Saturday, June 9, 2018

How to Write a Swoon-Worthy Non-Romance: Guest Post by Taylor Bennet

I’ve always liked to read above my age level. Ever since I developed a taste for good books (around the time I was in preschool) I’ve been on the hunt for amazing reads. And I don’t let the target age stop me. At least…I try not to.

I’ll happily pick up a middle-grade book, or even an old classic like Winnie-the-Pooh. I adore old standbys like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. So, I figured, I’d love today’s “modern classics” just as much. When I went into high school, I’d already been testing the waters of contemporary YA fiction.

And I learned something.

I was never—ever—going to read these books. Not when they used words I’d never heard spoken aloud in my life and supposedly “sweet” romances turned into…what???

My desire to read books at or above my reading level ground to a halt. I had yet to fully explore Christian fiction, but I knew one thing: God did NOT want me filling my mind with mainstream YA. I went back to reading middle-grade fiction for a while, until one main character’s brother showed up with…his boyfriend?!?

That was it.

Discouraged and disheartened by the outlook of mainstream fiction, I switched over to reading Christian books, only to find a sad selection of YA books. Sure, there were the old standbys, but many of them weren’t my taste in either subject or writing style, and there was little else to choose from. Enter one of my favorite quotes:

"If you don't see the book you want on the shelf, write it." Beverly Cleary

Okay, I thought. There aren’t any books I want on these shelves anymore—either they have great prose awful content, or ho-humish prose and okay content.

Enter my first novel, Porch Swing Girl. (This was actually my second attempt at writing a book, but my first one was an atrociously plotted non-novel from middle school, so I technically consider Porch Swing Girl to be my first “real” novel.)

When I wrote Porch Swing Girl, I was writing for an audience of one: me. And what did I want to read? I wanted to read about Hawaii, about life and death and tough choices. I wanted to revel in well-crafted prose and follow a sweet plot to a satisfying (if slightly predictable) ending. Oh, and if there was going to be romance, it was going to be squeaky-clean.

And now…after that lengthy introduction…I present to you: 

How to Write a Swoon-Worthy Non-Romance
(Pssst: Haven’t read Porch Swing Girl yet? Read with caution…spoilers lurk ahead.)
  • Have two characters meet at church or youth group. Even better, make the guy an aspiring worship leader 😉
  • Send them out on a non-date together. Bonus points if one of them thinks it is a date and the other has to explain that, no, dating is serious business and they’re not going to date for fun. 
  • Make them fight. But not the kind of “he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not” kind of fighting. No, I’m talking arguments about God, about His will, and about big life decisions. Write scenes where they end up in spirited debates, where they’re forced to learn and grow.
  • Help them become friends. Good friends. Maybe even best friends. Help them overcome their differences and join forces to make an impact on others around them.
  • Don’t use the word “love!!” If you want to write an adorable “non-romance,” nothing will destroy you faster than the use of this sacred, special word. As Christians, we should understand that “love” is more than a feeling. It’s a serious commitment, and it shouldn’t be thrown around lightly. Instead, show readers that these characters care about each other. Have them make sacrifices and pray for each other instead of tossing around the “L-word.”
  • Keep touching to a minimum. Remember—they’re JUST FRIENDS. A hand placed lightly on an arm or a short side hug is all you need to build their relationship.
  • Add one so-awkward-it’s-cute cheek kiss at the end. A kiss that says “I care about you, I admire you, or I’ll miss you.” Still abstain from using the “L” word. Instead, show how the characters feel for each other. Write about the warmth in their gaze, or the gentleness in a fleeting touch.

And there you have it!! You now have an adorable friendship between two Godly young people that will inspire others to seek out a pure, holy relationship. (And you’ll win bonus points because readers won’t have to ask their mom to censor your books first 😉)

Homeschooled since kindergarten, Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of Porch Swing Girl, which was released by Mountain Brook Ink on May 1st. When she’s not reading or writing, Taylor can be found playing her violin or taking walks in the beautiful Oregon countryside. She loves to connect with readers via her author website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (her favorite!), Pinterest, and Goodreads.


Porch Swing Girl back cover copy:

What if friendship cost you everything?

Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.
With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.

Rebellious Writing Team Thoughts:
This book was a cute, easy read. The emotions were raw and real. The characters were amazing, relatable, yet unique! And I felt I learned about Hawaii without even being aware of it. But what made this book stand out to me? It was the sweet romance thread woven throughout. I'm not a huge romance fan, but this was so real. And cute. And sweet. And when the kiss finally came... I don't want to give anything away. But, wow. It was perfectly realistic, cute, and awkward all at once. It was appropriate without feeling drastically squeaky clean. And because of that adorable kiss I knew we had to have Taylor on here explaining just why and how she did it. Here's to writing clean fiction and making it LOOK GOOD! ~ Keturah

Porch Swing Girl is an excellent read in the YA Christian Contemporary genre. Taylor is such a sweet person, and to know that she is so young and still getting TRADITIONALLY published, with such a great debut's amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book. Emotion, humor, and lots of Hawaii vibes are packed into these pages...and I, for one, found myself craving shave ice when I was done reading it. As clean summer reads go, this one tops my list. ~ Faith


  1. I like this post, but I do have to mention that having a gay character who's in a gay relationship isn't exactly shocking. It's not right by biblical standards, but in the world we live in, it shouldn't be something that surprises us. We don't have to read it, but we shouldn't necessarily avoid the topic of unbiblical relationships because it could be a really interesting novel topic if it's written from the perspective of someone who loves the Lord and is just struggling with gay feelings, which they know are wrong.

    So yeah, not to start a rant or anything, but I just thought it was worth mentioning. Good post, keep fighting for clean novels, Taylor.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      You are correct in saying that homosexuality is wromg bublically. But I’d have to disagree with your very next statement to a certain extent. The world we live in has always been the same... the 21st century isn’t *that* different from biblical days. Sin has and always will exist until Yeshua (Jesus) returns. I guess the question is, should sin shock us, in any form?

      Yes! No matter how *common* sin become it should always shock and sadden us. We ought never to give into “this is just how things are” and not watch over our hearts and minds, to keep them pure before God.

      As to avoiding the topic... I don’t think that’s quite what Taylor meant. She means to not embrace it, enjoy it, find entertainment through it. As for myself, I do recognize that it is a sin that needs addressing urgently currently. I never avoid this topic, but approach it with love toward the sinners, love for God and His perfect ways. The idea to expressed for a novel is actually quite unique to the homosexuality fiction... and to be honest, I’D LOVE TO SEE A NOVEL ABOUT A GAY COUPLE FINDING REDEMPTION! I don’t think this would go over so well with most homosexuals, but this is a fiction we need, I will agree. As long as it doesn’t glamorize homosexuality or make light of the fact it is a sin before God. A novel like that would be terribly hard to pull off... but if one could make a success of it before God, good for them!

      Again, thank you for commenting! May we each serve God and love others as we follow Him according to His perfect plan. Have a wonderful Sunday :D

  2. We must have similar "non romance" writing styles! The project I am working on now happens to follow most of these rules... Except they don't exactly meet in church/youth group.(I would tell you this other ideal place to meet, but I don't want to ruin the surprise! You'll just have to wait until it is fibished!)

    1. Ah, now you have me curious! Thanks for reading, Jessica :)

  3. Wonderful post, Taylor! I've never written a non-romance, but you pulled it off brilliantly in your novel! =D

  4. I like the idea of a non-romance but still cute relationship! I'm trying to write that for my own characters, I want there to be chemistry, but not romance. :D

  5. This is a great post! I loved that about Porch Swing Girl!

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