Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How Should Christians Approach Secular Literature?

Originally published on

Recently, one of the discussion prompts in my English Literature course asked how Christians should approach secular literature. I find this to be a particularly relevant question. My mom is a high school English teacher, and has enlisted my help in cataloging books she has in her classroom and recommending books for a reading list across all high school grades. I have found that much of classic and modern classic literature contains messages and content that is highly questionable from a Christian worldview standpoint. Thus, the issue of how such literature should be approached—if at all—is a pertinent issue in my life and the lives of others.

For example, the Great Gatsby is considered to be superb literature (rightly so) but presents a problem for Christians as it seems to reflect a somewhat Deist, hopeless worldview. On the other hand, the book also shows hollowness of materialism and glam and the consequences of bad choices—both messages that are in line with Biblical ideas. However, it is dangerous to read literature without being able to recognize whether its messages align with truth. This can be an especially difficult issue when literature explores and questions ideas rather than taking a clear stance. In the case of The Great Gatsby there is no one specific statement of worldview, rather a conglomeration of events, dialogue, and narration poised to cause the reader to make a certain conclusion: that God is distant and irrelevant to daily life. The most powerful weapon against this widespread untruth is not to hide from it or ignore it but rather to observe, understand, and counter it.

Literature from different viewpoints than our own is nothing to shy away from, and a combative approach is not always necessary. After all, it is sometimes said that the mark of an intelligent mind is the ability to entertain an idea or belief without actually adopting it. Moreover, being challenged in our faith can cause us to grow in our understanding of the world and people around us and can even strengthen our worldview when we analyze whether opposing viewpoints make sense. We may even discover weak points in our beliefs that can give us the opportunity to either learn more and sufficiently support the beliefs or modify them to be more accurate.

It is important to study secular literature not only to understand the world, but also to find the sacred amid the profane. As Augustine expressed, all truth is God’s truth. All people have access to God through natural revelation, whether they know it or not. Therefore, it would not surprise me in the least if “secular” literature occasionally happened upon eternal truths. In The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde wrote, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” As amoral as this quote may sound I believe it is true—as long as expressing a logical and balanced viewpoint criteria for good writing. Any book written from such a viewpoint will be true, and thus good because truth is good. To look at this from a different perspective, nothing can be good apart from God, so in one sense a book cannot be well written if it is not in some way of God. Meanwhile, a book labeled “Christian” that is poorly written or contains untruths is not actually of God.

In case you haven’t caught my drift, I don’t really believe in the word “secular.” Secular implies neutrality—a concept that does not exist in real life. For example, even things often considered “neutral” or “secular” such as a tree or an instruction manual are either of God or not of God. Consider this: a tree is of God because it is a beautiful piece of nature that displays His glory and an instruction manual that is helpful is a good thing, while an instruction manual that is confusing is a bad thing.

I once knew a family who trashed their Beethoven CDs when they learned he was an alcoholic. While perhaps this was a sincere attempt to “purify” their lives, surely this is madness. Though on some level I can relate: I’ve had a long time grudge against Frank Lloyd Wright for walking out on his wife and children for an affair. Yet, I have a photo of his Fallingwater house hanging on my wall, and detect no evil in it. I do not propose that we can entirely separate the work of art from the artist, but rather that we do not need to. Even a highly flawed person can use whatever piece of goodness that still exists to create Godly art. Moreover, art can transcend and become greater than its artist. A piece of truth professed by an atheist or a beautiful book written by a flawed person is not something to be seen as a threat but rather as a testament to God’s goodness revealed even in the most unlikely people and places and His ability to use anyone and everything for His glory.

On a related matter, one may argue that authorial intent should be the primary criteria in deciding if something is good or not—that a book is of God or of the world based on what the author intends. Yet consider: someone with a bad intent may manage to make a good piece of art despite themselves while someone with good intentions may by accident or a degree of carelessness create and evil final product. Moreover, non-Christian people can create things that result in glorifying God and even have the intent of glorifying God—even if those people are not aware of that fact. In example, C.S. Lewis’ touches on this idea in The Last Battle when Aslan (representing Jesus) speaks to pagan man: “I take to me the services which thou hast done to Tash [a false god]... if any man swear by him and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me [Christ] that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.”

