Writing New Adult: Bridging the Gap Between YA and Adult Romance
Bridges connect things, all kinds of things. In writing a bridge is called a transition, but its function is the same. It connects sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters. In genre terms, New Adult romance bridges the age gap between Young Adult and adult romance.
How exactly does it do that? With characters. Believable and likable characters are the foundation of all good fiction.
No matter what you’re writing, always begin with characters. Here are things to keep in mind while you’re creating them:
New Adults Have More at Stake Than Young Adults.
More to gain and more to lose.
A 21-year-old racing to work on Monday morning because she stayed out too late and overslept has more on the line than a 15-year-old who works summers at Dairy Queen. I’m not sneering. Working at DQ for the banana splits was my dream job when I was a high school sophomore.
The 21-year-old is Evie, short for Evelyn. The 15-year-old is Tori. That’s her name, not short for anything, and she hates it. She wants to be Victoria.
Evie needs to keep her job. She has rent to pay, a car payment, and a 2-month cell phone bill to catch up. Her supervisor at the call center, the only job she could find when she graduated college with a BA in American Studies, is a stickler for punctuality. Late three times in your first 90 days and you’re fired. Evie has 10 minutes to clock in or she’s outta there.
Twenty-One is Just a Number.
Age doesn’t make anyone an adult. How you handle what life throws at you makes you an adult. Real or fictional.
Tori can quit DQ if her manager refuses to change her name tag because she has parents to feed and clothe her, but Evie can’t afford to lose her job. Yet she stayed out late, overslept, and here she is—speeding to get to work on time and panicking that she won’t make it.
She could get away with this kind of thing in college (not that she ever did, you understand), sneak in late to an eight o’clock lecture, slide into a seat in the back with no one the wiser. Now it’s 8:50 and that stinking ticking time clock is ten blocks away and—
She looks up and sees a police car turning on its lights right behind her.
What happens next depends on what kind of romance you’re writing.
A Straight Romance: Boy Meets Girl, Loses Girl, Gets Girl Back.
I like this better:
Girl meets boy—Sam, a rookie cop writes Evie a ticket and then gives her a lights-on escort that gets her to work on time. Girl loses boy—Evie forgets her court date, Sam arrests her on her lunch break so she misses the afternoon and she’s fired. Girl gets boy back—Evie pays her fine and does the community service hours imposed by the judge for missing court. The happy ending—Evie and Sam reconnect at her new job working with street kids at the nonprofit where she volunteered, and he realizes she’s not an airhead.
A More Serious Romance. Or Romance Plus Another Genre.
What if—every writer’s two most favorite words—Sam is a jerk. He arrests Evie and she loses her job. She can’t find another one. Her phone is shut off. She’s on the verge of being evicted from her apartment or she is evicted. She could lose or does lose her car. Her friends can’t help her, and she has no family. One screw-up and she’s on the street—and you have a completely different story.
You could go deeper and darker with that storyline. Imagine Evie being homeless. Let’s say Sam arrests her again, for vagrancy this time, and becomes her tormentor, hounding her on the streets.
The Lines Blur Between Genres
And they blur up, toward adult romance.
Or—what if—Evie is one minute late that morning, but her supervisor fires her anyway? They have an ugly argument in front of the entire call center before Evie storms out. That afternoon the supervisor is murdered, and Evie is the prime suspect. Sam is the handsome detective assigned to the case.
Turning Evie’s story into a romantic suspense novel, with Sam as the hero—which invests them both in discovering who killed the supervisor—is an example of how New Adult is blurring into adult romance genres.
Romantic fantasy is full of New Adult characters. So is mystery and suspense. Evie becoming a sleuth to clear her name in the death of her supervisor is a mystery. Sam can still stick around as her love interest. Evie on the street with Sam as her tormentor is suspense. But not romantic suspense unless you can come up with a hero to counterbalance Sam.
Conflict, Conflict, Everywhere a Conflict.
Look at all the social issues facing New Adults, and even Young Adults these days. A couple of examples that could be internal or external conflicts: gender dysphoria, a boyfriend or girlfriend with an addiction to drugs, or gaming. Or social media.
Addictions and dysphoria are serious subjects. Treat them with care and compassion. Gaming and social media could be heavy, or they could be a lot of fun for you and your characters.
That’s another thing—today’s New Adults have cut their teeth on all forms of electronic technology. It’s second nature to them.
If you haven’t read one, give it a try. It might inspire you to try your hand at writing New Adult romance. I have an idea for Evie and Tori as sisters.
Related Links for Writing New Adult
Lynne Smith, aka Lynn Michaels, is the author of two novellas and sixteen novels, three of which were nominated for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award, the Oscar of romance writing. She won two awards from Romantic Times Magazine, for best romantic suspense and best contemporary romance. Her only complaint about writing is that it really cuts into her reading time. She lives in Missouri with her husband, two sons, three grandsons, and one granddaughter, born on Lynne’s birthday. Lynne is also an IFW instructor. She teaches Breaking into Print and Shape, Write and Sell Your Novel.