows featuring them and I like the idea of superstitious beliefs meeting technology that attempts to explain them (I am guilty of watching Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Haunted Encounters, among many others).

Eight Other Things About Me, In the Hopes You Won’t Think I’m Just a Creepy Horror-loving Kid:

1. The first career I really wanted to have was as an archeologist. I LOVE dinosaurs. I could pronounce Tyrannosaurus Rex and Archaeopteryx at four years old, but it took me years to learn to say ‘parrot’ and ‘barbell’ correctly. I wanted to have a velociraptor for a pet back before it was cool to say you wanted a velociraptor for a pet.

I still love them, years later. Jurassic Park has and always will be my favorite movie – even if technically, some of the dinosaurs featured didn’t live during the Jurassic period.

2. On a similar note, I had an odd lisp as a kid, and couldn’t say my rr’s correctly. (I still have difficulty rolling the rr’s). It doesn’t help that my full name is Erin, which meant I constantly referred to myself as “Eween” without meaning to. (On the plus side, ‘Eween’ eventually became my user handle during my college Counterstrike FPS-playing days.)

3. Also related to the Counterstrike mention: I’m a self-professed girl gamer. I have played so many RPGs (the only reason I didn’t play Warcraft was because I couldn’t afford the subscription fees) and I have done Ultima Online, Ragnarok, Eve, Diablo, Guild Wars, and so many other things most of you have probably never heard of. Small anecdote: I was playing God of War during a Sony marketing event once, and a crowd had gathered to watch. I failed to notice a group of kids up front watching me play until I had…. violently beheaded (read: ripped the head off the body of) the sun god, Helios. The teachers were NOT happy with me, but everyone else thought it was hilarious. You can say I am not much of an Angry Birds fan.

I also love survival horror (Silent Hill, Fatal Frame) which can be pretty good inspirations for the squick.

waaah NOP

Also: comic book geek, specializing in Marvel.

4. I have been mistaken as a ghost several times, all through no fault of my own. My younger sister refuses to sleep in the same room as me because she claimed I literally slept (looking) like the dead, and I have scared a lot of people working in old office buildings where I also am at, especially because I pulled in a lot of overtimes and usually left after most of the lights were out. (I earned the nickname ‘Sadako’ this way.)

5. Unlike what some people might think, especially given the first half of this post, I actually don’t believe in ghosts. I was also never a goth kind of girl, although I’m pretty sure I looked the part. I acknowledge that ghosts could exist, but until enough evidence presents itself I’m not convinced. I like the idea of ghosts as a means we can use to explain the inexplicable, but I also understand human perception of their environment can sometimes play tricks on our brains. (People like Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are some of my personal heroes, which could explain a few things).

6. I identify myself as Chinese-Filipino (Chinese by ethnicity, and Filipino by birth and citizenship) but it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. I have some Spanish on my paternal grandmother’s side, some Thai and/or Malay on my maternal grandmother’s, but I’ve never really known the true ratio. My grandfather left China for the Philippines to escape the Cultural Revolution, and my paternal grandparents were never actually married. (My grandfather was actually married to someone else, and my grandmother was his mistress / concubine. I never really knew about the rest of his family, because he’d broken off all contact) My family history had always been murky (and reads like a convoluted Chinese period soap opera), though I’d always hoped to one day find out more about it.

7. I am also a big crime junkie. I love CSI shows (even when they’re not entirely accurate) and documentaries like Forensic Files, and almost everything in Crime and Investigation channel. I have books about murders and serial killers and criminal forensics – I think it’s mostly because I want to know how the criminal mind works, and I was very interested for a long time with criminal profiling. I think the idea of reading about these killers and learning about all the steps that led to capturing them and bringing them to justice had the most appeal to me. (I love Agatha Christie – I have all her 80 books – and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe books too, so this might be another influence)

8. I was born and have spent pretty much all my life in the Philippines. It’s not as violent and as scary a place to live in as you might think, although I have been witness to a bus bombing and a couple of mall explosions. Driving is still a major cause of injury here, mostly because everyone treats the (sometimes contradicting) traffic laws as suggestions rather than actual rules. Manila is probably one of the ugliest, traffic-congested cities in Asia, but many other places outside of the city are so astonishingly beautiful – OUR BEACHES, GUYS.

