Stories are about RELATIONSHIPS. And not just the romantic kind.

Does it have kissing?

This book sounds so cool! Too bad it doesn’t seem like there’s romance.

Where’s the romance?

Is there a love interest?

Is there a love triangle?

I would totally read it, IF there were romance.
These are some of the things I’ve heard lately re: The Archived (and in truth, re: many YA books). The reason these questions are being asked, I can only assume, is because–GASP–the romantic elements of The Archived are not billed on the jacket copy on the back of the book. The jacket copy focuses on Mackenzie, and the supernatural, and the mystery, and her personal struggle.

Are there boys in the book? Yes. Are there romantic elements? Yes. Is there instalove? No. A love triangle? No. I don’t think so. Someone will say yes. ANYWAY.

The point is, the RELATIONSHIPS in this book are extraordinarily important. The relationships in ANY book are extraordinarily important. But relationships do not need to be romantic in order to be important, and to perpetuate the idea that a book is only as good as it’s romance is depressingly limiting.

Stories are about relationships, both those between characters, and those between characters and their world.

And of course, romantic relationships CAN BE IMPORTANT. They can be the most important, but even when they are, they are never the ONLY important relationship in a book. And I don’t think they should automatically be the ones we value most.

As a writer, I am fascinated by siblings. By family. By friendship. By unhealthy–even toxic–relationships. By the cog versus machine of a character at odds with their world.

THESE are the relationships in The Archived.

I will say for the record, I love a good romance. I really do. And I like my books, both those I read and those I write, to have romance in them. It’s safe to assume there will always be at least a measure of flirtation, of lust if not love.

BUT I think it’s a disservice to books to assume that because one doesn’t bill romance at the very top, or at all, it is somehow inherently lacking. Maybe it doesn’t HAVE a romantic thread, or maybe it’s a complicated one, or maybe revealing it would spoil an element of the story, or maybe it isn’t front-and-center because it’s not the driving force in the book. Whatever the reason, the fact remains, books are about relationships, and those relationships come in SO MANY FORMS.

Or at least, they should. Think about how many people/elements you interact with. Think about the number of things and people that matter to you. Chances are, your romantic partner, if you have one, isn’t the only one that means something.

As readers, I think we should seek out relationships of all forms in books.

As writers, I think we should push ourselves to value every relationship, both the bold and the subtle, and to make each one–romantic, platonic, familial, environmental–as rich and important as the others.

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15 thoughts on “Stories are about RELATIONSHIPS. And not just the romantic kind.

  1. Julie S. says:

    I completely agree with you on this! In fact, too much romance turns me off a story if the main point of it is supposed to be a mystery but it feels like the mystery was on the back burner of the story.

  2. K.T. Hanna says:

    Love this. It’s how I feel when I read books. I don’t believe the main flow of any book has to be a romance – there are so many other aspects. A good integrated romance is a great thing, but not having an obvious one from the outset always seems to spark more of an interest for me.

  3. Bryana says:

    Victoria,
    I really appreciate that you brought this up. It’s funny that, as a society, we look down upon “trashy” $1 romance novels, but still can’t read a good story if it isn’t about romance.
    What you wrote also reminded me of the books I love that aren’t about romance. “Harry Potter,” for example, will always hold a dear place in my heart. From the beginning it wasn’t about romance, but about friends, mentors, and an exciting new fictional world. To be honest, sometimes I felt like the romance (Harry’s relationships with Cho or Ginny) departed from what it felt the books were originally about.
    Now that you wrote this post, I can’t wait to get my hands on “The Archived” and read what it’s all about. 🙂

    ~ Bryana

  4. Completely agree! I also *love* romantic elements in my books. I definitely prefer that, but it doesn’t *have* to be there for me to enjoy a book. Or I can equally enjoy a book if it’s about friendship or family and also happens to involve romance. But I’d rather read a very well written novel about friendship and have their be no romance at all, than to read another book where the love interest/romance serves no real purpose. I’ve read quite a few in the last year where it feels like the romance has been added after the fact just to get that romance mention in the jacket copy. I love me some romance, but overall I just want to read about great relationships of all types, like you mentioned.