Admittedly the word “secular” can have some degree of usefulness in casual conversation but I maintain that it has no true definition. Literature is either glorifies God in some way or is evil—neutrality is not an option. As Jesus says in Matthew 12:30, “Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me” (NLT).

Find Laura on:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mary Sue: Analyzing a Hated Character Type

Originally posted on Young Writers' Treehouse

She's probably the most bashed character in the writer-world...but who exactly is she? And is there a place for her anywhere in literature?

Who is Mary Sue?

"Mary Sue" is a term used in the world of fiction to represent a certain type of character. It is most commonly seen as a bad thing, but there are also some characters that fit the description who are seen as well-written. There are many attributes that can make a character a Mary Sue and there are a lot of variants so it's hard to define, but I’ve boiled it down to 4 of the most frequent aspects.


Even if they have humble beginnings or “normal” attributes (and they often do) Mary Sues always have something special about them—more special than anyone else in the story. For example: he is The Chosen One...she is an amazing singer and gets noticed by a talent scout...he has a heart so pure that even though he is an average guy he’s loved by extraordinary girls...she’s a master at archery even though she’s only been doing it a week...he is only 15 but a karate master! Yeah, you get the picture.

These characters are also special physically with their appearance often described in detail with Purple Prose (flowery descriptions). Perhaps he has raven black hair and sparkling green eyes...She’s too humble to know she’s beautiful but little does she know the hot new guy at school thinks she’s the most amazing girl he’s ever seen.


The rare time that Mary Sue does have flaws, they are minor or even endearing...such as being shy, clumsy, rebellious to authority, TOO brave and daring, or TOO devoted and loyal. Oh, and anyone in the story who doesn’t think this character is special and wonderful is probably just evil or jealous. Because these characters are so perfect, they go through very little internal transformation: power does not corrupt them, they stay loyal to the quest, etc.


One of the reasons Mary Sues are created is because their writers are so desperate to make readers like their protagonists. Thus, they make the character talented, beautiful, kind...and one more thing: disadvantaged, in order to ellicit sympathy. This is why despite the fact that they are special and perfect, Mary Sues will often have tragic backstorys or are mistreated in some way. Common forms of this are bullying, poverty, cruel authority figures, or the loss of one or both parents.

A Version of the Author

Mary Sues are most commonly born when authors create a character that is a combination of who they are and who they wish to be. For example, a typical 15-year-old guy might write about an average village boy who gets a special power that makes him strong and skilled at fighting even though he used to be a wimp...and soon after he meets a beautiful girl who loves him for his heart, not his looks. On the other hand, a typical 25-year-old woman might write about a woman struggling to start her career who gets a big break when a handsome young executive recognizes her remarkable talents and promotes her to being the editor of a big magazine.

Examples: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Harry Potter
With both parents dead, his guardians treat him poorly for no reasonable cause. He soon discovers that not only does he have special powers, he is The Boy Who Lived and is looked on with awe by many people. His flaws are few...he breaks the rules but it ultimately is seen as the right choice. I have to roll my eyes at how intensly Mary Sue this character is, but he's beloved around the world and still comes across as reasonably relatable, so I'd call this character a Succsessful Sue.

Bella Swan
She’s just your average high-school girl...who just so happens to get obsessive levels of attention from multiple attractive men. When she becomes a vampire her skills are unusually high. Some have even noted how her physical appearance descriptions closely mirror that of the author, Stephenie Myer. This is one of the most cliche cases of Sue-ness I've come across. I know trashing Twilight is old hat..but really?!

He seems to be a typical commoner until we learn than he has special magical abilitites. In fact, even among magicians, he is naturally superior! He is the chosen one and has a SPECIAL fate! I'd say this is a borderline Mary Sue..not too bad, but not too poor either. Plus, there isn't really much of a way to maintain the basic premise of the series without adding at least a bit of Mary Sue-ness to Merlin, so who can blame them?

She has a tragic backstory with both parents gone and now lives under the cruelty of her stepmother. She can talk to birds and mice, has a heart of gold, is essentially without flaws, is extraordinarily beautiful, and she is chosen above every other woman by Prince Charming! Even her feet are special...they fit a shoe no others can fit! She's a classic Mary Sue, but I can't help but love her anyways--another Successful Sue!