Alona Beach, Bohol, Philippines

(image originally from here)

Panglao Island, Philippines

(image originally from here)

And my personal favorite: White Beach, BoracayIsland, Philippines during the off-season.


How to Write a Pitch for your Novel

This is probably the second thing most writers hate to do, right after a novel synopsis. Like it or not though, a lot of agents are going to want to hear what your pitch is – after all, they go through a billion query letters a day, and they want the meat of your novel in just a couple of sentences or three so they’d have the time to do other things. Like, you know, eat or sleep or breathe.

But that’s impossible! How could my awesomely complex, masterfully layered novel be distilled down to just a few flippant sentences. How can I convey nuances of character? The stunning execution of plot? The vivid descriptions of my hot anti-hero brimming with the wit and the snarkiness and the abs and the arms and things?

Like it or not, you will have to. Pitches can also be a way that agents assess how well you know your own book, and how well you are able to summarize, pick out the important elements of your novel and convey it in the simplest, easiest, and in the most comprehensible way possible. If you can’t do this, then they may have doubts regarding just how succinct or organized the rest of your novel is – because if you can’t even explain the plot of your novel in a few short sentences, how is the rest of your novel going to sound like?

the worst reaction agents can get while reading your novel

the second worst thing

If you’re new to pitches, or just pretty stumped, here’s a handy dandy formula to remember:

Character + Obstacle + Possible Solution to overcome Obstacle + Surprise Twist Hindering Them even More from Accomplishing said Obstacle = Pitch

I’ll use a sample pitch of my book for reference:

Character = female ghost and a boy with tattoos
Obstacle = an evil spirit wants to harm the boy
Solution to Overcome Obstacle = dolls and a possible exorcism can rid them of this
Surprise Twist = the strange presence appears to come from inside the boy

Detailed Pitch : A female ghost meets a boy with strange tattoos haunted by the presence of a masked woman in black. Together, their search will take them from dolls and exorcisms to remote valleys in Aomori, Japan where they will make a terrible discovery: there is something inside the boy, and it would absolutely kill to get out.

But! The number one thing most people forget when it comes to writing pitches is that the agents don’t need to know everything about the book yet. You need to figure out the essential parts of your novel that makes it unique or compelling, then disregard the rest for now.

The Getting-there Pitch: A dead girl who kills child murderers discovers that a new boy in her neighborhood with strange tattoos harbors a strange secret inside him- one that would absolutely kill to get out.

Still too wordy? Preen it down more!

Final Pitch = A vengeful spirit who kills child murderers discovers that when a boy with strange tattoos moves into the neighborhood, so had something else.

Take note of some of the things I decided weren’t actually necessary to the pitch. I decided to forgo some of the elements, such as the Possible Solution to Overcome Obstacle because my novel is horror / suspense in nature, which means a solution isn’t necessarily what an agent might want to know upfront. It’s a really good way of breaking down the important bits, if only to find out which parts are important and which parts aren’t technically necessary, and then summarizing where you can.

How do you know when you’re done? Try reading the pitch aloud to yourself. Does it sound awkward or overlong? Are there too many details that lessens the impact of the surprise twist at the end? Does it make sense?

Then congratulations, you’ve got a pitch!

Plot twist: Hot Fuzz’s ‘Yarp’ = GoT’s the Hound.


The Power of Words + WORDLESS ARC Giveaway!

Today I’m giving away one of my few signed ARCs of WORDLESS, my debut book, so pardon me while I wax arm-chair-philosophical. (Or you can just scroll down and enter the giveaway.)

