Writing About Love for Little Girls While Being a Terrible Example IRL
I graduated with a BA in Creative Writing this May. My thesis was to write something, and to write a lot of it. We had had many assignments to write before, but 30 pages had been about the most. This time we needed to write a boatload – aka a book-load. I was up for the challenge early on, but after the first out of two semesters of this ‘thesis’ class, I pretty much had nothing usable, and no idea how I was going to crank out a book’s worth of a rough draft in four weeks.
I cried about it. I was angry about it. I had just broken up with my boyfriend for the 3rd/5th time. I was at home with opinioned parents telling me what I should and shouldn’t write about. I was a mess.
What I came up with, and continue to work on (currently on draft 4), is a young adult fantasy story about a girl…and magic. Sidestepping all the tricky plot details, character descriptions and all that other fun stuff, I shot a big old hole in my foot by introducing a love story early on. Granted, this love story makes the book what it is (or what it’s going to be a million years from now), but it’s a tricky thing to work with, and here’s why…
For one, it’s me, not Stephanie Meyer. And I hate Meyer, because she is selling totally unrealistic/messed up ideas about love and relationships. I didn’t want my story to be anything like that. I wanted something real: I wanted to talk about how I believe the best relationships come out of friendship. Not necessarily saying you go from being friends to lovers, but that you can also BE friends. That a healthy love is one where you feel like you are also friends. Does that make sense? I sure hope it does. My career only totally depends on it.
Writing about love, especially when geared for a 12-16 year-old female audience, is kinda a lot of pressure. Even if the only 12-16 year-old to read my book is my BFF Ellie (just turned 14), it’s still a lot to handle. The goal of my writing is to have some positive influence on this complicated age group. So even if she doesn’t like it as a read, she may absorb something from it, maybe good, maybe not. That’s a lot to think about at night, because at the end of the day, I don’t necessarily know what the fuck I’m really talking about.
Let’s look at Sophia’s experience with love in a nutshell. Three relationships that crashed and burned:
Relationship #1 – He said: “I don’t believe in love. I believe love is a chemical imbalance caused by science.”
Relationship #2 – Broke up with me on Valentines Day/the night before my 20th birthday … oh yeah, AFTER I said ‘I love you’ for the first time.
Relationship #3 – Did you see the part in the entry earlier when I mentioned we broke up 5 times?
I spent a lot of my teens/early college (okay, and late college…) trying to gain experience from guys. I wanted to lose my V-card ASAP. I wanted a solid list of numbers in my back pocket. I wanted to feel like I knew what I was doing. The result? Generally feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve been with people who didn’t want to be with me and stayed in relationships too long even when we both knew it was time to call it quits.
But I don’t want to write about that in my teen fantasy story! How hopeless and sad is that? I want to believe that there is a dude out there who will complement me, and me him. I just watched ‘What’s Your Number,’ and I totally believe that the number of people you’ve slept with doesn’t matter, and that love should be something that’s comfortable and easy and friendshippy!
So I guess I may not know exactly what I’m talking about. But after all the crap I’ve dealt with from dudes and from myself – I do know what I want, or at least what I don’t want. And all I can hope for is that there is something to this love and friendship coexistence tune I’m singing.
I’d say that experiencing different relationships, and the good and bad times that come with them, doesn’t mean you are a failure when it comes to love. The only failure would be to never experience love at all, either being loved or loving someone else.
I think you have a deeper understanding of love than you give yourself credit for; falling in love and being with someone should be a learning experience. Love isn’t a “those who can’t do, teach” sort of thing. Maybe the relationship between you and your partner ends, but at least you’ve learned a few things that will come in handy next time, and hopefully give you a deeper appreciation of your next relationship.
Not to mention, being in a few failed relationships will probably make you a much better writer than finding your TRU LUV at 16 and living happily ever after. Because now you know what it feels like, to love someone, be their friend, fight with them, go through rough patches, and you understand it. You’re growing up and becoming an adult, same as your characters.
So cut yourself some slack. Remember: they all end until one doesn’t.