Luke Skywalker
The Force is strong with this one! He was born special and accelarates in his Jedi skills at an unusual pace, saving the day many times. He has few flaws and finds he has a special calling. Luke even wins the affections of a pretty girl (nevermind that she turns out to be his sister)! But hey, it's Star Wars. It's the classic Hero's Journey!

Beautiful, sweet, adorably shy, not only great in science but also an amazing singer, and one of the most popular boys falls for her. She's pretty much a dream-girl. Oh, and her biggest challenge? Choosing between going to an elite school or spending more time with her perfect boyfriend. Most of us would be happy if we could have even one of those options! And yes, her boyfriend Troy also qualifies as a fully fleged Mary Sue. A perfect couple, and perfectly facepalm-worthy examples of Sue-ness.

Is Writing a Mary Sue Ever Okay?

I've written some pretty awful Mary Sue characters in the past and this type of protagonist is often the mark of amatuer writing, but can these characters ever be considered good writing? Absolutely! Some books regarded as great literature have Mary Sues at the center of their stories...It seems to me that that difference between a good Mary Sue and a bad one comes down to if they are created as a result of daydreaming and the author's self-insertion into the storyverse or by conscious character design to make an engaging, believable story with an extrordinary yet relatable protagonist. Mary Sues can be inspiring and empowering to readers as role models, especially if the character's morals and willpower are shown to be the true source of their greatness.

Of course, simply making yourself aware of what attributes make up a Mary Sue can help challenge you to either avoid them altogether or be sure that when you do write one you rise above amateurish stereotypes for this type of character. You can do this by not being desperate to make your protagonist "likeable" and being self-aware enough to be sure the character isn't a manifestation of your own insecurities. You can be an important person without having a special skill, you can be loved without being physically attractive, and you can be a good person without being perfect.

So even if your protagonist is the Chosen One, is especially beautiful, or highly talented it can still be a good character as long as you examine yourself and be sure you are making choices for the right reasons and are still keeping your protagonist within the realm of being believable and relatable.

What are some other examples of Mary Sues?
Why do some work and others come off as amateurish?

Find Laura on:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Choosing the Right Main Character for Your Novel

Originally posted on Young Writers' Treehouse

Photo credit: Rubin Starset / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Classic Hero

The classic good guys. Sure, they slip up, learn things, and grow, but overall they try to do what's right and often end up saving the day. Examples of these types of Main Characters (MCs) are Luke Skywalker, Frodo, Captain America, and Elizabeth Bennet. These characters are what most people think of when they hear the word "protagonist." The reader always roots for them and wants to see them come to a good end. There is a danger that these MCs will be goody-two-shoe Mary Sues if they are TOO moral and noble to be relatable but they are popular because they win reader's hearts by pursuing worthy goals and desires that the reader begins to care about.


This character isn't really the main focus but serves as a window into the world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Watson a prime example of this, with Sherlock Holmes being the main focus. Doyle's The Lost World also follows this format, with a journalist following a group of explorers. Mystery novels also frequently take on this style a bit, such as The Murder on the Orient Express where Poirot is the observer of a story focused on the lives of the killers. This type of MC is ideal for taking the reader into unfamiliar worlds to learn and experience along with the MC, such as what the reader experiences when reading The Hobbit and following Bilbo. Likewise, Jules Verne used this technique in many of his books such as Around the World In 80 Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth. This type of MC worked well for Verne because his books often took readers into imaginative and unique territories.

Morally Ambiguous

These characters spend a significant amount of the story vouching only for themselves, blurring the lines, and breaking the rules. They have serious character flaws but are often good at heart. Examples are Deadpool, Han Solo, Scarlett O’Hara, Jack Sparrow, and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy team. Despite the fact that it is sometimes difficult to tell if they are "good guys" or not, these MCs often catch readers' attention and can be a lot of fun to write. One has to be careful to avoid glorifying wrongdoing but these MCs can serve as a relevant analysis of what it truly means to be "good" and if or when the ends justify the means.