Since I’m writing books about the (super-) power of words—people with the ability to speak and have their words literally manifest in real life—and since I’m, you know, a writer, it’s always fun to think about words and why they fascinate me.

I think it boils down to this: words are powerful. From a simple sentence, a whole world of ideas can be born. And they can be used for good or evil: inspiration, lies, love, hate.

I’ll be frank with you—I started out on the evil sides of things, back when I was five years old. I was a habitual liar. It was a revelation that I could open my mouth, say something, and have people believe it was true when it was anything but. As a generally powerless kid (like most) who was told when to go to bed, take a bath or eat my vegetables, I suddenly discovered I had immense influence. Did I eat all of the candy in the cupboard? No. Was I sick and needing to stay home from school? Yes. Did I draw a treasure map on the couch in permanent marker? No sir-ee. Did I live on a farm populated with a ridiculous menagerie of animals? Why, yes I did.

I felt like a god. Of course, some people didn’t believe me, but they just exchanged knowing looks with a nearby adult. When you’re a kid, people let you get away with this stuff.

Except for my grandma, who, after she asked if I was trying to thieve a stuffed-animal from her house and I said no, called me out on it, made me take it out from under my shirt and put it back where I’d gotten it. Yes, yes, I tried to steal from my grandma. Evil five-year-old, remember? Still, I’ve never been so ashamed.

And good for her for humiliating the heck out of me and sending my little power trip crashing to the ground. Because lying might be somewhat funny when you’re five and can only inflict minor damage on gullible friends and siblings. Adults are mostly impervious and accept such childish behavior with an, “Oh, is that so, dear?” (…Unless you’ve been drawing on the couch in permanent marker. Then your mother gets PISSED.) But what happens when you’re in school later, and you tell someone they’re ugly? Stupid? Worthless? What happens when you’re an adult and you tell someone that you love them…and you don’t? What happens when you claim “she wanted it”? What happens when you tell an entire country that a certain race of people is lesser than yours?

Very bad things, that’s what happens. Evil, if you will. But words are like SCIENCE (cue darkly dramatic music). There’s not always a mad scientist cackling in the background over chemical weapons and atomic bombs. Cures for diseases are discovered, computers invented, washing machines gifted to the people of earth. (Seriously, have you ever had to wash all of your clothes by hand? It royally sucks and takes half of the day.)

Words are like that. So much potential. We can create worlds… or destroy someone else’s, all with words. And that kind of power is still fascinating to me. These days, I like creating worlds in the form of novels, which is essentially a glorified but a mostly harmless form of lying for other people’s entertainment—the difference is that I now call it fiction from the get-go. (Thanks Grandma, for not putting up with my sh*t.)

And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that my first published book is about living Words: god-like people saying, “Flame,” and making things burn; people saying, “Die,” and watching someone topple over; people saying, “Live,” and letting them stand up again. And even less surprising is that there’s a kid without words at the heart of it all, feeling powerless and wondering how much better life would be if he only he had such power.

How, indeed? Because, while words are powerful, it’s all about how they’re used.

Now you can enter the giveaway!

-Adri out
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wordless - small

“The Gods made their Words into flesh, giving privileged individuals the powers of creation…”

In Eden City, a member of the illiterate wordless class would never dream of meeting the all-powerful Words … much less of running away with one. So when a gorgeous girl literally falls into his lap during a routine trash run, seventeen-year-old Tavin Barnes isn’t sure if it’s the luckiest or worst day of his life. That girl is Khaya, the Word of Life, who can heal a wound or command an ivy bush to devour a city block with ease. And yet she needs Tavin’s help.

By aiding Khaya’s escape from the seemingly idyllic confines of Eden City, Tavin unwittingly throws himself into the heart of a conflict that is threatening to tear the world apart. Eden City’s elite will stop at nothing to protect the shocking secret Khaya hides, and they enlist the other Words, each with their own frightening powers, to bring her back.

adriannestricklandAdriAnne shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, but has spent two cumulative years living abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. Her debut YA sci-fi/fantasy, WORDLESS, is coming August 8th, 2014 from Flux Books. You can follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

What I Really Mean…!