  5. lexcade says:

    Thank you for posting this, Victoria. I can’t help but think that romance *in both YA and adult books* is overdone, though what I’ve written has all that stuff *yippee*. There are different kinds of love, and they all need and deserve to be given book time. In YA especially, teens need to be reminded that romantic love isn’t the be-all and end-all. Heck. We all do.

  6. SweetMarie83 says:

    Love this post! I’m a romance junkie, but I also love and appreciate other relationships. And as much as I love a good romance, there are times when I really respect authors for not making it the main focus of the book, especially when you have a really strong heroine and it’s HER story, and the romance is more like a subplot. Like here’s this strong, totally kick-ass girl who has this story to tell, and she also just happens to fall in love along the way. I also really love books that explore friendships, sibling relationships, and even parent-child relationships – good or bad.

  7. Awesome as always! Yes, relationships of any kind are so important to a character and a story. It defines them. How they interact with others and their world is how we, the reader, will perceive them.

    Romance is not the only relationship. There are friends, family, and enemies in addition to love/lust interests.

  8. Rachel says:

    YES. THANK YOU. I’ve thought about this issue a lot lately, both from the perspective of a writer (CM-the-WIP has a Boy, but the relationship is…complicated) and a reader, and I totally agree with everything you’ve said. Relationships are so entirely human—one of the few constants across all stories. I love a good romance, but the reason I read the story is not for romance as an abstract quality—there must be real characters on either end of the romance, creating a deep relationship, or else it holds no appeal for me. All relationships are dreadfully important in a story, because all people are important.

    The relationships between Mac and everything else were some of my favorite parts of The Archived. So often even acclaimed books will have rather shallow treatments of certain characters and their relations to one another, and there was absolutely *nothing* shallow or ill-characterized about Mac and her relationships. (<–this is my more articulate method of fangirling, just FYI)

    (And it's not a love triangle. I am deciding on behalf of the rest of your fanbase. Not. A. Triangle.)

  9. But . . . but kissing! 😛

    Great post. I love romances that develop in the background almost without you noticing, because even if that progression is what you look back on afterward and say, “THAT was the theme of the [whatever]!” they’re not actually the obvious core plot that the characters or the reader/viewer is paying the most attention to at any given moment. (E.g., a battlefield romance where the battle is what everyone’s paying attention to and the romance is what actually matters when you look back on it.) But that’s not what you bill on the cover.

  10. The thing that always cracks me up about discussions concerning romance in books is that SO many readers look for it, yet the world’s most popular books (I am talking, of course, of the Harry Potter series) are extremely skimpy on romantic plot elements or details. Even Half-Blood Prince, the book containing the most romance in the series, doesn’t overly highlight it. Romance is fun, sure. It is also terrifying, jolting, and powerful. As writers, we need to be careful that we paint romance, as all things, in proper light. Only “proper light” in literature is a subject well-explained and well-discussed; doesn’t really matter whether answers are reached. What matters most in literature is that all things require illumination.

  11. But, if there’s no romance, what Team _____ shirt can I buy? What a great post! Yes, relationships are KEY to great story.

  12. Oops. I posted too early. Relationships are key to a great story, but the important relationships are not necessarily the romantic ones. Great points. Thanks.

  13. Llehn says:

    Well said. I enjoyed the relationship between The Doctor and Rose as well as the one between The Doctor and Donna. Both are different and add depth to the The Doctor’s growth as a character.

  14. I love all kinds of relationships in books, and not just romance (though that’s my favorite). I’m actually a big fan of friendships and sisterhood, and love it when those things appear in a book!

  15. […] don’t end with boyfriends and girlfriend; a great post on representing all kinds of relationships in […]

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