You start out in opposition to these characters but end up rooting for them in the end. They may stay “bad” for the first third or even half of the movie before having a change of heart. Examples are Eustace from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Gru from Despicable Me, and Maleficent from Disney’s live-action Maleficent. These MCs are rarely sympathetic in the beginning so good side characters are essential. A story about this kind of MC can be powerful because it takes something big to cause the dramatic change in character.

Villain MC

These characters rarely show any shred of good, except perhaps at the very beginning or end of the story. Despite the fact that the character’s aren’t people we would look up to or root for, they can still be fascinating. These types MCs are rare and primarily occur in more “mature” works...such as The Clockwork Orange. Dorian Gray from The Picture of Dorian Gray, Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars (especially the 3rd prequel), and Light Yagami from Death Note are some more popular examples. These MCs are a risky choice because the reader is often supposed to want the MC's demise and it's hard to keep the story from being an indulgence in darkness. On the other hand, these MCs can make for a dramatic, intriguing, and potentially significant story.

What's your favorite type of protagonist? Which ones have you used in your stories?

Monday, June 29, 2015

3 Writing Questions Answered!

     "What tips would you have for someone who has a bazillion (slight exaggeration hehe) ideas going at once and has a number of stories being written at once? I tend to find myself starting new stories before actually finishing others and now it has gotten to the point where I am wondering if I will ever finish a story!" -Monique

     I would never want to tell an author to suppress inspiration, especially when you're young. If inspiration hits, write it--whether it be a few sentences or a few pages. In fact, it might actually help you finish your main story if you take small breaks to work on other stories to get those ideas out of your head so you can focus on your main story once again! If you still have trouble, you can always just set a certain time to write a story and refuse to work on anything else during that time until the story is done. Perhaps start with short stories or novellas that you know you will be able to finish if you just have a bit of self-control!

፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨

     "My name is Arianna and I’ve been wanting to write a book for years now. I’m only in the 8th grade, but I love writing so much! I’ve been having some trouble coming up with a good beginning. If you have any advice about writing a good beginning, I would really appreciate getting some." -Arianna

     My advice is to just WRITE and not freak out if it's a not a masterpiece because if you just keep doing it you'll grow in leaps and bounds!
     I actually have two articles on this:
     Basically: good openings avoid extreme cliches or at least do something creative with them, introduce the most important elements of the story, and grab the reader's attention. Think of picking up a random book from the bookstore and flipping to the first page: what would make you want to keep reading?
     Sometimes it helps to get a few chapters into your story before deciding on the best place to actually start. Just start SOMEWHERE and go from there, even if later you find out the middle of the story should be the beginning!
     Another note: often stories are started too early with too much exposition. It's best to start close to the catalyst of main events. This article might help too:

፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨ ፨

     "I have a question, I am trying to break a horrible spell of writer's block, a creative stifle. I am actually an aspiring filmmaker but I want to make a small film that involves simple human conflicts...a story that I could tell visually without too many words. I want to draw the viewer in with imagery that causes the audience to ask the question what's going to happen next. Any advice on where to find these conflicts or a way to observe them in real life?" -Marty
     I once went to this filmmaking conference thing and one of the speakers said that one of the most important things a director can do is simply observe life, people, and their interactions. So, to you I'd recommend observing people's conflicts, from small ones in public to potentially big ones happening with your friends and family. Conflict is constant in the real world, so the key is to reflect that in writing because conflict drives a story!
     Getting people to ask "what happens next" often arises from wondering how a character is going to solve a conflict. Example: John wants to win back Betty's affection and he knows the usual flowers and box of chocolate won't work, but he is determined to come up with a scheme that will win her heart. That's sort of cliche, but if done well it still might make the audience wonder what John will do.
     Observing conflict in the real world is the best way to get realistic and original ideas, but if you're feeling some writer's block it might also be useful to watch some movies or read some books in a different genre than you normally do and be on the lookout for types of conflict.