In the Elton John song “Your Song,” the composer of the romantic song admits that he’s forgotten if his lover’s eyes are green or blue, but anyway, what he really means is that they’re the most beautiful eyes he’s ever seen.

I was thinking about this song the other day as I read this really fascinating article about the “hidden messages” in children’s literature. 

Because, you see, at a certain point, our words are no longer entirely our words, and we can no longer control the messages that other people read into them. It’s entirely possible that the author of “The Little Engine That Could” didn’t intend it to be read as a feminist text, but does that really matter anymore? We can’t tell you what to think about the words we put on paper, because we can’t control your thoughts.

And, the more that I think about it, the more I don’t really want to. I want you to read my words and come up with your own spin, your own interpretation. I want my book to be about something personal for you. I don’t know you, but I want you to feel like I do, like I’m writing something completely and entirely for you. And, in all honesty, it might not be something I was even conscious of while I was writing it, but I don’t think that makes your reading of it any less valid. Books are a joint venture in the end: I give you words from my heart, and you take them into your heart, and on whatever level we have connected, we create our joint conversation: Our Unique Book. Because everyone reads a book differently, and that is the joy of books. They’re not black or white, they’re prisms

That said, what I do hope is that we do connect, somehow, someway. That is my greatest dream and fondest wish. We might disagree on whether the eyes I was writing about were green or blue. But I hope that what we do agree about is that what I meant was that they’re pretty gorgeous. 🙂


Skylar is a native Rhode Islander who fully believes that the best type of ice cream shake is called a cabinet (and she prefers a chocolate one). Boston gave her a degree in English (from Boston College), a degree in law (from Harvard), and the setting for her first novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, about a teenager who finds out she’s half-faerie-princess and half-ogre. Skylar loves tea (hot and iced), breakfast for dinner, and the Red Sox. You can find her wasting time on Twitter and Tumblr.

Understanding Insta-Love: Tips and Tricks

It’s a dreaded aspect for many readers of many YA novels , I’m sure.  Some like it,  some are indifferent – and a heckuva lot of people hate it.  Insta-love has been around long before the term “Young Adult fiction” ever came to be, from doomed Arthurian romances like Guinevere and Lancelot; to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; to the Wagner opera, Tristan and Isolde (although a love potion was a decided catalyst here).

I can’t say I’m someone who likes reading about insta-love. I don’t doubt that insta-love does exist, but the term I would much rather use (and, I think, explains this phenomenon better) is insta-attraction, or even insta-lust, which I do like reading about. I have known people who have fallen in love at first sight and make a successful relationship of it – but I’ve also seen people crash and burn because they didn’t know how to make it work past the physical attraction. But my problem with insta-love is not so much the fact that it’s used at all, but rather that it is used far too often as a shortcut to tell readers that a couple is in love, rather than as a segue to further character development.

Now, most authors tend to argue in favor of insta-love for a lot of good reasons, so allow me to play the devil’s advocate for this article.

The best five minute love story I know.

This is an attempt to analyze insta-love down to its bare basics, particularly on why people might dislike it, and what else might be needed to build it into a more believable romance – and WHY we as authors need to make that additional effort to.

How Insta-Love Can Fail

1. Let’s frame this in a perspective more people might understand: you’ve just met this amazing person. And s/he’s gorgeous. Physically, s/he’s exactly your type, and you already know you’ll make beautiful babies together.  Knowing only this about them, do you:

– give up your family / close friends if they ask you to?

– take a bullet / knife / anything that may potentially result in your painful death for them?

– risk your career / job / schooling for them?

The problem with characters who say “yes” to all or most of the above, is that this shows symptoms of what could lead to a very unhealthy relationship / obsession, and most readers realize this. Is this really the type of character you want to read more about? Even more alarming – if you’re rooting for a character to do exactly this because you yourself think the love interest is hot, then what might this say about you?

