Warning: I’ll be riding my segue throughout this blog.
Sometimes the rules of capital-R Romance give me pause. One of said rules is the one about infidelity, and the verboten nature of it. I understand the reasoning behind the rule, but I also feel it can be a strong tethering force to a writer's creativity.
In the real world, for example, it’s quite possible for an infidelity to happen and for it to make a relationship stronger. It becomes, essentially, the relationship’s beauty spot–the dark blot which brings into stark relief all the good, great and wonderful aspects of the rest of the relationship. (I don't make any claim to this result being common, nor am I making a recommendation to test the theory!)
Granted, it depends on the nature and strength of the relationship before the infidelity as to whether healing can occur. Also, a whole lot rides on the nature of the infidelity itself. Was it a casual, no-strings thing that “just happened”? Did it result from a period of unrest within the core relationship? Or was it one of those situations where if you’d met that new person first, you’d have been with them instead?
Another factor is the people within the core relationship, and what their triggers are. Of the three examples I described above, each one would have a different meaning to different people. The no-strings situation might be a sharp blow that could be easily fixed because it really did mean nothing beyond a quick fuck. But perhaps the fact a partner could so easily trip and land in or on someone else’s sex organs would give their partner pause.
Either way, though, what bugs me to a certain degree is that removal of a valuable source of tension and character growth. Even in religion, sinners are granted a chance at redemption. Why not in Romance? (I do know the answer to this question, by the way. I just like to ask it once in a while.)
I think these strict rules are part of why I have such a healthy love of well-written literary erotica as well as erotic romance. The scope is wider, I suppose. The options more varied.
In my last blog I mentioned my older story, “The Three-Day Hump”. There were many reasons this story never really took off, and I’m told one of those reasons is the infidelity. In my story, the second example held true–my male lead was married to a famous model, whose obsession with physical perfection had led to her becoming cold to anything but her own reflection. He had motivation which, to me, was understandable but still morally wrong; and I see nothing wrong with using that in fiction. My female lead was a little more innocent, given her on-again-off-again boyfriend was off the scene at the time.
I firmly believe that story is hella romantic. It just isn’t a Romance story.
But the whole question of these rules brings me around to another bugbear I’ve visited in the past, on one or the other of my blogs. The warnings system on distributor websites.
Now granted, in self-publishing we’re not bound in any way to provide warnings about what kind of nookie and triggers go on in our stories. There is, however, a strong expectation that we’ll do so. When working through a publisher, in my experience it’s absolutely expected that warnings will be quite transparent.
Why does this bug me? Well, to draw another tired comparison… horror stories. I did a little searching on Amazon, choosing Steven King and Clive Barker as my guinea pig authors (because I don’t read much horror so I only know the big names!). Nary a warning to be seen. No mention that characters might be eviscerated. No warning that blood will be forcibly removed from its vessels. Nuttin’. Yet you slip one random cock into a pre-lubed ass without telegraphing it to the reader and there can be a whole lot of trouble.
Bear in mind that it’s a fictional schlong and an equally fictional rosebud. And that, though I’ve not discussed it until now, I’m talking consensual acts here between the fictional folk.
None of which quite answers the question as to why it bugs me. Again, I do understand the viewpoint of those who say it’s necessary. I just think the expectation that we should lay it all out like that removes some of the writer’s power to surprise. Imagine applying the same expectations to “The Crying Game”.
Warning: main female character is actually a dude.