Note: These are sections from emails I have received, not the entire communications. Also, I have made corrections typos.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Naming Characters

Choose a Name that Fits

People often make judgments based solely on an individual’s name—it’s a natural thing to do. You can use these stereotypes to your advantage—names can be an easy way to give a lot of information about a character without having to say very much. We assume Brutus is muscular, Aiko is a sweet Japanese girl, Chad is a jerk always on the lookout for a hot date, and Agatha is an old lady (or else a mystery writer). If you choose a name with even a moderate stereotype, this is bound to reflect on the character in your readers’ minds. Everyone has different associations with names based on their own experiences and culture, but there are some more universal typecastings. For example, the names Hillary and Britney are often considered excessively girly or even bratty and would likely be considered incongruent for a shy conservative girl. Of course, you could use this incongruence to make your story more interesting.

Google It

Be sure to do a quick Google search to make sure your name choice doesn’t have a strong prior association you don’t want, but also keep in mind that virtually any name you choose—unless you make it up yourself (and sometimes even then)—will have some celebrity or politician associated with it. So don’t let connotations weigh too heavily on your decision. For example, just because you name a character Justin doesn’t mean your readers will instantly think of Justin Beiber, whereas a name like Oprah or Elvis will undoubtedly cause the celebrities’ faces to pop up in readers’ heads. This is where it is important to keep audience in mind; for example, when I think of the name “Barney” the first thing I think of is a purple dinosaur, but an older audience might think of Barney Fife of Mayberry. Of course, you can also use names with heavy connotations to your advantage. Think how amusing it would be to have a character named Elvis who is constantly irritated with people commenting on his name and he wonders what on earth his parents were thinking when they named him that.

Keep it Realistic

If you name your character something unusual for his social class, time period, race, nationality, or storyverse, you better have a good reason. Keep time period in mind—a 17th century character isn’t going to be named Max and 21st century 90 year old lady is more likely to be named Mary than Mackenzie. Keep your story’s culture in mind as well. For example, an Elvish queen isn’t going to be named Taylor and average suburbanite isn’t going to be named “Morning Mist Alianette,” unless her parents are more than a little pretentious. A little creativity goes a long way. If you don’t want your character automatically pegged as a Mary Sue don’t use overly unique or creative names like “Krystoff” and “Jesikka”—leave that to suburbanite moms who think their kids are special. I guess what I’m trying to say here is only choose names that are super unique if you give an explanation—like your character’s parents wanted their children to stand out, named them after a significant event or person, or are obsessed with some fandom.

Consider Nicknames

Nicknames for your characters can be fun and help make them unique and even more realistic. Maybe your character is always babbling and picked up the nickname Babs, or if your character is named Bartholomew Zane Smith, realistically his buddies would use a nickname like Barty, or just call him by his middle name. If you want to use a long fancy name it can become cumbersome and takes up a lot of space on the page and break up the reading flow, however you can still keep the fancy name if you refer to your character by a nickname most of the time.

Use Different Initials

You’re very familiar with your characters, some of whom you’ve known for years, but this is not so with your readers. Even the most attentive readers can get confused if you’ve got 15 characters whose named start with the same initial, like Alfo, Ada, Adrian, Armando, Alice, etc.
Sure, sometimes authors will use similar names for twins or siblings, like Tolkein’s Fili and Kili.
But let’s be honest, you still have a hard time telling all the dwarves apart, right? I can’t be the only one. So try to use different initials, and if you must repeat initials make sure you use the initials for characters of the opposite gender or very different personalities. Names that start with the same initial but are very different should be alright. For example, instead of using Ann and Annabelle use Ann and Adelpha.

A Word on Name Meanings

Let’s be honest. While it’s truly awesome to use a name that has a special meaning, the majority of your readers will have no idea what the root Latin word of the name is. If it’s a choice between a good name and a good name meaning, go with the better name. Formerly, I spent a lot of time looking up name meanings, but I’ve shifted to focusing on how the name itself sounds and what it will represent to the reader regardless of little-known root meanings. Go ahead and choose names that have great metaphorical significance and such, but remember that that might be something that only you and your hardcore fans know about (unless you mention the name’s meaning in the actual text of your story).