Insta-attraction is more easily understood. And there’s a big difference between thinking about the person all the time, and doing things like jumping off buildings for each other or covering up each other’s murders, or something. For love.

And all because s/he’s hot.

(A note: while a lot of authors who write about insta-love do not immediately put their characters in these kinds of situations, it’s reasonable enough to argue that enough writers do this to make this an issue.)

2. One can argue that writing about teens means that teenagers should be written like teenagers, in that they can at times be naive and idiotic when it comes to making certain life decisions. But protagonists are, by default, special – not because their writer-creators say they are, but because they should be by default. Because that suggests there is something about these teenagers that makes them rise beyond the stereotype – there has to be something there that makes them worth reading about.

Let’s face it – we have known friends or teenagers who have acted this way. I, for one, was that friend who constantly groaned and rolled her eyes whenever one of my friends started waxing about that cute guy she just met in History class like it was going to be the greatest romance I was ever going to hear, and I’m  can you just shut up already so we can eat at Burger King cause I need something in my stomach besides all this swill? (I’m not always a considerate friend.)  A lot of times, people who think insta-love is the best thing ever are often  the ones in the throes of it, who have experienced or are experiencing it for themselves.  Most readers are going to be people like me, rolling their eyes at them and groaning because they would much rather eat a Whopper.

I love my friend, but I definitely do not want to read a book about a character like her when she is in this phase. (Her irl romance fizzled out about two weeks after they started dating.)

And this is where the bulk of the complaints about insta-love comes in. Many readers won’t understand the effects of insta-love because they’re not the ones living in that bubble of happiness and rainbows. Readers who do buy into it are usually those who also find themselves attracted to the MC/s in question.

Think about a fictional character you love absolutely. Then think about a friend of yours who’s not into that fandom. Think about their reactions when you gush about how much you love this character.

Now think about the reverse: your friend being in love with a fictional character you care nothing for, but won’t shut up about.

Yup.  It’s a lot like that.

3. Another issue with insta-love is that it happens almost all the time in a lot of YA novels, especially those with romantic elements. In real life, some insta-loves succeed, and some insta-loves fail – but when present in YA, they almost always triumph. Reading one book where insta-love happens is fine. Reading two is alright. Reading two dozen in a row no longer feels quite as believable.

One of my role models, Esme Weatherwax, head witch of Bad Ass village and current Discworld resident, defines it best:

[In stories] million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

You might not want to hear this, but you will eventually get  sick of chocolate if you eat too much of it. Likewise, if you read a succession of novels with insta-love screaming through their pages, you will  eventually get sick of it. The whole purpose of writing a book is to have it stand out, and using the same trope so many other writers have done without adding a very unique spin to it will not make it so.

But, hark! All is not lost. Here are some few suggestions that (I think) works, to ensure characters can still have their “insta-attraction”, and still bring some level of credibility to their romance:

1. Ensuring Believability

When it comes to writing romance, I always like to reference this formula:

Length of time knowing love interest should be directly proportional to the protagonist’s willingness to die for him/her.

Exception #1: If the protagonists are heroic by nature, then saving  potential love interests from a speeding car / a villain they happen to be fighting would still be keeping in character – not because they would die without him/her, but because it’s already in their character to be heroic, and would still do the same thing even if the rescuee was a pot-bellied man in a sailor outfit.

Contrary to how he looks, he’s actually a pretty nice guy. (image from

Exception #2: This is some sort of satire, and you’re writing this deliberately.

Exception #3: Anything involving Tom Hiddleston does not apply here. It’s worth noting though, that many people also love him for his personality, and not just from his obvious attractiveness.

Shake that personality, Tom!

