A YA Fantasy with no romance?

Hey Writerberries!

I’ve gotten started with a new fantasy novel, directed at teens. However, nearly every book of this genre has a romantic subplot. I mean, I’d be fine writing romance but would be so embarrassed when anyone who knew me read it, even if it was ‘clean’ romance. Also, I’ve never experienced romance, so I’d be basing this romance entirely off of what I’ve read in other books. Would you yourself be interested in a fantasy without romance? This question especially applies to teens but adult answers are also very welcome! [name_f]Do[/name_f] you think that many people would be interested? Would it be too boring? If no, do you think prior knowledge from other books would be enough to write believable romance? What about no romance but flirting? Or would flirting make readers expect romance and be disappointed if there was none? Any other thoughts on this?
Thank you!

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Yes, yes, yes! I love my fantasies with a romantic subplot (not the main idea of the story unless it falls in both genres: arranged marriages mostly) but I also love books without a romantic subplot. Some of the more fantasy books I’ve read with a heavy influence on romance or the character’s romantic relationships I’ve found that the relationships are actually more toxic. Especially in this particular genre. Maybe I’m in the same boat. I’ve had no experience with romance and am attempting to write a couple romance subplots (they…aren’t so good but it’s good enough for now :smiley: ). With the flirting part, I would expect romance. [name_f]Happy[/name_f] writing!

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Not a teen obviously, but I used to be a YA librarian so I’ve read a lot of YA fiction and I still love the genre.
I 100% think it can be done without romance. Especially since it’s fantasy.
Build an interesting world and storyline and that will be enough.
(I’ve always found too much romance a bit nauseating, even as a teen.)

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I would love to read a YA without romance! You’ll have to pick a different B plot but there are thousands to pick from that are, imo, loads more interesting to read about. Lots of people have lists that I’ve seen on Pinterest! Personally, I never go into a story thinking about romantic partners. If something develops, then I run with it, but I wouldn’t say romance is even a plot at all in my stories.

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[name_m]Just[/name_m] found this so I’m gonna copy and paste what I wrote to you separately in case it is of consequence to others…

I’d assume that a fantasy novel centering on teens without a romance subplot would be classified as a “middle grade” fantasy novel. Depending on what other YA content stuff your novel may explore (drugs, suicide, addiction, etc.), your book without romance or teen-specific drama would either be classified by a publisher as a middle grade novel or an adult novel. I find this distinction fascinating. There are a few YA books I adore, but they tend to be ones written in prose or as epistolary novel or graphic novel form or have some other norm-breaking interest. But overall, my interests lie in adult books and middle grade novels. Middle grade novels can be adult novels by the writing level, but with a child or teen at the center (basically every old timey/classic book written about a child fits into this category)… those are middle grade novels. YA is a new category specifically created to deal with “teen” issues, creating a market for an emerging set of teens in GenX and beyond who thought they were too “mature” to keep reading middle grade novels but based on the numerous failings of schooling as a whole simultaneously were not ready or interested in reading adult novels, which were too complex.

Your middle grade novel or adult novel can still center on teens without being YA. YA is a genre/publishing category, not a reading level and not necessarily a question of the age of characters, either. Middle grade novels TEND to center on children 8-12 and YA almost invariably centers on teens and young adults (duh), and adult novels tend to deal with adults… but nothing is mutually exclusive. If your fantasy novel is a pure fantasy novel it would either be an (adult) fantasy novel or a middle grade fantasy novel. If your fantasy novel deals with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll and centers teen characters it would probably be YA. There is a “market” and audience interest for all 3 of these fantasy novel forms so I wouldn’t worry about it. Just write the thing and if it truly something you’re interested in pursuing, the question becomes how to pitch it and/or tweak it to make if truly FIT one genre over another.

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My gut instinct to this was a resounding YES. As in, a YA story with no romance sounds absolutely fine and maybe even desirable to some teens. I know myself that when I was a teen/young adult, romance was actually something I tried to actively avoid.