A Word on Fictional Universe Names

It can be hard to get in the mindset of an entirely different world and apply that to every detail, but that is one of the things that makes great world-building! It ads to interest and realism when names within your fictional races, cultures, and species have commonalities. Tolkien was a master at this by creating naming styles for each race in his story: Hobbit names were short and sounded almost like nicknames (Frodo, Bilbo, Sam), Elf names were elegant with emphasis on vowels (Galadriel, Arwen, Haldir), and Dwarf names are often short and similar to their family member’s names (Fili and Kili, Dori, Nori and Ori). By using naming conventions for each culture his story was far more realistic because in the real world different cultures favor certain name elements (example: Japanese names are often easy to pronounce and frequently use Ks Os and Is). It is also important to use names consistent with the world you are trying to portray. For example, names for a medieval fantasy storyverse should not sound too modern (choose William instead of Zack) while names from a futuristic story shouldn’t be too old fashioned (choose Zenia instead of Abigail). One last note: avoid names that are hard to pronounce and remember. As a test, have a friend try reading your names aloud and see if they struggle or pronounce the names the way you intended.

For Further Study:

Great for research and has a good name generator:
Simple but useful name generator:


First, please don’t hate me if I insulted your name, I do not encourage name stereotyping in the real world. Second, ultimately, it’s your story. Maybe you find it amusing to name all your characters with the same initial, or you want to name your suburbanite girl Morning Mist just because you like it. Do what you want. But do try keep your readers in mind if you plan to have a wider audience than family and friends and make sure that while you’re being creative you’re taking into account possible problems with your naming techniques.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Key to Writing Romance Your Readers Will Love

I'd like to address an element that has been bugging me for some time that can make or break a romance storyline. The thing is, all too often characters are purported to fall deeply in love with each other for no apparent reason and without ample time to even do so. Thus, there is a plot thread or even an entire novel wrapped around a relationship that has very little basis--which causes readers to care very little about the story. Admittedly, this has been a flaw in my own writing whenever I try to insert a romantic thread and have only recently discovered the true problem with boring, dispassionate love stories.

When I'm watching a poorly written chick-flick on the Hallmark Channel or browsing through romance books online, too often I wonder, "Why are these people in love? Why do they want and need each other so much? Why should I care?" An example of such lack of "chemistry" and basis for romance would be the movie Love Comes Softly--in my opinion, at least. Maybe I'm just missing it, but I don't see a particularly spectacular reason the heroine and love interest should be paired together. It makes sense that they are both lonely and need someone to share life with, but there isn't much reason the lead characters in particular should be paired, it seems most any other decent person would do. Love comes softly indeed--so softly you can't even hear it, in this case.

As an author, you can't just tell your readers "and they were deeply in love and would even die for each other so they are going to get married and you should be thrilled" and expect readers to get emotional about it. You must show why and how those elements of romance and true love arose. How is the character's life different with or without her significant other? Why must the character be paired with THIS particular person and no other? What is going make your readers ship these characters? Why should your romance story be your readers' OTP?

One of my all time favorite love stories is Pride and Prejudice. Why is this love story so provoking? Because Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are just so perfect for each other--both are prideful, both hold prejudice against each other initially, both enjoy witty banter, both are stubborn and cynical, yet when they see virtue truly appreciate it. All of these things and more make them seem as though they were made for each other. When reading the book, we feel that Elizabeth could never love any man but Darcy, and vice versa. The King and I is another great example--both are interested in each other's cultures, both want to better the world around them, and both have a very strong sense of "the way things should be." As in Pride and Prejudice their similarities at first cause conflict but end up making the better understand and love each other. In both of these examples, the characters have attributes that make them complimentary to each other, the characters are complex enough that it is extremely unlikely any other pairing could work, and the two have gotten to know each other well enough to reveal their deepest attributes to each other.

If you still have difficulty giving your romantic pairing a good basis, it might help to forget about the romance element altogether for a moment and consider why any relationship is significant. What makes the parting of two best friends so sad? What makes a person away at college miss her family? What makes some siblings love spending time together? What makes a student remember a particular teacher all his life? The deepest of love stories don't have as much to do with infatuation as they do a deep connection--someone who understands her better than anyone else, someone who makes him want to be of exemplary moral character, someone who makes her want to suck the marrow out of life, someone who makes him feel like he's no longer an outcast of the world, etc. These type of connections don't often happen and go much deeper than just someone to hang out with who has a few things in common.

Your romantic storyline will fall flat and fail to impassion if two characters suddenly "fall in love" without explanation, reason, or build-up; however, you can enthrall readers when you give a strong basis for why your characters are in love.