2. Build character

Throw your couple in some life-threatening situations / major obstacles BEFORE having them declare their undying love for one another. (Having them cuddle up / make out beforehand is fine, though. That’s what insta-attraction is all about.) One purpose for this is to show readers that there is something about the characters that makes them worthy of each other’s love beyond just their beauty. Robert Downey, Jr. is gorgeous, but who do you really love – him, or your significant other? (I don’t know about RDJ, but he’s never tried to be an awkward human raincoat for me during a particularly bad Category 4 typhoon, the way my husband did once.)

3. There is a difference between a romance that happens immediately but genuinely, and a romance that happens in a rather superficial way. It’s up to the author to determine how to place their romances into the former category without falling into the latter, and it’s up to them to convince the readers of the realness of that romance. It takes more than just “because he’s hot” to sell the relationship, and “show, not tell” always works for me.

There’s a difference between being easily attracted early on, and then falling into a deeper and more profound love at a later date. Romances can have both, but the second is more difficult to write about than the first – but it’s always something writers should learn to do. Train yourself to avoid shortcuts.

This is one of the few things writers can’t write about based on experience. Everyone has a different perspective on how love is supposed to feel, and experiences will vary. To argue that insta-love is justified because you’ve felt it yourself or have  seen it in others will not sway readers’ minds to your side of the debate if readers can’t find a worthy quality past the character’s aesthetics.

And that’s where knowing how to portray this realistically comes in. Even people who fell violently in insta-love with each other would never have stayed together if none of them had more redeemable traits to their character.

4. I’ve done everything!

You did your homework, added in all your nuances, and readers / critics are still calling you out? No worries. Relax.

You owe it to your readers – and even more importantly, yourself – to write your book in the best way that you possibly can. Unfortunately, literature is subjective, and sometimes context can be unintentionally (and even deliberately) misunderstood. This is never going to be your fault. Do the best you can, but don’t take it to heart – it doesn’t just happen to the best or the worst of writers; it happens, and will always happen, to every one of us. And that is okay.

To summarize:

Insta-attraction = (physical attraction x 2)

(physical attraction x2) + (redeeming character traits / character-defining flaws) + time = love


Love AND character development.

Quiz! What crazily successful YA novel are you?

You’ve read them. You’ve loved them. But have you fully identified with them?

Keep track of your answers to find out what recent YA novel you are!

When you and your friends talk, bystanders…
A.  think that you must be quoting movie dialogue, since you sound so polished.
B.  compliment your Scottish accents.
C.  do not understand your references to deep Internet-nerd culture.
D.  What friends?  You kill your friends.

What are your views about names?
A.  I always use middle names with my nearest and dearest. How else would I show affection?
B.  I have several code names.
C.  Why have a whole first name when I could have half of one?
D.  Normal names should be tweaked and twisted to give them the allure of the future.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
A.  Stop using “literally” to mean “figuratively,” people! It’s literally nauseating.
B.  Disloyalty.
C.  People who like college right off the bat. It’s supposed to be a tough transition.
D.  Did someone mention pets? I would be happy to take that pet off your hands. And I’ll give you half the meat, too.

Your favorite music is…
A. Twangy, acoustic, and somewhat emo, with obscure yet profoundly meaningful lyrics.
B.  “God Save the King”
C.  Kanye West, though only when desperate times call for desperate measures (i.e., emergency dance parties).
D.  A soothing lullaby, which comes in handy when small children die nearby.

What do you think of math?
A.  Math is intriguing, in a philosophical sort of way.
B.  Math is useful and often fun.
C.  Math is to be avoided.
D.  As long as I can count from one to thirteen, I’m good.

If you were a book title, you would…
A.  Faintly reek of Shakespeare.
B.  Enigmatically juxtapose three nouns in a row.
C.  Be short and sweet.
D.  Evoke a gladiatorial past.

And now, for the results!

If you chose mostly As, you are… The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green!

If you chose mostly Bs, you are… Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein!

If you chose mostly Cs, you are… Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell!

If you chose mostly Ds, you are… The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins!

[Disclaimer: These quiz results mean nothing.]