That being said, on reflection, I do understand the role romance provides in a YA story. It is incredibly common because these stories are aimed at a demographic who are coming of age, and romance is a huge part of that. But I do believe that romance isn’t the ONLY way to achieve that kind of delve into the psyche of a teenager. I think focusing on any form of relationship would work, whether it’s parent/child, sibling, best friends. [name_f]Non[/name_f]-romantic relationships are actually often more prominent in teenagers lives and I think are under-represented in the genre. There is so much to take form them that we discard in favour of the coming-of-age romance we always seem to see.

Have you ever seen the movie Miss Stevens? I think it’s a good example of a teen/YA story that doesn’t focus on a romantic storyline. Instead it focuses on the relationship between a teen and a teacher, and how it impacts them both during formative moments in their lives.

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As an adult who reads a fair amount of YA, I’d love if there were more YA fantasy books without romance. I personally didn’t start dating or even flirting really until my early 20s and I know now that that isn’t particularly unusual but the prominence of romance in YA novels when I was growing up made it seem like it was more normal to be dating earlier (whereas it’s actually normal to start dating whenever you start dating or to start dating never if you don’t want to.) So yeah, I’d be interested in reading a YA fantasy without romance and I think a lot of other people would be too. I don’t think it’d be boring since typically the romance aspects aren’t what draw me to a YA story. However, if you want to include a romance I don’t think that never experiencing it would = not being able to write it well, especially if it’s very g/pg. Flirting without a romance building off it would also be fine, and honestly good representation because that happens a lot in real life, I think it might disappoint some people but not others.

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I definitely think that there should be more YA books that don’t include romance, because good friendships and relationships are just as important (if not more important) than romantic ones and have just as much right to be depicted. I think if the plot is engaging, and your lead characters have great platonic chemistry (good or bad), people will be hooked. In fact, in my favorite series, there really aren’t any romantic subplots (Well, there is one -kinda- but also not really? In the end everyone just winds up being friends and the ‘romance’ part isn’t really important and pretty much used for comedy, so… :sweat_smile:).

That being said, though, I do enjoy a good romantic subplot if it’s developed enough and seems to make sense. And I am all for portraying a good, healthy teen romance that stays consistently clean (seriously, this shouldn’t be so hard to find), or showing an abusive relationship for what it is (not romanticizing it). If the relationship becomes more important than the plot, then I tend to get bored (unless the plot was also mind-numbingly boring), but sometimes it’s nice to take a small break from the actual plot with a cute romantic subplot.

Personally, I don’t really like flirting that doesn’t lead to some kind of romantic subplot, because I feel like it’s kind of ‘building up’ to nothing, which yeah, can disappoint readers because there’s no payoff (the only exception I can think of is where a character has been clearly characterized as flirtatious).

I think the best advice I could give you as a writer is to let it develop naturally. I had a project where I didn’t include romance initially, but then I realized that the way I had written one of my characters would make a lot more scenes if he had a crush on my protagonist. And so their romantic subplot was inadvertently formed. On the flip side, I had a fantasy project that was supposed to have a pretty significant romantic subplot, but it just took away from the story I wanted to tell that I scrapped it, and now every main relationship is strictly platonic.

So if it makes sense with your characters and fits naturally into your story, then I think you can totally go for it. If you find that writing romance makes you want to pull your teeth out, then there’s no reason you should continue writing it.

Good luck!

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No! No romance does not make a novel boring! :wink:

LOL I understand so much :joy:

hah yeah

100% yes! I have read a lot of amazing fantasy books with littler or no romance and they’re great! It’s not a deciding factor whether I read a book or not, what really decides if I read it is a cool title and cover art, I always read the jacket and back too!

absolutely!

hmmm maybe but I think it’s a good compromise!

yes! For book romance at least.

My advice for you is see if romance flows with the story or not. Would it change the entire plot or feel? If it would, you have to really think about if you want it to be changed and if the romance would be that important to you. And also can you see the character having romantic feelings (would it come easy or would you end up being miserable lol having to force yourself to write romance for him/her)?

Good luck [name_u]Kit[/name_u]! :wink:

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I would definitely read a YA novel without romance! I think that we actually need more of that!

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I’m a teen, and I would love a fantasy without romance.

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