I know what you’re thinking. “What does this have to do with novels?”
Let me put it to you this way. When you’re young (by young I mean just starting puberty when the opposite sex no longer has cooties and are looking rather yummy) you go through relationships like they are candy.
“This guy is cute!” Two months later… “Why did I ever date you? ____ is so much better!”
We all go through phases through life, and if you want your character to seem more realistic… They do too. So we then ask ourselves, what is the difference between the whole relationship ordeal?
Young adult fiction primarily is about the transition from child/teen to an adult and how they handle it. The progression of the character is what is mainly important. So if you think about when you were a teenager and how so-and-so broke your heart… How real was that? But was that really love?
Love can mean so many things, first of all. You can love your friend, mom, brother, crush, or a flower. But to be “in love” is completely different than the rest. So if pondering what to do when you write about love, think of it this way. You write what you know, in a way.
Were you in love at 15 years old? Probably not, you liked them a lot, right? Love is getting the entire picture, faults and all and still seeing yourself with your spouse/partner until the day that you die. At fifteen, I’m sure no one is willing to accept they’re mortal or that 30 isn’t really old.
Were you in love at 18 years old? Closer, but no cigar. Things get crazy at 18 where most get so consumed in the possibility of the life ahead and college party days.
Were you in love at 20 years old? Never know.
A few years can make a difference but thinking back on it now, some odd years later, it’s obvious that things were different. Back then, however, what did you feel?
The differences between love and lust can vary so greatly that every person can have a different opinion at a different time of their life that will never mirror another.
In writing, the definitions don’t matter in the least. What matters is how the character feels at the time with whoever the love interest is. Google all that you would like about what the difference is, but writing is the most personal thing that one can do. It doesn’t matter what society thinks, it matters what YOU think, believe, FEEL.
Round your characters, be that giddy 15 year old girl. Be that 40 year old man who feels like a school boy when he finally weds after his first wife died 10 years ago from cancer. BE your character. Most of all, if you don’t know anything about it, experience it.
There’s only so much that you can fabricate, love isn’t one of them. Sure you can imagine what you want, but to actually feel love’s grasp over your heart, the pull to another person is something that no writer, no matter how creative, could write without the experience.
Live your life, move forward.